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Thursday, August 7, 2014

How Can Businesses Climate-Proof Themselves?

Pictured is a wind test demonstration by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, that subjected two full-scale houses to thunderstorm and straight-line wind conditions common in the Midwest. The homes are essentially the same, except that the house on the right was built to the IBHS FORTIFIED for Safer Living® standard for Midwest construction. (Scott Iskowitz/Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety)

Pictured is a wind test demonstration by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, that subjected two full-scale houses to thunderstorm and straight-line wind conditions common in the Midwest. The homes are essentially the same, except that the house on the right was built to the IBHS FORTIFIED for Safer Living® standard for Midwest construction. (Scott Iskowitz/Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety)

According to the Insurance Information Institute, three of the top six years for catastrophic insurance losses — topping $142 billion — have taken place since 2005, and scientists agree that climate change has played a major role.

Hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy come to mind, as do myriads of fires, droughts and floods. The costs are huge and businesses are not waiting for Congress to take action — they’re doing everything they can to become climate resistant, if not climate-proof.

That means not only changing infrastructure, such as moving electric generators to higher floors, for example, but also understanding risk, knowing where your supplies come from and having a sense of potential problems in every region where the business operates.

Kyle Beatty is president of Verisk Climate, a division of the New Jersey-based Verisk Analytics, which provides businesses with guidance that can help mitigate the consequences of severe weather events.

As he told Here & Now’s Robin Young, “the challenge often is to take the recognition that [weather is] an issue, and be able to put it into a practice that someone can rely upon day in and day out.”

Interview Highlights

On using data from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety

“From our standpoint, that kind of information is good evidence as to what can happen to a building and it’s also very important visual indicators of how severe a hurricane can be, or a wildfire, or a hailstorm, or any one of these natural events when you see firsthand how it affects a building. So when we come with a point of view around how likely that is to take place, this also helps us to then translate it into what does it mean in terms of how likely it is to create damage, and then downstream business impacts like an interruption to one’s operations.”

On his personal views about climate change

“Quite often in a conversation like this, someone might ask me what my position is on climate change. Actually the way I think of that is: I personally don’t have a position — it’s really what the objective data indicates that allows us to understand what are the effects of these events when they happen, and what do we know about how likely they are? The goal is to be independent and objective, transparent around the science, and that’s what we find companies really appreciate is not just knowing what we know. It’s knowing what we don’t know.”

Guest


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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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