Tag Archives: floods

Climate Risk Insurance

At a meeting with leaders of small island nations, President Obama announced on the 1st of December 2015, that the United States will commit $30 billion to climate risk insurance schemes.

Susceptible people will become more buoyant to climate change and risk with this endeavour. The aid aso included the supply of climate data, tools and service.

The financial aid will increase climate risk insurance coverage to assist people to oversee serious climate-related problems. The dilemmas range from escalating droughts, flood and storms to melting glaciers and rising seas.

This summer G7 leaders set a goal to increase the figure initiated by the US government to reach 400 million by 2020. People in the most vulnerable developing countries will therefore be helped by means of climate risk insurance.

In June Germany said it would provide 150 million euros ($170 million) to kick-start the initiative.

A state of emergency was declared on 10 December 2015 by Oregon State Governor. The storms and floods began on 7th December 2015 and covered 13 counties.

Major highways were closed due to days of hazardous weather.  High winds knocked out power to thousands.   Rainfall caused wide-spread flooding of roadways, homes and properties.  This prompted Governor Jay Inslee of Washington to declare a state of emergency on the 9th of December 2015.

At least 58 died in the Black Sea area over the New Year’s week-end. Thousands of Russian tourists were caught out by flood water.   Their cars and tents were swept out to sea.

Thousands of British tourists were forced to cancel holidays. One of the worst hit cities was Prague.   More than 50,000 people had to be evacuated.   This was the most devastating flood for more than a century that threatened to engulf the Czeck capital.

Parts of Mala Strana, the mediaeval area of the city centre, were almost certain to be flood damaged.   The deluge forced dams on the river Vitava to open their gates. Prague had not seen the river as high since 1890.

Residents of towns in far southern Illinois anxiously awaited flood waters from the swollen Mississippi River to peak on Sunday (3rd January 2016). The flooding then swamped towns.   Numerous businesses had to be shut down.



Sinking Cities

As sea levels rise, ground levels in coastal mega cities are also falling. This presents potentially disastrous consequences for insurers. Sinking cities are being submerged at a phenomenal rate

Large property insurers in the world’s coastal cities are concerned. They have taken into account the effects of climate change into their calamity models.

Underwriters fear the combination of sea water deluge and flood damage. New Orleans suffered an ensuing cascading collapse of critical infrastructure following Hurricane Katrina. The city is constructed on multiple layers of soft soil which compresses when built upon.

The causes of sinking cities varies. Ground water extraction for drinking water and industrial processes is one of the problems. In Los Angeles, oil and gas extraction is to blame.

Tokyo has been one of the most severely affected sinking cities. In the middle of the last century it grew rapidly. It sunk over 4 metres. In the 1970s radical corrective policies were instituted. Extraction of ground water was reduced.

The fastest subsiding city is Jakarta, Indonesia. It is sinking 5 to 10 centimetres a year. Key commercial districts of the city are threatened. These districts are where major Asian, American and European companies are based.

A water management specialist from Dutch research Deltares confirmed that the project known as the Giant Sea Wall (GSW), is one of the solutions to Jakarta’s problems. This project would protect four to five million people who could see their current homes sinking between 4 to 9 metres below sea level.

The city of Venice, Italy, built on a salt marsh, as charming as it looks, is sinking. Venice has always survived on borrowed time. A major threat are the extreme high tides known as “acqua alta”. Acqua alta is when the water level is over 90mm (3.54 inches) above normal.The most common occurrence of the acqua alta is in and around Piazza San Marco. Abnormal high tides are becoming more common place. Venice now experiences more than 60 days a year of extreme high tides.

Heavy and often reckless boat traffic speeding through the canals is another one of Venice’s problems. The wake caused by these motor boats and large cruise ships create small but powerful waves that lap the stones lining the canals. This is eroding away the mortar holding the city in place.

A popular as well as the most controversial solution to the sinking of Venice is called the MOSE Project (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico). The plan is to create adjustable barriers at the Venice Lagoon entrances. These barriers are designed to rest on the sea floor until Venice is threatened by an acqua alta event. The barriers, when needed, spring into action by rising to form a dam across the three entrances to the Venice Lagoon. High water is thus kept away from the city.

The project, still incomplete, was caught in a scandal of corruption and bribery. Thirty five people were arrested and one hundred politicians investigated.


Could planned reforestation in deforested areas reduce floods? Could this ultimately reduce flood insurance premiums?

At its root, the flood equation is quite simple. If a river cannot handle the load of water it is required to carry, it must rise. With enough water, it must rise above its bank and flood. With excessive deforestation floods are more likely.

The faster water runs from the watershed into the river, the higher a flood rise. Increases in runoff speed such as excessive pavement or ditching of farmland, will contribute to floods.

Deforestation plays several roles in the flooding equation. Trees prevent sediment runoff. Forests hold and use more water than farms or grasslands.

Deforestation is key in the flooding equation.

In 1998 the huge Yangtze flood was a direct result of 85% loss of trees. This loss had occurred during the previous few years. Loss of wetlands and  river engineering added to the dilemma.

Cropland covers about 16 million square kilometres. This is the size of South America. Global pastureland occupies more than 30 million square kilometres. This is the extent of Africa.

Agricultural land covers about 40% of the Earth’s land surface. Creating additional farmlands would require the destruction of other Ecosystems such as tropical rain forests.

We lack the strong research base necessary to accurately quantify the anti-flooding benefits of planting trees. Large scale studies cost money. Scientists have difficulty repeating experiments.  No two catchment areas are the same.