Calculating the cost of “Loss and Damage”

The idea that rich, industrialized countries should be liable for paying compensation to poorer, developing ones damaged by climate change is one that has been disputed endlessly at recent international climate conferences.

The fear among rich countries is that they would be signing a future blank check. And the legal headaches in working out the amount of compensation don’t bear thinking about when there are likely to be arguments about whether vulnerable states have done enough to protect themselves.

The question of who pays the compensation bill may prove intractable for some years to come. But the scientific models already exist to make the working out of that bill more transparent.

Some context: in the early years of climate negotiations there was a single focus—on mitigating or (limiting) greenhouse gas emissions. Through the 1990s it became clear atmospheric carbon dioxide was growing just as quickly, so a second mission was added: “adaptation” to the effects of climate change.

Now we have a third concept: “Loss and Damage” which recognizes that no amount of mitigation or adaptation will fully protect us from damages that can’t be stopped and losses that can’t be recovered.

Sufficient self-protection?

The Loss and Damage concept was originally developed by the Association of Small Island States, which saw themselves in the frontline of potential impacts from climate change, in particular around sea-level rise. By some projections at least four of the small island countries (Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and the Maldives) will be submerged by the end of this century.

Countries in such a predicament seeking compensation for their loss and damage will have to answer a difficult question: did they do enough to adapt to rising temperatures before asking other countries to help cover the costs? Rich countries will not look kindly on countries they deem to have done too little.

If money were no object, then adaptation strategies might seem limitless and nothing in the loss and damage world need be inevitable. Take sea level rise, for example. Even now in the South China Sea we see the Chinese government, armed with strategic will and giant dredgers, pumping millions of tons of sand so that submerged reefs can be turned into garrison town islands. New Orleans—a city that is 90% below sea level—is protected by a $14 billion flood wall.

But, clearly, adaptation is expensive and so the most effective strategies may be beyond the reach of poorer countries.

Calculating the cost with models

Through successive international conferences on climate change the legal and financial implications of loss and damage have seen diplomatic wrangling as richer and poorer nations argue about who’s going to foot the bill.

But we can conceptualize a scientific mechanism for tallying what that bill should be. It would need a combination of models to discriminate between costs that would have happened anyway and those that are the responsibility of climate change.

Firstly, we could use “attribution climate models” which run two versions of future climate change: one model is based on the atmosphere as it actually is in 2016 while the other “re-writes history” and supposes there’s been no increase in greenhouse gases since 1950.

By running these two models for thousands of simulation years we can see the difference in the number of times a particular climate extreme might happen. And the difference between them suggests how much that extreme is down to greenhouse gas emissions. After this we will need to model how much adaptation could have reduced loss and damage. An illustration:

  • A future extreme weather event might cause $100 billion damage.
  • Attribution studies show that the event has become twice as likely because of climate change.
  • Catastrophe models show the cost of the damage could have been halved with proper adaptation.
  • So the official loss and damage could be declared as $25 billion.

While hardly a straightforward accounting device it’s clear that this is a mechanism—albeit an impressively sophisticated one—that could be developed to calculate the bill for loss and damage due to climate change.

Leaving only the rather thorny question of who pays for it.

Eliminate FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) – join us at Exceedance

RMS is rolling out the biggest pipeline of products in our history this year, with no signs of slowing in 2017. It’s not just the wide range of regions and perils, it’s also about introducing change environments such as portfolio management with RMS(one) to make decision making easier for our customers when incorporating new views of risk. It is vital that our customers can quickly adopt and then benefit from a great user experience with these solutions, to make a positive impact within their businesses.

It’s this combination of explaining new model developments and the ways to adopt new views of risk that we will be focusing on in 60+ sessions at Exceedance. Even if you know what’s coming up with RMS from a high-level perspective, with a team of over fifty scientists and modelers at Exceedance, we will help to place everything together – perils, regions, and deployment – to benefit everyone within a team managing risk. To illustrate, let’s just take three of the main perils that we will cover and list some of the highlights:

We will open the books on the science behind the 2017 North America Earthquake Model update, and share insight into the scope of enhancements across all model components. We explore the implementation of new maps such as the latest U.S. National Seismic Hazard maps, soil modeling and soil amplification through to geotechnical and vulnerability changes. We will also provide details around our updated liquefaction model through to business interruption and the effect of earthquake sub-perils, such as fire-following and sprinkler leakage.

