RealClimate logo


A new European report on climate extremes is out

A new report on extreme climate events in Europe is just published: ‘Extreme Weather Events in Europe: preparing for climate change adaptation‘. It was launched in Oslo on October 24th by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and the report is now available online.

Front cover of 'Extreme Weather Events in Europe: preparing for climate change adaptation'

Front cover of ‘Extreme Weather Events in Europe:
preparing for climate change adaptation’

What’s new? The new report provides information that is more specific to Europe than the SREX report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and incorporate phenomena that have not been widely covered.

It provides some compelling information drawn from the insurance industry, and indeed, a representative from Munich Re participated in writing this report. There is also material on convective storms, hail, lightening, and cold snaps, and the report provides a background on extreme value statistics, risk analysis, impacts, and adaptation.

The main difference with the recent IPCC reports (e.g. the SREX) is the European focus and that it includes more recent results. The report writing process did not have to follow as rigid procedures as the IPCC, and hence the report is less constrained. For instance, it provides set of recommendations for policymakers, based entirely on scientific considerations.

The report, in which I have been involved, was initiated by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and was written by a committee of experts across Europe. Hence, the final report was published as a joint report by the Norwegian meteorological institute, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC)


90 Responses to “A new European report on climate extremes is out”

  1. 1
    paulina says:

    This looks like an interesting report, providing a lot of context. I look forward to reading it.

    However, I was frustrated to see the way in which a problematic passage from Trenberth 2012 was included.

    Trenberth says question Q is poorly posed and has no satisfactory answer, but he also — first — answers Q in the negative.

    As a narrative, a description of his — or our — thought process, this account is understandable and potentially helpful. But when the negative answer is reported on its own, *without* immediately including the follow-up about how the question actually has no satisfactory answer (and therefore cannot, for instance, be answered in the negative), the thrust is different, confusing, and wrong.

    This incomplete parsing of Trenberth’s point, which, to add to the confusion, he is sometimes (I mean at other times, not in your report) quoted as performing himself, is problematic.

    For clarity: Answering a question in the negative is not the same thing as saying that the question is ill-posed, poorly posed, or has no satisfactory answer.

    Here’s a fictional dialogue from a while back that tries to capture the frustrating aspect of Trenberth’s account: http://barasanningen.tumblr.com/post/61603386573/the-negation-of-nonsense-is-nonsense

    Again, your report looks very interesting, and I look forward to reading it carefully. Thank you.

  2. 2
    Joseph Sobry says:

    Very minor: Muncih Re should be Munich Re. The tag works fine.

    [Response: Thanks! Fixed. -rasmus]

  3. 3

    Thanks for this! I look forward to having a look at it. One even more minor edit: “lightening” should be “lightning.”

  4. 4

    Meanwhile there is a huge kerfuffle in Australia over the question of the culpability of climate change in increased bush fires. I suspect the correct position is we can’t yet be sure if climate change is enough of an effect to have increased wildfires, but increased temperatures and bigger swings between drought and deluge have to increase fire hazard in general.

    I wonder if someone has done as specific a report on changes in Australia as this report. Increased heat waves and summer dryness as in Europe, for example, would be clear risk factors for fire.

  5. 5
    John L says:

    Thanks, a very interesting report.

    But I can’t resist relating to some discussions in the comments here recently while I noticed that they are treating the uncertainty concepts slightly differently in this report than in IPCC AR5 and AR4.

    In all three reports, they use two separate concepts ‘confidence’ and ‘outcome likelihood’. In AR4 both these were quantified as intervals (or very strictly read, the ‘confidence levels’ are actually defined mixed as numbers and intervals in all reports…)

    In AR5 they explicitly write that the ‘confidence’ should not be interpreted probabilistically and don’t give numbers.

    In the extreme weather report (page 109) the likelihood intervals are not overlapping as in the AR5 report. For example, they define 66-90% for “likely” instead of 66-100%. This looks like a mistake in the AR5 which might be due to an AR4 self-contradiction. In WG1 the intervals are overlapping. In WG2, they aren’t.

