September 27th, 2013

Global Warming: Adaptation Measures

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publications represent scientific consensus among many of the world’s top scientists (and scientific consensus is difficult to achieve). Their findings are generally consistent with the broader scientific literature.

Global warming is an established scientific fact, with an association with human activity that cannot be explained away as statistical “noise”. It is expected that global warming will continue through the end of the century. Coastal flooding under sea-level rise is the single greatest threat, followed by inland flooding and drought. The societal and economic impacts of these hazards, particularly for coastal areas, can be quite severe. These impacts are summarized in Table 1.

climate-change-table-1final

With the exception of coastal flood, inland flood and drought, the wholesale attribution of increasing financial losses to an increase in natural hazard frequency misrepresents the issues. Statements concerning loss trends under natural disaster would be better served if normalized by factors including (per capita) gross domestic product, total insured value, population density and annualized property value. Such statements should also be in cognizance of the scientific literature. The impacts of meteorological hazards, of course, depend on the frequency and severity of the events, but also on the vulnerability, population density, local infrastructure and the property values of affected areas.

Codes and standards and land-use strategies are accepted adaptation measures to improve resilience against flood, wind and fire impacts under global warming. Such measures can build resilience for life, property and capital especially in developing countries. Catastrophe modeling strategies under global warming, particularly with respect to the coastal flood threat, would be particularly valuable. Risk transfer strategies that make use of such measures are more likely to prevail over the long term.

Since the publication of the IPCC AR4 (2007), new advances in the science are available and under appraisal and will be consolidated into the Fifth Assessment Report to be released in 2013-2014. Guy Carpenter will closely follow these new developments.

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