Years ago when I was reporting an article on climate change and financial risk, I learned how the insurance industry, particularly the “reinsurers” that provide insurance to insurance companies themselves, was on the front line of climate and risk modeling. Now, we are increasingly seeing this industry make decisions that bring climate risk home to consumers, quite literally. In the past couple of weeks, insurers State Farm and Allstate confirmed they will stop issuing new home insurance policies in California, citing growing exposure to natural disasters, among other factors.

Arizona State University scholar Melanie Gall, who studies losses from disasters, explains why high-risk regions across the U.S. can expect to see similar announcements from insurance companies as time goes on. “As losses from natural hazards steadily increase, research shows it’s not a question of if insurance will become unavailable or unaffordable in high-risk areas – it’s a question of when,” she writes.

It’s no secret the U.S. is suffering from an obesity epidemic, so it’s not surprising that an article we published last week on a new generation of weight-loss drugs was widely read. Exercise science scholar Wesley Dudgeon from the College of Charleston explains how three medications – one approved for weight loss and the other two for Type 2 diabetes – came onto the market, how they work by helping “the body release the proper amount of insulin after eating” and their encouraging results for treating obesity. But, he notes, their arrival also raises a number of questions about their efficacy and whether they could affect the long-held medical advice around exercise and healthy eating.

As the buzz around artificial intelligence continues to swirl, we published an article that is particularly relevant to the upcoming elections. Harvard scholars Archon Fung and Lawrence Lessig draw a picture of how AI-driven systems could alter people’s voting behavior, including whether to vote at all.

Also in this week’s science news:

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Wildfires can destroy hundreds of homes within hours. PH2(AW/SW) Michael J. Pusnik, Jr / Navy Visual News Service / AFP via Getty Images

Why insurance companies are pulling out of California and Florida, and how to fix some of the underlying problems

Melanie Gall, Arizona State University

It’s not a question of if insurance will become unavailable or unaffordable in areas at high risk of wildfires, hurricanes and other damage – it’s a question of when. A disaster risk expert explains.

Despite the promise of drugs that can help people shed pounds, healthy lifestyle choices are still key to overall health. Zing Images / DigitalVision via Getty Images

Drugs that melt away pounds still present more questions than answers, but Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro could be key tools in reducing the obesity epidemic

Wesley Dudgeon, College of Charleston

Anti-obesity medications are becoming the go-to treatment for weight loss. But drugs alone may not provide the same benefits as lifestyle choices like exercise and a healthy diet.

An AI-driven political campaign could be all things to all people. Eric Smalley, TCUS; Biodiversity Heritage Library/Flickr; Taymaz Valley/Flickr

How AI could take over elections – and undermine democracy

Archon Fung, Harvard Kennedy School; Lawrence Lessig, Harvard University

Artificial intelligence looks like a political campaign manager’s dream because it could tune its persuasion efforts to millions of people individually – but it could be a nightmare for democracy.

Kakhovka dam breach raises risk for Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – receding waters narrow options for cooling

Najmedin Meshkati, University of Southern California

The International Atomic Energy Agency says the plant has enough water to last for several months. What happens afterward or if the remaining water is lost to the war could lead to a disaster.

Nearly 20% of the cultural differences between societies boil down to ecological factors – new research

Alexandra Wormley, Arizona State University; Michael Varnum, Arizona State University

A number of theories try to explain how cultural differences come to be. A new study quantifies how such factors as resource abundance, population density and infectious disease risk can contribute.

Arsenic contamination of food and water is a global public health concern – researchers are studying how it causes cancer

Cristina Andrade-Feraud, Florida International University; Diana Azzam, Florida International University

Millions of people worldwide are exposed via soil and water to arsenic, whether naturally occurring or related to pollution. Chronic exposure is linked to the formation of cancer stem cells.

Blockchain is a key technology – a computer scientist explains why the post-crypto-crash future is bright

Yu Chen, Binghamton University, State University of New York

There are many uses for digital systems that are not centrally controlled and that allow large numbers of people to participate securely, even if they don’t all know and trust each other.

Invasive lionfish have spread south from the Caribbean to Brazil, threatening ecosystems and livelihoods

Osmar J. Luiz, Charles Darwin University

One of the most damaging invasive species in the oceans has breached a major barrier – the Amazon-Orinoco river plume – and is spreading along Brazil’s coast. Scientists are trying to catch up.

Brain tumors are cognitive parasites – how brain cancer hijacks neural circuits and causes cognitive decline

Saritha Krishna, University of California, San Francisco; Shawn Hervey-Jumper, University of California, San Francisco

Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of brain cancer, causing significant decline in cognitive function. New research suggests a common anti-seizure drug could help control tumor growth.