Research driving the next RMS North Atlantic Hurricane Models update will also be revealed. Learn about the latest insights into the next RMS Medium-Term Rates (MTRs) forecast as we discuss our research in the context of current views within the scientific community. We will also discuss the work RMS is doing to better understand forecast sensitivities and to validate the MTRs ahead of the 2017 model update.

And from the U.S., Asia to Europe, it’s the complete picture at Exceedance, starting from flood peril model fundamentals, including event generation and vulnerability modeling through to the data products they inform, such as flood maps and peril rating databases.

Our solutions for managing North American and European flood risk will be explained, such as using high-resolution hazard maps and data for better pricing and portfolio management, plus many new developments, such as tackling industrial flood risk, flood defenses and real-time climate hazard modeling advances.

There is much more to share, so look at our agenda and I hope you can join us at Exceedance.

Your essential ILS overview at Exceedance

The Insurance Linked Securities (ILS) market is always fast-moving, changing, and evolving. Even in the last twelve months we have seen events such as the emergence of new market players and the increasing convergence between the capital and reinsurance markets, with all this supported by a wave of new innovations.

If you are involved in the ILS sector, want to get involved, or are just interested to find out more about the ILS market, join us at Exceedance. The RMS Capital Markets team has developed five sessions focused on ILS, from general overviews to expert-led panel discussions with respected leaders from the ILS sector.

A good starting point at Exceedance is our session on “Innovation in Risk Transfer,” as we look back at the last twelve months in the ILS sector. An interesting counterbalance has developed with investors looking for new ways to deploy capital, combined with the sector developing new solutions, to address gaps in coverage, infrastructure resiliency, and efficiency of protection.

If you want to hear directly from the market, we have put together an Exceedance panel of industry leaders from specialist ILS funds, rated reinsurers, and hybrid capital providers. Our panel discussion entitled “The Changing Face of Third-Party Capital” will examine pricing, competition, the role of analytics, and how new opportunities continue to drive innovation in an increasingly capital-agnostic sector.

There are also three sessions from our team designed to give you more of a detailed overview into specific ILS-related topics:

  • Bridging the Coverage Gap: ILS capital continues to flow into the industry, and our session will reveal how market participants are driving innovation by designing new types of structures using cutting-edge analytics. These innovations are addressing protection gaps in developed and emerging markets, with market innovation complimenting traditional coverage rather than competing with it.
  • Time Is Money: This session will focus on how new insurance products are being developed around novel triggers designed to permit rapid payment after a catastrophe, enabling hedging of time-sensitive risks.
  • Modeling the Risk and Return of Reinsurance: To address a market shift from cat bonds to more non-liquid reinsurance investments, our session will show how standardized model analytics can provide much-needed consistency in the view of risk, asset valuation, and expected returns.

Join us at Exceedance.

New products and new solutions to discover at this year’s Exceedance

If you are a risk professional that always wants to discover what’s new in our industry, then I’m sure you’d be interested in learning about our new developments: the first RMS high-definition (HD) models, managing novel perils such as cyber, and a total re-examination of more established perils, such as marine cargo.

You can satisfy this craving for the latest thinking, products, and solutions by joining us at Exceedance in Miami this May. With more than sixty sessions plus our general sessions and keynotes, here’s just a selection of the new developments we’ll be covering:

Explore high-definition (HD) modeling

There is a lot of excitement around HD models, representing our next generation of RMS probabilistic modeling, with full-simulation models incorporating the latest technology across all modeling components. You will be among the first to discover our new HD models at Exceedance, with HD modeling powered by RMS(one) for Europe Flood, Japan Typhoon, and New Zealand Earthquake.

It’s not just the models themselves that we will examine; we’ll also look at business-use cases for all RMS HD model components and analytics, from data to maps, and our Model Evaluation Environment, through to portfolio management with RMS(one).

