Q&A: Dennis Artese of Anderson Kill on underground climate change risks

Westlaw Today
03/14/2024

Dennis J. Artese, a shareholder in Anderson Kill's New York office, answers questions from Westlaw Today about underground climate change and what it means for policyholders.

Westlaw Today: What is "underground climate change?"

Dennis Artese: "Underground climate change" is the term scientists have given to the heating of the ground between city surfaces and the bedrock caused by heat emanating from basements, train tunnels, sewers, and other underground systems in major metropolises in the U.S. and Europe.

At least one study has shown a rise in underground temperatures by as much as 27 degrees Fahrenheit in some places over the last several decades.1

This subterranean heating is impacting ground soil conditions, causing layers of sand, clay and rock to expand or contract by as much as half an inch beneath some buildings. These conditions are already causing structural strains on buildings and even exacerbating cracks and defects in walls and foundations. Should the problem go unabated, significantly more structural damage is expected.

WT: Which industries or economic sectors are most susceptible to losses from this phenomenon?

DA: Underground climate change does not discriminate by industry or economic sector. Those most at risk are owners of buildings located in major cities with a large array of underground systems, including subways, tunnels, sewers, and basements with large furnaces and other heat-emanating mechanicals.

WT: What are insurers doing to respond to these risks?

DA: It is unclear at this time that the insurance industry has taken any direct measures in response to underground climate change. This is a relatively newly discovered phenomenon. Insurers have responded to more traditional climate change-related property exposures by increasing premiums for those policyholders most vulnerable to such risks, excluding or imposing higher deductibles for certain climate-related losses, and sublimiting covered climate-related losses. One could reasonably anticipate that similar measures will be taken in response to underground climate change risks.

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Related People

Insurance Recovery Attorney | Anderson Kill P.C.
Dennis J. Artese
Shareholder
New York

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