Chris Folkman, senior director of product management at RMS, was interviewed by Paula Newton on CNN’s Quest Means Business program on Monday, November 12, about the impact of the California wildfires.
Paula asked Chris about the range of factors that have made these wildfires so intense, and also about the potential causes of the fires. Chris explained how the fires could have started and how the almost perfect conditions for the fire produced such a rapid spread. For the Camp Fire in Northern California, deaths were caused by the fire’s sheer speed that had overwhelmed residents as they tried to escape from the path of the flames.
In case anyone had forgotten the crippling impacts of natural disasters, 2017 served a painful reminder. Hurricanes Irma and Maria left vulnerable people in the Caribbean devastated. Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya struggled with drought. Floods and landslides wrecked lives and livelihoods in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. And then there was Hurricane Harvey which, along with the California wildfires, made 2017 the costliest on record in the United States.
Whenever and wherever catastrophe strikes, our thoughts are with those so profoundly affected.
We did not, however, need last summer’s tropical cyclones to understand that something is not working. We did not need Irma and Maria to learn that investments in resilience reduce losses from natural disasters. And we did not need the events of 2017 to know that incentives are too often insufficient to drive action in the most vulnerable regions.
Images of total devastation from Typhoon Haiyan shocked the global community in 2013, and Haiyan still haunts the Philippines five years on. At 4.40 a.m. local time on Friday, November 8, 2013, the city of Guiuan (pop. ~52,000) on the island of Leyte, in the Eastern Visayas, Philippines, first experienced the full force of Typhoon Haiyan (Super Typhoon Yolanda) as it made landfall. The city’s mayor declared “100 percent damage.” A community found itself homeless as 10,008 structures in Guiuan were destroyed and 1,601 were partially damaged. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) estimated Haiyan’s one-minute sustained winds at 315 kilometers per hour (195 miles per hour) at landfall, and at the time, this unofficially made Haiyan the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed based on wind speed.
Haiyan was a story of prolific intensification, starting life as an area of low pressure some 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) east-southeast from landfall just six days previously. Warmed by the Pacific, Haiyan was a tropical depression on November 3, tropical storm on November 4, and claimed typhoon status by November 5. Four days into monitoring, by November 6, the JTWC assessed Haiyan as the equivalent of a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS). It continued to intensify before landfall.
India is an agricultural powerhouse, ranked second in the world in terms of its level of agricultural output. With 58 percent of the rural population of India reliant on agriculture for their livelihood (and a total figure of 2.2 billion across Asia) plus more than fifty percent of total working population of India employed in the food industry, ensuring that farmers are resilient and can rebuild after crop setbacks is a top priority for the country.
This challenge is being tackled. For India, agricultural insurance schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana(PMFBY) are ambitious, continually pressing to reduce the protection gap, with a target to cover 50 percent of gross cropped area over the next couple of years. But the challenge to further close this gap continues, and it was central to the theme for the Fifth Asia Agriculture Insurance Conference recently held in New Delhi — entitled “The Future of Agro Insurance: The Impact of Climate Change, Technology and Inclusive Insurance.”
In its recent “Global Risks Report”, the World Economic Forum (WEF) provided a comprehensive analysis of the risks and threats that the world faces, from economic, environmental, to geopolitical. Now in its thirteenth report, each year it publishes tables of the top ten risks in terms of their likelihood of happening, and potential impact. Although “newer” risks such as cyberattacks and data fraud do feature in the top five in terms of likelihood, it is extreme weather events and natural disasters that are in the top two or three in each list. In fact, in the view of the WEF, only weapons of mass destruction are ahead of extreme weather and natural disasters in terms of their impact on the globe. Nat cat events have not always topped the table — maybe the scale of the events of 2017 have brought the impact of nat cats to the fore.
There is also a recognition from the WEF that the failure to adapt and mitigate to climate change is rising as a threat. The World Weather Attribution coalition of scientists stated that 19 trillion gallons of rainfall from Hurricane Harvey that hit the Houston area was three-times more likely to occur due to climate change, and 15 percent more intense.