HD modeling at Exceedance

New opportunities from new perils and new models

New perils are always fascinating as they offer growth for those who can harness their potential. To give us all a head start and increase understanding, we have called in leading experts in cyber and terrorism for Exceedance to discuss the latest insights for both these high-profile perils.

While cyber continues to be a serious business threat, (re)insurers’ cautiousness around the systemic nature of the risk sees cyber insurance demand outstripping supply. Matt Olsen, president of IronNet, will give context on the cyber crime environment, with the RMS Cyber Risk team explaining how to assess cyber threat and manage risk accumulations with our new Cyber Accumulation Management System.

Respected terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman will offer his view of a world where extremism is on the rise, as we also show the similarities and differences between modeling a human-made peril compared to traditional natural catastrophe modeling concepts and practices.

Finally, with the sheer scale of global trade seeing accumulations of billions of dollars of cargo at global ports, a new approach to modeling marine cargo insurance is needed. We’ll show examples of sample modeled losses using our new RMS Cargo and Specie Model, explain how to manage a global cargo portfolio, and tackle accumulations in prime risk areas such as ports.

Explore The Lab and Mini Theater at Exceedance

I hope you can join us at Exceedance.

Mangroves and Marshes: A Shield Against Catastrophe?

“We believe that natural ecosystems protect against catastrophic coastal flood losses, but how can we prove it?”

This question was the start of a conversation in 2014 which has led to some interesting results. And it set us thinking: can RMS’ models, like the one which estimates the risk of surge caused by hurricanes, capture the protective effect of those natural ecosystems?

The conversation took place at a meeting on Coastal Defenses organized by the Science for Nature and People Partnership. RMS had been invited by one of our leading clients, Guy Carpenter, to join them. The partnership is organized by The Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

We were confident we could help. Not only did we think our models would show how biological systems can limit flood impacts, we reckoned we could measure this and then quantify those benefits for people who calculate risk costs, and set insurance prices.

RMS’ modeling methodology uses a time-stepping simulation, which relies on a specialist ocean atmosphere model, allowing us to evaluate at fine resolution how the coastal landscape can actually reduce the storm surge—and in particular lower the height of waves. In many buildings the real weakness proves to be the vulnerability to wave action rather than just the damage done by the water inundation alone.

The first phase of RMS’ work with The Nature Conservancy is focused on coastal marshes as part of a project supported by a Lloyd’s Tercentenary Research Foundation grant to TNC and UC Santa Cruz. Under the supervision of Paul Wilson, in the RMS model development team, and working with Mike Beck who’s the lead marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy, the project is focused on the coastlines, which were worst impacted by the surge from Superstorm Sandy. The irregular terrain of the marsh and resulting frictional effects reduce the surge height from the storm. Our work is showing that coastal marshes can reduce the flood risk costs of properties, which lie inland of the marshes by something in the range of 10-25%.

Tropical Defenses

So, that’s the effect of coastal marshes. But what about other biological defenses such as mangrove forests and offshore reefs (whether coral or oyster reefs)? Further research is planned in 2016 using RMS models to measure those likely benefits too.

But here’s a rather intriguing (if unscientific) thought: is there a curious Gaia-like principle of self-protection operating here in that the most effective natural coastal protections—mangroves and coral reefs—are themselves restricted to the tropics and subtropics, the very regions where tropical cyclone storm surges pose the greatest threat? Mangroves cannot withstand frosts and therefore in their natural habitat only extend as far north along the Florida peninsula as Cape Canaveral. And yet in our shortsightedness humans have removed those very natural features, which could help protect us.

Paradise Lost?

Between 1943 and 1970 half a million acres of Florida mangroves were cleared to make way for smooth beaches—those beautiful and inviting stretches of pristine sand which have for decades attracted developers to build beachfront properties. Yet, paradoxically, that photogenic “nakedness” of sand and sea may be one of the things, which leaves those properties most exposed to the elements.

With the backing of The Nature Conservancy it seems mangroves are making a comeback. In Miami-Dade County they’re expanding a planting program to protect a large water treatment facility. Of course biological systems can only reduce part of the flood risk. They can weaken the destructive storm surge but the water still gets inland. To manage this might require designing buildings with water-resistant walls and floors, or could involve a hybrid of grey (manmade) and green defenses. And if we can reduce the destructive wave action, that might allow us to build earth embankments protected with turf in place of expensive and ugly, but wave-resistant, concrete flood walls.

