Climate Change’s Impact on Cities and Businesses

Growing populations around the globe have created larger cities, as well as greater concentrations of risk. It is projected that a rise in sea levels and increased intensity of events will amplify the impact of hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, floods and droughts. Because of this, climate change is seen as one of the biggest threats to cities and businesses and could account for an estimated 20% of the global GDP by the end of this century, according to “Business Unusual: Why the climate is changing the rules for our cities and SMEs” by AXA.

While some cities have worked to put resilience plans in place to reduce the impact of flooding and other disasters, there is much to be done and businesses are vulnerable, especially small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Only 26% of SMEs have taken action to protect themselves, yet 54% are worried about the impact climate change could have on their business, and the number rises to 75% in emerging markets, the study found.

AXA-SME impact

“These disasters would be magnified by the fact that populations and assets have never been so concentrated in disaster-prone areas,” Henri de Castries, chairman and CEO of AXA Group said in the report. “Half of the world’s population now resides in cities, often along coastlines, and this proportion is due to rise to nearly two-thirds by the middle of the century, representing some 6.4 billion people. It comes as little surprise, then, that 80% of the climate change adaptation costs for 2010-2050 would be borne by urban areas.”

According to the report, these are common elements of resilience planning:

  • Risk assessments to identify key vulnerabilities.
  • Adaptation of essential infrastructure to withstand changes to the environment.
  • Development of flood defenses to protect inhabited areas from flooding caused by extreme weather events and increased rainfall.
  • Urban planning and relocation of buildings, including adapting to future developments that allow greater resilience to the consequences of climate change.
  • Development of emergency warning and response plans—emergency response planning is a core pillar of resilience strategy.
  • Community engagement and awareness-raising activities.

Additional findings:

Impact IImpactII


Tool Calculates Natural Hazard Risk to Property

Potential for hurricanes and storm surges, the possibilities of wildfires and sinkholes, and an extensive coastline make Florida rank as the state with the highest risk of property damage from natural hazards, according to a new analysis by CoreLogic. Second on the list is Rhode Island, with Michigan coming in with the lowest ranking for risk.

The analysis was derived from the Hazard Risk Score (HRS), a new analytics tool that gathers data on multiple natural hazard risks and combines the data into a single score ranging from 0 to 100. The score indicates risk exposure at the individual property and location level, CoreLogic said. In calculating an overall score, the probability of an event and the frequency of past events are significant contributing factors to determine risk levels associated with individual hazards, along with each hazard’s risk contribution to total loss.

“Florida’s high level of risk is driven by the potential for hurricane winds and storm surge damage along its extensive Atlantic and Gulf coastline, as well as the added potential for sinkholes, flooding and wildfires. Michigan alternatively ranks low for most natural hazard risks, other than flooding,” Howard Botts, Ph.D., vice president and chief scientist for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions, said in a statement.

HRS measures risk concentration and pinpoints the riskiest places in the country. “This insight is critical in conducting comparative risk management nationwide and fully understanding exposure to potential natural hazard damage,” Botts said.

The tool can be used to improve decision-making and enhance business operations, including:

• Business continuity and disaster recovery planning

• Analyzing risks associated with properties

• Measuring savings of mitigation compared to the potential damage of a hazard

• Evaluating natural hazard levels of distribution and supplier networks

• Recognizing if underinsured or uninsured properties could be at risk of default

• Adverse selection avoidance and identification of good risk properties.




Marine Losses Continue Downward Trend

The marine industry continued to see a steady decline in the number of large ships losses globally since 2002, with 94 ships lost in 2013, down 20% from 117 reported in 2012, according to a study by Allianz.

The “Safety and Shipping Review 2014” by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty found that of ships lost, the largest number, 32, were cargo vessels; 14 were fishing vessels; and 12 were bulk shipments. Only six passenger ships were lost, the survey found. The most common cause of losses in 2013, and over  the last 12 years, was foundering (sinking or submerging). The demise of 69 ships accounted for nearly three-quarters of all losses—with bad weather a significant driver.

Worldwide there were 1,673 losses from Jan. 1, 2002-Dec. 31, 2013, with an average of 139 per year. The top geographic area for losses has been South China, Indo China, Indonesia and Philippines. The area including British Isles, North Sea, English Channel and Bay of Biscay is still ranked fourth, despite improvement. With 45 losses overall, the U.S. eastern seaboard improved in 2013, dropping out of the top 10 regions.

According to the study, January is the worst month for all casualties in the Northern Hemisphere. There were 23% more losses in January compared with the quietest month, June. In the Southern Hemisphere July sees 41% more losses than April.

The majority of losses are caused by machinery damage, the reason for most losses in marine insurance. Statistics from the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) report that 40% of hull claims are machinery damage and account for 20% of costs.

The review found that while piracy is still a threat, it has also subsided. Piracy at sea reached its lowest levels in six years, with 264 attacks recorded worldwide in 2013, a 40% drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011. Fifteen incidents were reported off Somalia in 2013, including Gulf of Aden and Red Sea incidents, down from 75 in 2012, and 237 in 2011 (including attacks attributed to Somali pirates in Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and Oman).

According to the study: “The very real threat of piracy for ships operating in the Gulf of Aden reached the general public last year as the Hollywood Oscar-nominated blockbuster Captain Phillips was released. Tom Hanks played the lead as the master of the pirated Mærsk Alabama, broadcasting the piracy problem to a much wider audience and raising awareness of its consequences. The steps that the international maritime community has taken to reduce the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden have been extremely successful with the number of ships seized and hostages taken in 2013 significantly down on 2012.”

Lower losses overall were attributed to a number of factors including increased regulation, which has helped the maritime industry improve its safety record. Because the quality of operations varies in different regions, however, there is a big need for universal regulations on ship safety to reduce the risk of casualties and loss of life, the survey concluded.


New Year, New Natural Disaster Emergency Plans

Along with January renewals and analyzing whether existing policies offer sufficient coverage, the new year is a perfect reminder to review company-wide emergency plans. While 2013 may have been a relatively light year for catastrophe losses, there’s no reason to assume 2014 will be, too.

Check out this infographic from Boston University’s Masters in Specialty Management program for a jump-start on identifying the risks of natural disaster and updating plans for how to handle any emergency:

Survive a Natural Disaster