Dr. Gordon McBean, Professor Emeritus, Western University Research Chair, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction
Over many decades, climate change has evolved from being a topic of scientific interest to becoming a policy issue in the 80s and now the “defining challenge of our time.” I serve as the Research Chair to the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), which was established by Canada’s property and casualty insurance industry as an independent, not-for-profit research institute in 1997, linked with Western University in 1999, and quickly evolved into a world-class centre for multi-disciplinary disaster prevention research and communication.
The Latest Report
In February 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released, addressing the issues of impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. The overall summary concluded, with high confidence that “human-induced climate change has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt. Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage.” The Report also notes that “Addressing these risks have been made more urgent by delays due to misinformation about climate science that has sowed uncertainty, and impeded recognition of risk.”
What is Being Done
Canada is warming about twice as fast as the global average and we are seeing increased numbers and intensity of extreme events, with wildfires, flooding, hot days and extreme weather having major impacts—including Ontario’s recent derecho storm. Some communities, fortunately, have displayed great creativity, foresight and commitment to reducing their risk to wildfires by capitalizing on their strengths and forming alliances with internal and external players to build capacity as reported in Cities Adapt to Extreme Wildfires, Celebrating Local Leadership.
The Industry’s Contribution
ICLR and its peers have studied implications of the climate crisis for insurers and consumers and we’re committed to the development and communication of disaster prevention knowledge. After years of discussions, the Federal Government hosted on May 16, 2022, a National Adaptation Symposium to launch its public engagement and consultation process for Canada’s first-ever Adaptation Strategy. Several insurance company representatives participated in the process, including IBC’s Craig Stewart, Vice-President, Climate Change and Federal Issues, as co-chair of the Disaster Resilience and Security Advisory Table. It’s an important role for the sector.
What Brokers Can Do
Brokers can fight against climate change by encouraging property owners and others to reduce exposure and vulnerability of houses and other infrastructure. They can speak out about climate misinformation. They can add their voices to the multi-disciplinary choir of experts working to explain that the climate crisis is upon us now and to convince Canadians that we can and should act to reverse it through concerted national and individual action.
Brokers can take personal actions to protect their own workplaces and homes, with the flood, fire, and wind-protection measures that ICLR and others advocate. And by understanding the resilience features that provide enhanced risk reduction in a changing climate, such as impact-resistant roofing, sewer backflow valves, battery backup sump pumps, noncombustible cladding, and others, insurers will increase consideration of these features in ratemaking and other policy decisions. With their homes, families, and offices protected, brokers will be better prepared to serve their customers in times of need.