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Date: 2024-05-27 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00010587

Climate Change
The trends are in a dangerous direction

From 2013 ... Warning: 100-year climate disasters every 100 days ... Commentary: 6 reasons destructive storms, fires are accelerating


Peter Burgess

Warning: 100-year climate disasters every 100 days ... Commentary: 6 reasons destructive storms, fires are accelerating

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Warning: 100-year megafires, 100-year megafloods, 100-year droughts and all the other 100-year-cycle climate-change and global-warming disasters that are supposed to happen somewhere around the world once a century? Science is now telling us they’re happening every 100 days or less. And that’s not only costly for the world, the news is bad for climate-science deniers.

IMAGE A resident rides down Main Street with his dog in Jamestown, Colo., after a flash flood destroyed much of the town, Sept. 14.

Breaking news tells the real story ... Colorado flooding out of control... Arizona megafires ... Oklahoma tornadoes ... Jersey Shore’s superstorm ... Yosemite Rim fire ... Africa floods ... hurricanes in Mexico... Japan’s typhoons ... Chinese earthquakes ... Corn Belt losing half its ground water. The climate-disaster news is so relentless, our minds have to tune it out to keep our sanity. So we distract ourselves in television, get lost in social media, focus on America’s dysfunctional political drama.

Yes, our 21st century is being hit with an accelerating frequency of bigger, more powerful natural disasters and losses. As the Georgetown Climate Center put it: “There is a significant upward trend in the insured losses caused by extreme weather events. This is true for primary insurance, which is impacted by an increasing attritional loss burden caused by severe local weather events, as well as for reinsurance losses caused by large-scale catastrophic extreme events.”

The climate-science deniers can deny the trend all they want, but one thing is certain from this relentless stream of climate-disaster news: Our insurance costs will just keep going up, up, up thanks to the accelerating pressure driving all these relentless climate disasters.

Fortunately, a brainstorm just ignited in the global insurance industry’s collective consciousness, triggering a new paradigm. Insurers are capitalists in business to make a profit. They can’t continue relying on 19th century rules-of-thumb and outdated formulas. Nor can they let the myopic rhetoric of today’s science deniers influence insurance rates and policies.

In the future, science, technology, big data dominate insurance costs

In today’s high-tech, big-data, science-driven capitalism, insurers can’t make money using century-old, seat-of-the-pants, hand-me-down, 100-year-disaster recurrence formulas that no longer reflect the 21st century’s accelerating trends. The truth is, so-called 100-year disasters are often repeating about as fast as every 100-days.

Starting now, climate-science deniers can babble all they want — Big Oil, Koch Brothers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, lobbyists and extremist politicians — all those climate-denying Luddites can rant and rave all they want about their myopic ideologies, unprincipled obstructionism, underlying greed, and tout their made-up scientific reports. They can pay off academicians to write articles and make speeches to cast doubt on legitimate climate-change science. And they can buy all the national ads they want to degrade climate activists like Greenpeace, Tom Steyer, Bill McKibben and his global army fighting to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from polluting America.

But soon, all the science-deniers’ noise won’t matter much. And no new climate-science legislation will be needed ... No grand bipartisan political bargain will be necessary ... No long, drawn out, costly lobbying efforts called for ... No new worldwide campaigns to support climate change ... in the future, insurance costs will be based on real climate science.

No more reliance on outdated 100-year-cycle rules-of-thumb

That’s right: No more 19th century shoot-from-the-hip guesswork and actuarial mumbo-jumbo about 100-year megafires, 100-year megafloods, 100-year droughts and all the other 100-year weather disaster myths that are supposed to happen once a century, or any other outdated rules of thumb concocted so the insurance industry could appear like a reasonable capitalist business.

Yes, the global insurance industry has been shocked awake. They’re even calling their new vision a “paradigm shift.” Science based on current data and research is now killing off outdated urban legends, folklore and mythology about insurance. A rule-of-thumb formula about this or that 100-year occurrence, or 60-year, or whatever weather disaster frequency cycle can now be better estimated by today’s high-tech, big-data, science-driven research using new statistical algorithms.

No more reliance on science-denialism and obstructionistic nonsense for anyone, especially not for insurers who want to stay in business in an age of accelerating high-cost megadisasters. The New York Times got it right in “Mutually Insured Destruction ... Denying climate change isn’t just foolish—it’s bad for business.” Insurers get it.

New insurance industry report: Climate change is accelerating

Back in June, the Geneva Association for the Study of Insurance Economics published a report that defines the future direction of climate change science: “Warming of the Oceans And Implications for the (Re)insurance Industry.” Formed in the 1970s, the Geneva Association is now the industry’s leading global insurance think tank for “strategically important insurance and risk management issues.”

The association is the spokesman for the world’s most powerful insurance groups. Membership is made up of 90 CEOs from the world’s top insurance and reinsurance companies, operating worldwide through a network of industry power players. They develop strategies for risk management in today’s uncertain global economy. Their “annual General Assembly is the most prestigious gathering of leading insurance CEOs worldwide.” The association’s new report focused on six megatrends impacting the future of climate change, summarized here:

1. Warning: Climate change accelerating, potentially irreversible

“New scientific evidence that the world’s oceans ... warmed significantly ... ocean energy is the primary cause of extreme climate events ... increasing the number of insurance-relevant hazards ... a near irreversible shift ... even if greenhouse gas emissions stopped, ocean temperatures would keep rising.”

2. Climate change accelerating, negative impact on global economies

Warning: “in some high-risk areas, ocean warming and climate change threaten the insurability of catastrophic risk more generally.” A separate Scientific American research study estimates the cost to global economies at $60 trillion. The Guardian called it an “economic time bomb” that will “undermine the global financial system.”

3. More ocean water, rising levels, bigger risks

“Thermal expansion of the oceans ... melting of continental ice shelves and glaciers has increased global sea levels ... the rate is accelerating ... rising sea levels increase the risk of flooding ... storm surges ... decreasing the protective life span of coastal infrastructures such as Dutch flood dikes or the Thames barrier ... Sea-level rise also increases the damage potential from geophysical events.”

4. Extreme weather: both drier dries and wetter wets

“Warmer oceans ... means more water ... warmer atmosphere ... more energy ... increasing the intensity of extreme events ... associated precipitation ... and increasing the loss potential of natural catastrophes.”

5. Risk analysis estimates, paradigm shift looks to future, not past

Geneva’s report is quite clear ... “traditional approaches based solely on analyzing historical data no longer work in making risk assessments today: A paradigm shift from historic to predictive risk assessment methods is necessary” using new “scenario-based approaches and tail risk modeling.” Science is beating denialism.

6. Unpredictable unknowns triggering bigger climate catastrophes

“Warming of the oceans ... affecting ... large-scale climate patterns ... however, due to the long time scales of ocean dynamics ... and the relatively short length of observational data ... the effects of those changes on catastrophic risk ... unclear.”

Bottom line on climate change: McKibben says it “might already be too late.” No, smart money is betting on the insurance industry’s new paradigm shift: For too long Big Oil and other climate-science deniers have been shifting the burden of their short-term profit strategies to the public. The insurance industry’s paradigm shift will change all that.

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