Insurance and Climate Change column

Spate of Climate Change Reports Ahead of Global Summit

By | July 2, 2015

Ahead of December’s big and much-talked about United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21 or CMP11, it seems there’s been an information ramp up of sorts.

I’m not just talking about Pope Francis’ crusade to call attention to climate change – he most recently said humanity’s reckless behavior has pushed the planet to a breaking point, and that Earth is beginning to resemble an “immense pile of filth” – or actor Robert Redford’s recent appeal to U.N. ambassadors.

Beyond the catchy headlines and big names, the pace of reports and studies on climate change seems to have accelerated recently.

Last month Lloyd’s of London produced a stark report, “Food System Shock: The Insurance Impacts of Acute Disruption to Global Food Supply,” which refers a great deal to the potential impact of climate change.

The report states that a shock to the global food supply could trigger significant claims across multiple lines of insurance – terrorism and political violence, political risk, business interruption, marine and aviation, agriculture, product liability.

While there are other factors outlined in the report that may contribute to this global food system shock, climate change is thrown out there as a big question mark, and a possible exacerbating element.

“Although there is a large amount of uncertainty about exactly how climate change might impact world food production over the coming decades, there is general consensus that the overall effect will be negative,” the report states. “Increases in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and wildfires, coupled with a rise in conditions amenable to the spread and persistence of agricultural pests and diseases, are expected to have a destabilising effect on world food production. This is further exacerbated by the growing issue of water scarcity, which is accelerating at such a pace that two-thirds of the world’s population could live under water stress conditions by 2025.”

More on that report at another time.

Swiss Re has been big on climate change reports.

One of its latest reports, “Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2014: convective and winter storms generate most losses,” focuses on the 189 natural catastrophes last year and notes that number of victims of disaster events in 2014 was one of the lowest recorded.

This is despite the number of natural catastrophes being the highest in a single year.

The report attributed the minimal victim total to improvements in early warning systems and emergency preparedness, and resilience measures.

“Progress in local prevention and mitigation measures to strengthen resilience will be a key variable in total victim numbers in the future, especially if climate change leads to more frequent natural catastrophe events,” the report states.

Beyond insurance-related reports there have been numerous documents, papers, and authorities weighing in on climate change.

A paper just out on Australia’s defense system, “The Longest Conflict: Australia’s Climate Security Challenge,” flags the consequences of environmental pressures as a significant security risk for the country. The report cites the consequences of climate change, extreme weather events and environmental pressures as a security risk for Australia that is second only to the risks of terrorism.

A report from the Nippon Foundation, “Predicting Future Oceans: Climate Change, Oceans & Fisheries,” suggests that world’s future seafood supply will be “substantially altered” by climate change, overfishing and habitat destruction if no actions are taken.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report quantifying the economic, health and environmental benefits of reducing global carbon pollution. “Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action,” offers two futures: one with “significant global action on climate change,” and one without.

The report shows that in the former scenario a savings of up to $7 billion dollars annually by 2100 in the U.S. could be realized in road maintenance alone. In a future without greenhouse gas reductions, estimated damages from sea-level rise and storm surge to coastal property in the lower 48 states will be an estimated $5 trillion dollars through 2100, according to the report.

As reports go, most have of course been fairly dire – this makes for good reading and helps sell whatever point the authors wish to make – but one of the most dreadful outlooks was recently delivered by Nafeez Ahmed, an international security scholar, who points to the risks of civilization’s collapse by 2040.

Fittingly for the topic of global warming, Ahmed, the author of several controversial books, has had his credibility often attacked, some even calling his past assertions “half baked.”

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