Editorial: Taking a Stand, Scientifically Speaking
We know more floods are coming—so we should do something about it
I’m a geek. I admit it. I also happen to be one of those idiots who is scientifically illiterate but who loves the idea of science. I sat like a happy gnome on a toadstool through all 13 installments of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, moved by his observation that solar power is not a new concept, but something that was pushed back time and again like an afterthought through history as we greedily burned through fossil fuels; moved by his warning that we’re drifting towards extinction.
Where am I going with this? Well, my associate editor and I learned about a new research paper, “Enhancing community flood resilience: A way forward,” that’s a collaboration by Zurich, the Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The paper warns that “more resources are put into helping communities to recover after a flood, as opposed to enhancing flood resilience…Over the past two decades, nearly 87 percent of spending on aid went into emergency response, reconstruction and rehabilitation, and only 13 percent toward reducing and managing the risks before they became disasters.”
We know more floods are coming, more tornados, thanks to climate change. This research paper reminds us—despite the fact that we shouldn’t need any more reminders—of how stupidly complacent we are. “Decision-making units” from households to governments just aren’t getting it: “Once a crisis occurs, all attention is focused on this event. But it takes only a short time for flood events to lose their salience. Then they are forgotten.”
But the insurance industry is more scientifically literate than others (though I’m sure it doesn’t have deGrasse Tyson types, warbling in a warm baritone voice about “billions and billions of stars”—or claims). And thankfully, 66 chief executives of leading insurers around the globe appear to be committed to the industry taking a stand. They’ve put all their names to the Climate Risk Statement of the Geneva Association (the International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics), which is “a set of guiding principles on the substantial role insurance can play in global efforts to tackle climate-related risks.”
We’ll see if the talk is backed up by action, because we need—very badly—a drastic overhaul in our thinking and methods to save the whole planet. We need innovative thinking to prevent the worst property and casualty disaster of all.
Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the July 2014 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine