Unless we have an unusually cold winter, it’s quite possible that 2010 will go down as the hottest year on record. Through the first eight months, this year has equalled 1998 for that dubious honor.
This in and of is not a harbinger of global warming doom, but it does provide a reminder that the era of climate change is upon us and that society — and business — must prepare now for a future that is “very likely” to include higher temperatures, more erratic weather, greenhouse gas emission restrictions, energy challenges and all the other risks that such realities entail.
In many ways, the insurance industry has been the proverbial canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. Some scientists believe that warmer oceans have fueled more powerful hurricanes over the past decade, and back in 2004 (when four hurricanes, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, made landfall in Florida) and 2005 (when the “three sisters” Katrina, Rita and Wilma devastated the Gulf Coast) many industry companies began launching initiatives to research and advocate for governmental action to slow carbon dioxide emissions. Allianz partnered with the WWF. Lloyd’s proclaimed in 2006 thatsociety must “adapt or bust.” Munich Re has focused on helping create insurance for adaptation through the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative.
Many other insurers, reinsurers and brokers have launched similar efforts.
For most risk managers, environmental risks have leapfrogged many other threats. In the past, they were mainly under the radar and only relevant in certain industries that may have to deal with Superfund sites or chemicals that the EPA has deemed dangerous.
They affect virtually every company from retail and manufacturing to financial services and construction. And climate change has been the main driver of this new priority placed on environmental exposures as it has the potential to intensify many other risks (like oil scarcity, something Lloyd’s recently warned could have “expensive and potentially catastrophic consequences” for companies who don’t prepare).
For all these reasons, we will continue to talk about the risks of climate change — especially during the next five days of “Climate Week NYC 2010.” Since we are right here in the Big Apple and this summit will be bringing together so many smart people with so many smart things to say about climate change, we will try to attend some of the events this week and report back what they have to say
Later today, I will be sitting in on a panel Swiss Re is hosting about climate change adaptation that will feature experts from the UN, the World Bank, Oxfam, Swiss Re and the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Initiative. Tomorrow, Virgin head Sir Richard Branson of Virgin, UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon and Ted Turner will add their thoughts. And on Wednesday, another group of revered thinkers will discuss the risks that climate change poses to low income countries. Altogether, there are at least 20 other interesting presentations planned.
We will try to make it to as many events as possible and let you know what all the fuss is about.
Check back throughout the week.Reprinted with permission from the Risk Management Monitor. Copyright 2010 Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. All rights reserved.