On March 28, 2015 The Nature Conservancy organized a conference and press briefing in Miami at which they announced their collaboration with RMS to measure the benefits of natural coastal defenses. The coastline of Miami-Dade, already experiencing the effects of rising high tide sea levels, presents real opportunities to test out ways of combatting hurricane hazards and stronger storms through biological systems. Our continued work with The Nature Conservancy is intended to develop metrics that are widely trusted and can eventually be adopted for setting flood insurance prices in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Cracking the Cargo Conundrum

The smoke from nearby forest fires drifting across the entrance to the Port of Singapore wasn’t unduly worrying the captain of Titan, arriving from Shanghai with 10,000 containers on board. He had clocked the oil tanker off his starboard side and was content that, after obviously having a few navigational hiccups, the pilot of that vessel was now holding a course and speed safely out of Titan’s way. It was as he relaxed back in his chair and looked out across the bow that the smoke thinned out and he saw it. Another tanker. Huge. Q­max class carrying liquefied natural gas.

This is not the plot of a blockbuster book or the climactic scene of a Hollywood disaster movie. It is one of a number of plausible scenarios in the new RMS report on the challenges facing insurers because of the huge growth in marine cargo.

The report “Marine Cargo Catastrophe Modeling: Navigating the Challenges, Charting the Opportunities” examines the outdated techniques and incomplete data that marine insurers have had to make do with in order to estimate their cargo cat risk and port accumulations. Put simply, for too long knowing how much exposure they’ve built up in enormous international ports has been a guessing game. And two recent CAT events, which caused multibillion dollar losses because of huge concentrations of cargo, have exposed this weakness to an uncomfortable scrutiny.

The risks of global trade

Whereas the risks for land or property are essentially static, cargos are constantly moving and so the risk variables might seem unfathomably complicated. It’s not just the number of ports the vessel will go through and the CAT­ risks in those locations: hurricanes, storm surges, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks. Consideration needs to be given to the geology in that region, the construction of the ports in that country, and the level of disaster­ preparedness that exists.

As we saw during Superstorm Sandy, loss outcomes can be influenced by factors such as the exact location of cargo storage (In containers? In warehouses? Stacked?). Equally important is the vulnerability of the products. Are they fragile like electronics (ruined by water) or more resilient like jewelry (which can more easily be salvaged)?

The new RMS report in combination with the soon-to-be launched RMS Marine Cargo Model will bring clarity to these issues.

A purpose-built model for the industry

The RMS Marine Cargo and Specie model will be generally available this May, with the launch of RiskLink version 16.

To develop the model, the RMS geospatial team analyzed thousands of square kilometers of satellite imagery of top global ports and created a proprietary technique for allocating risk exposure across port terminals and storage structures. The port Industry Exposure Databases (IEDs) included in the RMS Marine Cargo Model, also incorporate important information on “dwell time,” or how long cargo spends at a given location. This variable, which is critical in determining port accumulations, can be highly influenced by variables such as weather, port automation, import/export ratios, and labor relations.

Covering almost 80 countries and three perils (wind, storm surge, and earthquake), the new marine model will provide 11 high-resolution and 150 medium resolution port industry exposure database, enabling the best insight on cargo vulnerability and global port accumulation currently available to the industry.

Cultivating Resilience Through Catastrophe Modeling

Through our partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative, RMS is tasked with helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. Our recent engagement with the city of Berkeley, California highlighted how modeling can be used to help a city acutely understand its risk and create policy that accurately protects against it, thereby helping to save lives of vulnerable populations.

RMS completed a dual-view seismic analysis for the city of Berkeley. The first was a city-wide analysis showcasing the vulnerability of all neighborhoods across Berkeley under various magnitude scenarios. RMS then completed a building-level study on the city’s critical infrastructure of care and shelter sites. These structures are the city’s emergency shelters and are intended to house all displaced residents after an earthquake. Our analysis concluded that these shelters are located in areas susceptible to higher than average damage, indicating that these facilities would be critical to surrounding neighborhoods following an earthquake. Furthermore, we found that in their current construction state, these buildings performed worse than average in all seismic scenarios modeled and that retrofitting these buildings was an economical way to improve building performance.

