NASA & Columbia University Researchers Tie Specific Weather Events to Human-induced Climate Change
Whether one believes global warming is occurring or not, or, whether one believes that human activity is causing or contributing to it, insurers need to be aware that researchers from NASA and Columbia University have, for the first time, attributed the occurrence of specific weather events to global warming.
Their study examined weather patterns from two 30-year periods: from 1951–1980 and 1981–2010. According to the TIME article, if extreme weather events were "normally distributed and similar to the climactic record, [there] should have been just a 0.1-to-0.2 percent frequency of an extreme heat event (That’s about exactly as often as a perfect bell curve predicts they would occur.) [One of the authors] dubs this difference a ‘three-sigma anomaly,’ for the Greek-letter symbol for standard deviation. And in the world of statistics, these anomalies represent a stunning 10-fold increase in extreme weather events."
Given the significance of this peer-reviewed research, and the statistical analysis being advanced by the authors, we can expect there will be a flurry of activity on this topic in the coming months. The question for insurers is: If this new study proves to be accurate, are there potential implications that need to be addressed as respects enterprise risk management and/or underwriting strategy? The Property/Casualty industry has already seen the first few global warming lawsuits. To date, courts have not been willing to 1) find certain industries liable for damages arising from allegedly more extreme weather events, nor 2) deem that emissions of greenhouse gases are an occurrence under liability policies. But this litigation is still in its infancy. If a causal link is established, how will it manifest in terms of new legal theories for adverse climate-related occurrences? Will these insights advance our ability to predict future "severe" weather patterns and better enable the industry and government to do a better job of managing, underwriting and pricing this global risk?
You can read the entire piece via this link to the TIME magazine article: http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2012/05/10/global-warming-an-exclusive-look-at-james-hansens-scary-new-math/