Consumer education key to better climate change management says IBC head

Published: April 10, 2019

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Climate conditions in Canada have caused debate for years but following last week’s report by Natural Resources Canada the discussion has intensified. In the government-backed Canada’s Changing Climate Report, NRC says global warming in Canada has always been around double that of global trends and will continue to be that way.

Looking to the future, the report highlights how Canada will continue to see climate change driven by human influences while detailing the effect prolonged warming will have on parts of the country.

The report has divided opinion, but while some can refute some of the data, evidence across the board suggests extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity in Canada. In a response to the paper, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s (IBC) CEO says the evidence is clear.

“The long-term trends are clear. We’re facing longer periods of drought, leading to more forest fires, and we’re experiencing more storms, major hurricanes, and extreme rainfalls, leading to more frequent and intense flooding,” said Don Forgeron, president and CEO of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “These events are no longer only affecting areas that have traditionally been exposed to these risks. Twenty per cent (20%) of Canadian households now have some vulnerability to flood, and that figure is increasing. The risk of wildfire continues to grow as well.

“There’s no question that we’ve entered an era of increased threat to life and property. From 1983 to 2008, CAT insured losses in Canada averaged about $400 million. Over the last decade that number jumped up to about $1 billion per year, and it was closer to $2 billion in 2018 – and that was without a single large event. So, we’re seeing more severe weather events, more damage, more insurance claims, greater strain on the government treasury, and increased heartache and anxiety for countless Canadians, especially those who live in harm’s way.”

Forgeron believes more investment is needed in consumer education. He says the public only react when the worst happens and even those in high-severity risk locations still believe events like floods are once a generation. Monica Ningen, president and CEO of Canada & English Caribbean Swiss Re agrees and told Insurance Business customers don’t plan for the worst.

“I think sometimes consumers sit back and think: ‘It’s not going to happen to me. My house isn’t going to flood. There won’t be a big earthquake where I live.’ They see it as such an unlikely event that they really don’t see themselves as part of that conversation. I look at it from the standpoint of: it’s not if it will happen to you, but when it will happen to you. Something will likely impact you in your lifetime.”