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Category — Flooding

Insurance leaders pack climate punch

Kieran Cooke


Under-insured: sandbags to try to stop flooding after extreme rainfall in the US. Image: Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA via Wikimedia Commons

The heavyweights of the global insurance industry, well aware of the risks posed to their finances by extreme weather events, have made a renewed commitment to use their financial clout and influence to tackle the climate impacts of a warming world

It might have the reputation of being rather a dull − some might even say boring – business, but there’s no doubting the insurance industry’s financial muscle.

The Geneva Association − a leading international insurance thinktank, whose members have total assets of nearly US$ 15 trillion − has been meeting in Toronto, Canada. And the focus has been very much on climate change.

The Association, issuing a climate risk statement calling for urgent action by governments and other bodies, said: “The prospect of extreme climate change and its potentially devastating economic and social consequences are of great concern to the insurance industry.”

Those putting their names to the document – 66 chief executives of the world’s leading insurers − commit themselves to a set of guiding principles on what they describe as the substantial role the insurance industry can play in tackling risks related to climate change. [Read more →]

May 26, 2014   No Comments

Climate worries insurers and military

 Alex Kirby


The US Navy helps with the clean-up in New York state after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Image: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons

Powerful voices in finance and the armed forces raise concerns about the risks of increasingly extreme weather events causing billions of dollars of damage and potentially igniting humanitarian disasters and regional conflicts

The risks associated with climate change have got some very important people worried − the people who pick up the bills, and those who clear up the mess or try to prevent it happening.

The world’s biggest and oldest insurance market, Lloyd’s of London, has published a report that urges insurers to include climate risks in their models. It says: “Scientific research points conclusively to the existence of climate change driven by human activity.

“Nevertheless, significant uncertainty remains on the nature and extent of the changes to our climate and the specific impacts this will generate. Many of the effects will become apparent over the coming decades and anticipating them will require forward projections, not solely historical data.”

Quoting the Munich Re insurance group , the World Bank says damage and weather-related losses around the world have increased from an annual average of $50bn in the 1980s to nearly $200bn over the last decade. [Read more →]

May 15, 2014   No Comments

If it walks like a duck, it probably is climate change

Phil Rothwell


The morning after the storm: Aberystwyth in west Wales has borne the brunt this turbulent winter. Image: Ian Capper via Wikimedia Commons

As debate rages over the part climate change may be playing in Britain’s wet and stormy winter, one of the UK’s foremost experts on flood defence says we need to acknowledge reality – fast.

We are in danger of losing sight of some glaringly obvious truths about this exceptionally wet and stormy winter which much of the United Kingdom is enduring:

  • Scientists should acknowledge that the current record-breaking weather, in the UK and globally, is being caused by a changing climate
  • We don’t need party political bickering over flood funding, we need the right budget guaranteed for the future and agreed through political consensus
  • We need a land use policy that reduces reliance on expensive flood engineering and moves toward natural catchment management, flood-friendly farming, and village, town and city location and design that reduces risk, not increases it
  • We need a media and political framework that consigns climate change scepticism to the spike and the cutting room floor.

After the wettest and stormiest period in our history and following 2012, a year when we had both the most severe drought and wettest winter on record up until then, the almost complete failure of those in authority to acknowledge anything other than a faint link to climate change is beyond credibility and fundamentally and fatally damages a logical response.

Such a politically motivated head-in-the-sand attitude is severely damaging to any long-term approach to managing such events, let alone their cause.  As I write this President Obama is visiting California to see the impact of the most testing drought in its history, New York is in the grip of deep snow and ice, and the Philippines once again see major flooding. The Somerset Levels and the floods in the Thames Valley are just a pimple on the surface of the world’s problems. But they need a bit more than a knee-jerk political gesture.

“Over a million properties in Britain’s major conurbations have not flooded this winter because of action over the last few years to protect them”

In the 2007 floods in the UK 10 times as many properties were affected, mainly in urban areas in the north. The limited and largely rural impacts of the current winter, appalling for a few,  are in fact testimony to a successful flood risk management strategy. [Read more →]

February 18, 2014   No Comments

Rising floods give UK insurers headaches

Kieran Cooke


2008 floods in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, Scotland. Image: John Chroston via Wikimedia Commons

The UK insurance industry is struggling to cope with the increased risk of flooding events associated with climate change.

The insurance industry doesn’t like climate change. Global warming is introducing a whole new element into the business of quantifying risk – the basic function of the insurance business. One of the main challenges facing insurers is the increased occurrence of floods in many countries.

The UK is one of the world’s leading insurance centres:  a recent seminar at the University of Oxford in the UK examined flood patterns in Britain over recent years.

Not only is the incidence of flooding increasing – it is also becoming ever more unpredictable. “No business, particularly the insurance industry, likes volatility” says Matt Cullen, a floods specialist at the Association of British Insurers (ABI). “There’s no doubt there’s been a ramping up of flooding in the UK since the 1990s and this tends to spook the insurers. And the situation is only going to get worse with climate change.”

Assessing when and where flooding occurs is a highly complex business, says Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell, of Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment. Flooding is episodic and can also be very localised, he says: a particular area might be flooded for two years in succession and then be dry for ten years – while another, previously dry area sees the waters rise and homes wrecked. [Read more →]

December 1, 2013   No Comments