Macquarie University
2 files

The relationship between anthropogenic climate change and the insurance system: imperatives, options and reflections on theory

Download all (4.3 MB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 12:40 authored by Liam Prior Phelan
Anthropogenic climate change is a phenomenon of the Earth system, altering the planet's familiar (to humans and our societies) climatic stability. This transdisciplinary study adopts a complex adaptive systems approach to conceptualise the Earth system, the global economy, and the insurance system as three interrelated social-ecological systems (comprising human-social and ecological elements) to: (i) explore the threat anthropogenic climate change presents to the insurance system; (ii) explore the potential for the insurance system to play a constructive role in effective and just climate change mitigation; and (iii) reflect on the application of theory in this thesis to contribute to ongoing theoretical development of complex adaptive systems approaches. This thesis finds strong and ecologically effective mitigation is the only viable basis for the insurance system to manage its medium- and long-term climate risk. This result extends an earlier political economy analysis of commercial insurers that explained the currently limited insurance system responses to anthropogenic climate change, but provided little guidance to the ecological implications of such responses. Building on this, the thesis proposes reflexive mitigation as an alternative insurance system approach to mitigating anthropogenic climate change. This approach recognises that the Earth system, the global economy, the insurance system and the relationships between them are all evolving, and that: (a) atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations consistent with Earth system stability will vary over time; and (b) understanding of system elements and interactions is necessarily incomplete. The thesis also proposes an insurance basis for carbon pricing as a theoretically viable role for the insurance system consistent with the reflexive mitigation concept. Finally, the thesis reflects on the application of the complex adaptive systems approach to social-ecological systems and proposes a new conceptual framework linking resilience (as applied to social-ecological systems) and hegemony (as used in neo-Gramscian international political economy approaches to global environmental governance) to provide better understanding of the role of politics in social-ecological systems. This approach reveals anthropogenic climate change as a globally coherent environmental injustice, originating in hegemonic dominance of the global economy by actors with interests aligned with economic dependency on fossil fuel use. The new framework suggests possibilities for establishing alternative and sustainable hegemony in social-ecological systems in crisis by highlighting feedbacks between politics and Earth system stability.


Alternative Title

The relationship between anthropogenic climate change and the insurance system.

Table of Contents

Introduction -- Research design and context -- Anthropogenic climate change, the insurance system, and the relationship between the two: the literature context for this research -- Ecological viability or liability? -- Reflexive mitigation and adaptation with grace -- An insurance basis for carbon prices -- From application to reflection: feedbacks for theory development -- Research findings and discussion -- Conclusion: insurance in the anthropocene.


Bibliography: leaves 183-197

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD) , Macquarie University, Dept. of Environment and Geography

Department, Centre or School

Department of Environment and Geography

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ros Taplin

Additional Supervisor 1

Ann Henderson-Sellers


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Liam Phelan 2010




xx, 197 p

Former Identifiers

mq:13481 1455508