This RMS analysis proved to be a key recommendation that Berkeley’s Chief Resiliency Officer took to the city council for a bond measure to fund retrofits for their care and shelter sites. If Berkeley secures the funding for these retrofits, our analysis will have provided leverage for a policy directive that will result in increased protection for particularly vulnerable segments of the population exposed to seismic risk.

RMS was able to showcase the seismic risk of all neighborhoods throughout the city, contextualize the geographic vulnerability of shelter sites, and propose measures for helping to ensure that these critical pieces of infrastructure help to protect the populations that they serve. This project highlights that catastrophe modeling can be a key determinant in helping governments, NGOs, and the private sector understand their risk and increase resilience.

The Bombings in Belgium

If you were allowing yourself to feel a little optimism that the world might be becoming a more peaceful place, with the ceasefire in Syria seeming to hold longer than most analysts ever expected, this week’s harrowing events in Belgium may have dimmed those hopeful glimmers.

The bombings in Brussels underlined once again that the jihadist violence that emanates from this war-torn region is as menacing as ever.

Three bombs went off in the Belgian capital on Tuesday. Two were set off by suicide bombers at the international airport and one explosion ripped through a subway train downtown, close to the heart of the European Union’s headquarters. At the time of writing more than 30 people are dead and more than 300 are injured.

The extremist group which calls itself Islamic State (IS) claims that its followers were behind the attacks. It is waging war in Iraq and Syria and holds significant amounts of territory. It has attracted some Muslims born in the West to join the fight there. It’s when they return home to the West, battle-hardened and with military know-how, that counter-terrorist agencies start to worry. And as events in Brussels this week and Paris in November have shown—with good reason.

The attacks were extremely simple but highly effective. The bombs were detonated in small confined areas, a perfect place for a mass-casualty event when leveraging a small improvised explosive device (IED). The bombs were also reinforced with pellets and nails to further inflict human injury.

Since declaring a Caliphate in June 2014 (a religious term which harks back to the era of the Prophet Mohammed and expresses a desire to unify the global Muslim community under a central leadership), IS has already conducted or inspired nearly 70 terrorist attacks in 20 countries other than Iraq and Syria. This is a harrowing trend that is unlikely to reverse in the short term. Belgium, with the largest number of foreign jihadi fighters in Iraq and Syria in absolute and relative terms, is therefore at considerable risk when these fighters return home.

The bombs blasts in Brussels are a sombre reminder of the difficulty of preventing attacks against transportation infrastructure such as airports and metro or bus stations. As security at military bases, embassies, and other government facilities increases there has been a trend among terrorists to attack softer targets. These locations are vulnerable as by their very nature they must remain open—and with so many such transport hubs it is not easy to detect and exclude those with hostile intentions.

Terrorism inspired by a narrow, extremist interpretation of Islam (particularly the Salafi-jihadi type) continues to pose a major security threat to Western European countries. IS and other such groups view these nations as attractive targets: in particular Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. This may be because of their foreign policies, especially those involved in Muslim countries, or because specific events that have caused a strong visceral response among more hard-line elements of the Muslim community.

While it is still early to speculate about the motives behind these attacks, the bombings were likely in response to the capture of Salah Abdeslam in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, who’s being held on suspicion of involvement in the November 2015 Paris attacks. There have been several news reports that Abdeslam was plotting additional terrorism attacks in Europe and Belgian authorities were seeking two of his associates. It’s unclear whether those associates were involved in these attacks or if the bombings in Brussels were committed by other extremists. So further attacks in Belgium or regional European countries cannot be ruled out.

Unlocking the Potential of Cyber Insurance

The cyber insurance market presents insurers with an attractive growth opportunity. It also presents a significant challenge to overcome. Coverage constitutes the largest genuinely new class of business developed by the insurance industry for at least a generation. And its potential at even the conservative end-of-the-scale can be measured in tens of billions of US dollars.

