The insurance industry is sitting on an environmental time-bomb which could lead many insurers into bankruptcy, warns a leading energy technology chief.

Dr Jeremy Leggett, of energy company Solar, urges the insurance industry to factor global warming into its investment decisions or face ruin.

He told delegates at the "Investors and Environment Conference 2000" conference this week: "If the dice roll unkindly and cyclones, floods, wildfires and increasingly ferocious weather conditions hit urban concentrations the entire insurance industry could go belly-up."

"To invest in oil, coal and gas, the very technologies and industries that are fuelling global warming, is suicidal.

"The evidence that global warming is already threatening economies is compelling. You have seen the signs, already the insurance industry is paying out billions in climate change-related damages.

"The insurance industry currently takes over a trillion dollars a year in premium income, and invests much of that.

"In energy-sector portfolios, the targets must be investments for tomorrow, profits for our children, not industries of a bygone age which are destroying the planet."