Aon has called for a series of steps to be taken to better prepare for hurricane, wildfire and flood risks amid a rising recognition of the impact climate change is having on these perils. 

Aon

The study, authored by the global broker’s Impact Forecasting unit, said aspects of recent losses for these perils had highlighted how they were now showing the “fingerprints of climate change”. 

Hurricane Ida, for example, was the latest of several recent tropical cyclone events to show behavioral change prior to making landfall and after coming ashore.  

“The storm rapidly intensified up to the point of landfall, and then slowly weakened while inland. This slow motion and remnant moisture would later spawn record rainfall and subsequent flooding,” the broker said. 

“Ida served as another example of the critical need to invest in infrastructure modernisation, regularly update flood risk maps, and rebuild or retrofit coastal and inland properties to withstand the growing risks associated with the peril.” 

Aon said the unabated rains which hit the northeast US as Ida moved across the region highlighted the need for infrastructure and policy reform, particularly in major metropolitan regions. 

“These changes are needed to deal not only with today’s climate, but concurrently address the projected climate of the future,” the broker said. 

“Losses in New York City were enhanced by decades of increased impervious surface area, and outdated storm and sewer systems which were not originally designed to adequately handle the increasingly excessive rainfall events in today’s climate.”

Aon said short-term investments could lead to significant long-term savings if appropriate infrastructure mitigation is taken to limit the risk of sea level rise and hazard impacts to vulnerable coastal properties.  

Following record insured flood losses in Europe and China this year, Aon said it was critical to understand the changing frequency of flood events  

“A 100-year event means there is a 1 percent chance of such an event occurring at a location in any given year. It does not mean that it will be another 100 years until another such event happens again,” the broker said. 

“The increased influence of climate change suggests that what is considered a 1-in-100-year event today may become a 1-in-75 or 1-in-50-year event in the future. 

“ An understanding of this likely shift in event occurrence frequency is highly important when developing risk mitigation and adaptation plans. Such analysis will only enhance the essential need for more regularly updated flood mapping and flood risk tools.” 

Similarly, for wildfire risk Aon said it will be essential to limit further exposure growth into known fire locations, as well as mandating enforcement of proper practices to minimise ignition and spread.  

“As climate change makes wildfire activity more challenging in the future, it is essential for strategic planning to include mitigation measures for homes and businesses insistent on living in these high-risk areas,” the broker said. 

These measures could include several steps, such as enforcing or mandating defensible space between a structure and vegetation, as well as installing fire resistant or less flammable material for roofing, sliding and decking. 

Additional steps include maximizing distancing between properties, improving wildfire risk mapping, as well as enhancing infrastructure to improve evacuation and firefighting efforts.