E-mail Sign-up
Ceres News Feed (RSS)

rss iconGet press releases, news stories, podcasts and more updates automatically by subscribing to the Ceres News Feed (RSS).

 
You are here: Home Press and Media Blogs and Opinion Dock your boat at Fenway?
Document Actions
  • Print this Print this
  • Email this page

Dock your boat at Fenway?

Policymakers and insurers must act now to prepare for rising sea levels caused by climate change.
by Mindy S. LubberCommonwealth Magazine Posted on Sep 26, 2012

Rising seas will bring big changes to Boston, and sooner than you might think. Climate change is expected to raise average global sea levels between two and six feet by century’s end, and a recent US Geological Survey study suggests that the waters around the Hub and other East Coast cities are rising even faster than the global average.

To put that in perspective, if seas rise just 2.5 feet, a strong Nor’easter could put much of Back Bay, East Boston, South Boston, Chelsea and Cambridge under water. Hundreds of billions of dollars of real estate and vital infrastructure, from sanitation, sewer and water systems to highways, tunnels and Logan Airport, are at risk.

Faced with these dire predictions, some progress has been made to boost Boston’s resiliency. East Boston salt marshes are being restored for better flood control. Waterfront structures are being elevated, including the new Spaulding Rehab Center in Charlestown, which was raised two feet to prevent flood damage. Like the New England Aquarium, it also installed electrical systems on its roof. Developers investing in the city’s waterfront Innovation District are being required to take similar steps.

The Mayor’s Green Ribbon Commission, on which I serve, is also working to build private sector support for efforts to adapt to climate change. One group in particular has been feeling the effects of climate change for several years - insurers. Insurers often carry the costs of climate risk, but by managing that risk, they can bring enormous leverage to bear on whether and how cities and developers prepare for the consequences of rising seas.

There’s no doubt that the stakes are high: “Stormy Future,” a new report on the insurance sector from my organization, Ceres, indicates that 2011 was the second costliest year ever for insured losses from natural catastrophes globally. In the US alone, extreme weather events cost property/casualty insurers more than $32 billion in losses. The science is clear: Climate change increases the risk of extreme weather. Extreme weather increases potential losses. If insurance companies hope to protect their clients—and their business models— they must adapt.

In hurricane zones, insurers are already catching on to the value of preparation. Before Hurricane Katrina, Rhode Island insurer FM Global invested an average of $7,500 per site in hurricane loss-prevention at Louisiana properties it insured. When the storm struck, it reduced its clients’ losses by 85 percent compared to properties without such preparations.

To reduce risks even further, insurers can also work directly with government officials on several key initiatives. First, they must attack the root of the sea rise problem by acting on carbon pollution, the primary driver of a warming world. Boston has set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by at least 25 percent by the year 2020 and 80 percent by the year 2050. Other communities—and corporations—must join this effort to prevent further climate impacts.

Second, cities need lasting changes to building codes and land use planning, and with the right policies, insurers stand to benefit. The Aquarium and Spaulding Rehab are already implementing best practices that should become requisites for new development projects.

Next, updated and improved flood mapping are essential. City planners rely on flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other resources to determine zoning and building codes. Insurers use them to set rates from Cape Cod to Florida, but much of the available information is now out-of-date. It is imperative that flood maps be updated soon to reflect the new reality, including new projected flood lines.

Other cities are looking at more elaborate solutions. After Hurricane Irene triggered New York City’s first mandatory evacuation last year, officials are now considering building solid storm barriers across the harbor to be deployed during storms. Such a barrier might protect runways at the city’s three major airports (including Newark) and other vital infrastructure, but it comes with a nearly $10 billion price tag.

With other adaptation initiatives already underway, Boston’s leadership is right in thinking we can't wait for big pie-in-the-sky solutions like multi-billion dollar barriers. Those inevitably lead us to endless debate over a mega-project’s merits, while distracting us from the problem at hand.

To adapt to rising seas, planners and insurers must act today with the tools we have now. Or else, grab a bucket and start bailing.

Read the post at Commonwealth Magazine

Blossom Hoag says:
Sep 28, 2012 12:55 PM

Let us not forget that it is you and I who foot the bill for the insurance losses--the companies don't. They just raise the rates. It is time to tell people that they can't have insurance in vulnerable areas.

steverogger says:
Oct 01, 2012 01:37 AM

That is a fantastic blog get useful and interesting information.Thanks for sharing this nice article.
http://innovatingfutures.com

Martine says:
Oct 01, 2012 08:15 AM

One should always ask for proof of professional insurance coverage to be sure your service provider has the necessary rights. I could figure out the right solution for my Professional insurance coverage with the help of www.slashyourrisks.com.

Commenting has been disabled.
Meet the Expert

Mindy S. Lubber JD, MBA

Mindy S. Lubber is the president of Ceres and a founding board member of the organization. She also directs Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a group of 100 institutional investors managing nearly $10 trillion in assets focused on the business risks and opportunities of climate change. Mindy regularly speaks about corporate and investor sustainability issues to high-level leaders at the New York Stock Exchange, United Nations, World Economic Forum, Clinton Global Initiative, American Accounting Association, American Bar Association and more than 100 Fortune 500 firms. She has led negotiating teams of investors, NGOs and Fortune 500 company CEOs who have taken far-reaching positions on corporate practices to minimize carbon emissions, water use and other environmental impacts. She has briefed powerful corporate boards, from Nike to American Electric Power, on how climate change affects shareholder value.

Read More