Risk Insider: Joe Tocco

Ocean Warming Risk: Why Does it Matter to Insurance?

By: | October 4, 2016 • 2 min read
Currently Chief Executive of the Americas for XL Catlin’s insurance operation, Joe Tocco has enjoyed three decades in the insurance industry at various organizations. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he served as a nuclear field service engineer. He can be reached at [email protected]

One of the things I’ve seen firsthand in my insurance career is the interrelated nature of risks; they rarely occur in isolation. A loss in one area often triggers or exacerbates others. Such is also the nature of our environment, where we are observing disturbing changes.

I was fortunate to have served in the U.S. Navy and have been awed ever since by the oceans’ vastness, power and complexity. Understanding the oceans is difficult. Astonishingly, humans have spent 100 times more hours on the moon than in the deepest part of Earth’s oceans.

A new report on ocean warming by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), titled Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences describes the phenomenon as ‘one of the greatest hidden challenges of our generation.’ The analysis report has been compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries.

Even though our planet has enough land area to accommodate more than 7 billion people, 71 percent of its surface is covered by water. Oceans have a critical influence on life as we know it – heating and cooling the planet, providing food and supporting global commerce, yet we have only recently started to understand them.

If science and nations are to mitigate climate change, we must clearly grasp how the decline in coral reef health, loss of polar ice, ocean warming, sea level rise and ocean acidification are affecting the people and property that the insurance industry helps to protect.

The report, which is sponsored by XL Catlin’s Deep Ocean Survey initiative, is the third in a series of scientific research programs to better understand the key indicators of climate change. One of the missions of the Survey is to pilot a systematic method for scientists around the world to assess ocean health. What we are learning so far has been startling:

  • Sea levels have risen about 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) since pre-industrial times. If carbon dioxide emissions continue at their current pace, sea levels will rise a further 99 cm (39 inches) by 2100.
  • Many of the world’s largest cities, including New York and London, are exposed to flooding from sea level rise.
  • Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to relocate if sea levels rise at the current rate.
  • In the United States alone, $500 billion of coastal property could be below sea level by the end of this century.
  • The ocean absorbs excess heat and carbon dioxide, and far more of that heat is now buried in the deep ocean, below 700 meters, than was found 20 years ago.
  • CO2 dissolves in seawater to form carbonic acid, increasing acidity. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1750, the acidification of the ocean has increased 30 percent. That change has led to the destruction of coral reefs and many marine species.

Why should the insurance industry care about ocean warming? For one thing, we are in the risk business, and ocean warming represents enormous risks. To manage any risk, we first have to understand it.

If science and nations are to mitigate climate change, we must clearly grasp how the decline in coral reef health, loss of polar ice, ocean warming, sea level rise and ocean acidification are affecting the people and property that the insurance industry helps to protect.

As an industry built on managing risk, we must continue to study the risks facing our planet from climate change and work together to mitigate their effects. Let’s use our expertise in analyzing risk and helping rebuild lives and livelihoods to preserve opportunities for future generations.

The Risk List: Presented by Travelers

6 Risks Presented by the Future of Work

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1
Tech Revolution
2
Changing Workforce
3
Borderless Business
4
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5
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6
Murky Medical Claims