However, with limited tools to measure the threat, carriers have been understandably reluctant to throw too much capital at the risk. With warnings about the systemic nature of the threat reverberating through the press to boardrooms, the industry has so far approached the risk with caution and coverage has been limited.

Yet the need for insurance solutions to assist corporates with their cyber threat is real and great. In the wake of losses such as Target’s $67 million settlement with Visa over a breach of customer payment data, and an estimated annual global cost of cybercrime of $445 billion, companies are eager to offload what they rightly see as a large and looming financial risk.

Industry Concerned by Systemic Nature of Cyber

We recently surveyed 40 RMS clients already writing cyber, including insurers, reinsurers, and brokers, to gain an understanding of their concerns. They had a number of common challenges.

Firstly, due the dynamic and emerging nature of the peril it’s difficult to quantify just how big and systemic a potential cyber catastrophe might be. In addition, with so many different attack methods available to cyber criminals—even knowing where the attack will come from poses some difficulty.

Another common challenge was the uncertainty of how cyber attacks could impact non-affirmative cyber policies—the so-called silent exposure. With limited precedent set for how cyber-related losses would trigger these policies there is uncertainty around the impact of a cyber catastrophe.

Lastly, the lack of a common data standard or a mechanism for understanding aggregations of risk, pose a further challenge, hindering companies in understanding their capital implications, setting risk appetites, and meeting their regulatory reporting obligations.

A Response to the Problem

We have tackled our clients’ cyber risk management concerns by developing a cyber accumulation management solution, built on three core elements.

  1. A data standard for the industry

    Our Cyber Exposure Data Schema was developed in conjunction with the Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge, with support from leading market companies. It provides an approach to standardising cyber data as a distinct peril. It copes with both affirmative and silent cyber coverage, and allows risk to be tracked and transferred by providing a consistent framework for data capture, storage, and analysis. Critically, it is open source, model-agnostic, and extensible.

  1. Five loss scenarios to stress test portfolios

    The new RMS cyber loss process models assess actual books of business against multiple realistic loss scenarios, testing various levels of severity for the top five cyber threats identified by our industry development partners at Cambridge. Running analyses shows underwriters how loss events would interact with their exposure, and isolates the key drivers of risk, allowing an informed, independent view of cyber to be formed.

  1. A Cyber Accumulation Management System

    The accumulation engine is the framework for generating loss projections. The analytical capabilities enable companies to report exposure aggregates by coverage type and potential loss characteristics, to a previously unthinkable level of granularity. It highlights accumulations and correlations, giving insurers, reinsurers, and brokers all of the tools necessary to answer questions regarding portfolio optimization, capacity and capital requirements, while delivering answers to regulatory demands.

Together these three components comprise a complete cyber risk management solution which solves the key, real-world challenges facing the insurance industry today. We have created a new standard for the capture and management of cyber exposure data, and mechanisms both to get a handle on affirmative and silent cyber risks, while simultaneously meeting reporting requirements. All of that delivers the insights necessary to unlock the capital necessary to meet ultimate insureds’ demands for cyber cover, and allow the insurance sector to grow confidently into this exciting new line of business.

Exceedance Keynotes Announced: Terrorism, Cyber, Climate

The just-announced keynote speakers are among the many reasons to join us at Exceedance 2016. These leading experts will share their unique insights on terrorism, cyber security, and climate change—focusing on the human elements driving the science:

  • Bruce Hoffman, security studies professor at Georgetown University who held counterterrorism posts at RAND and the CIA and was a lead author of the final report from the independent commission on the FBI’s post-9/11 terrorism response
  • Matt Olsen, a president and co-founder of IronNet Cybersecurity whose work at the National Security Agency and Department of Justice led to his appointment as director of the federal government’s National Counterterrorism Center
  • Tim Jarvis, environmental scientist and author who is the founder and leader of 25zero, a campaign to raise awareness of the impact of human-induced climate change on the world’s rapidly melting equatorial glaciers—and leader of multiple expeditions including the Shackleton Epic Expedition

We’ve also recently released descriptions of the more than 60 sessions and other opportunities to interact with leaders, scientists, and your peers.

There are so many reasons to be a part of Exceedance this year, we’ve created a 1-minute video outlining the Top 5.

We hope to see you May 16-19 in Miami.