The pace of change continues to accelerate across the insurance industry, whether it is from technology, regulation or market developments, and EXPOSURE magazine helps risk professionals to explore some of the key drivers of these changes.
In this latest edition available for distribution at the Monte Carlo Rendezvous and online, the lead story looks at the recent market activity from Tower Insurance in New Zealand. By adopting high-definition earthquake modeling, Tower gained the confidence to launch risk-based pricing for its customers, providing savings for the majority of policyholders, but increases for others. EXPOSURE looks at the implications of Tower’s actions and how this could affect the New Zealand insurance market.
High resolution modeling has also helped Flood Re in the U.K. to better understand how it can work towards its remit of delivering a flood insurance market based on risk-reflective pricing that is affordable to policyholders. EXPOSURE shows how innovative use of modeling could guide Flood Re when recommending investment measures to protect properties at risk of flooding.
The rallying cry has sounded — to “close the protection gap”, the difference between what is paid out by insurance and the total cost of some incident or disaster. Here is an issue that can unite and promote the insurance industry, extending benefits to those in peril by expanding the insurance sector. Having ex-post access to funding after a loss, we know, can bring important benefits.
Yet in reality, there is not just one, but three distinct insurance “protection gaps”, each with separate causes and each requiring different remedies. These protection gaps are so different to one another that we should stop treating them as a single category. Lumping them together can cause confusion.
In this series of four blogs, I will explore each of these three distinct gaps, together with the role of protection gap analytics, and the actions we can plan to address these protection gaps.
This is the second blog in a series of four blogs examining three potential “protection gaps” and the importance of “protection gap analytics”. To read the first blog post in this series, click here.
Year-by-year, we can check to see if the gap between insured and economic disaster losses in emerging economies is starting to shrink. The gap remains resolutely stuck in the range 80 to 100 percent uninsured. Even a 90 percent average flatters the proportion, as coverage is concentrated in high value hotels, factories and central business districts whereas almost all ordinary houses are without insurance.
We should not be surprised how the emerging markets gap stays so wide.
See what happened in Japan. Unregulated mass rebuilding after the war led to a rising toll of flood disasters. In one single year in the 1950s, more than a million properties were flooded. Then in 1959 there was Typhoon Vera and the Ise Bay storm surge flood catastrophe in which more than 5,000 died. In 1960 the Government declared the level of risk to be intolerable and directed that seven to eight percent of government expenditure should be invested in funding disaster risk reduction. The annual investment proved successful and by the 1980s the annual number of houses flooded had reduced to only three percent of its 1950s level.
For any emerging economy the question can be asked: when did the nation reach the equivalent of Japan in 1960 and start to invest in disaster risk reduction. China passed the point of “intolerable disaster risk” towards the end of the 1990s, while India is undergoing that transition today. This is not just investment in physical disaster risk reduction, but also good risk governance and education.
Insurance is a product of this disaster risk management culture.
This is the final blog in a series of four blogs examining three potential “protection gaps” and the importance of “protection gap analytics”. To read the first blog post in this series, click here.
We are not going to be able to take effective action to reduce any of these three protection gaps unless we can first learn how to consistently measure the difference between insured and total loss. Such measurement means we can know the current situation as well as set appropriate targets and monitor progress in reducing the gap. It can also help to focus investment and action.
At present, the only form of measurement is to acknowledge the difference between insured loss and the estimated total economic loss once the claims have settled, one or two years after a significant disaster.
In the same way that probabilistic catastrophe risk models were developed to enable insurers and reinsurers to look beyond the latest event loss, so the same models are now required to monitor the protection gap. This is the focus of “protection gap analytics”.
There is nothing quite like a “banging EP” to make me feel young again. But that wasn’t the only aspect of my most recent trip to Miami that brought out the millennial in me.
If you missed Exceedance 2018 a few weeks back, you probably also missed Resilience 2018. Embedded every year within Exceedance, RMS holds a space for policymakers and business leaders to collaborate to a very important end: ensuring local communities and regional economies are resilient to the shocks and stresses they face.