    They mix up concepts ‘likelihood’ and ‘probability’ which is not the same thing. In several places they use ‘likelihood’ for future probabilities (e.g. page 25). They also use the term ‘confidence’ for both uncertainty categories: ‘Confidence in our knowledge’ resp. ‘Degree of confidence in being correct’ (page 109). Well, can anyone tell the difference?

    On page 25 this leads to multiple conceptual confusion:
    “For this purpose,
    they recommended assessing the likelihood of a future
    event using broad categories, from very high confidence –
    at least a one out of ten chance, to very low confidence
    – less than a one in ten chance (see Glossary).”

    OK, keeping things in perspective this is a bit of technical nitpicking. But it gives a very sloppy impression in my opinion (not even mentioning the issues raised in the discussion before). The risk is that you lose confidence(sic!) in the assessments, even if it is not deserved. I’m not asserting that there is anything wrong with the underlying science.

  6. 6
    Gordon Shephard says:

    More in the way of a whine than a comment: while I realize the report was intended for publication in physical format, multiple column text is a pain to read online.

  7. 7
    Yang Fuqiang says:

    Great,and I look forward to read it.

  8. 8
    John Mashey says:

    @6 Gordon
    (The report looks really good, but I have to concur on format.)
    Yes, on a 1920×1080 display, in Acrobat Reader, Zoom to Page Level gets exactly one page/screen, which means that Page Down key actually works right. That yields a 74% Zoom level. Depending on your eyes and display placement, that either may or may not be eyestrain for the main text. For my eyes, the 2 closest displays are OK, but not the other 4. The footnote font size is definitely eyestrain on any of the displays. If you need something that works both on paper and online:

    1) It is indeed a pain to have 2-column text, unless you can still read it when zoomed as above, since you need to scroll several times.

    2) If you like to have in-line footnotes, which are much more convenient than end-notes online, unlike on paper, where they are more equal, since you can flip to endnotes while keeping your place, the footnote font size is the limiter.

    3) An alternative I’ve found useful is 2-column (even 3-colum for a few special cases) landscape, as in Weird Science…
    The main text is 11-pt, footnotes are 10-point, and Zoom to Page Level gives 102%, and is readable on any of my displays.

    People’s mileage may vary. Better eyes help, as do bigger and higher resolution displays. But the classic portrait-orientation reports really should be rethought as they really are optimized for paper. That may be OK, if they are aimed at people who are really only comfortable with paper and that form factor, but I do suspect many readers will study them online.

  9. 9
    Ray Ladbury says:

    How did Dr. Punnett’s ad hominem not make it into the borehole?

    [oops! it is there now. -moderator]

    Perhaps the good doctor would care to actually read the report or have his mommy read it to him so that he can comment on its substance.

  10. 10
    MapleLeaf says:

    Philip@4,

    This might be of some help. As you will see below, contrary to Mr. Abbott’s uniformed opinion, the data suggest that AGW is already having a discernible impact on fire activity and behaviour over certain regions of Australia.

    From a Royal Commission report published in 2007:

    “Examining longer-term observations at eight stations, back to the early 1940s in many cases, reveals considerable inter-decadal variability. Periods of increasing and decreasing fire weather danger are apparent in the record. The peaks of these ‘cycles’ occur roughly every 20 years and the time series might suggest that we are at (or near) a peak, although there is no physical basis on which to estimate when or to what extent a decrease might occur.

    There is also evidence for anthropogenic climate change being a driver of this upswing. The current peaks in ΣFFDI are much higher than observed in past instances. There are also a greater number of VHE days at many locales. There is also the suggestion that the fire season is starting earlier. Finally, the severity and length of the recent drought [e.g. Nicholls 2006] and the associated fire danger has not been seen in the available records.”

    Just published, “Divergent responses of fire to recent warming and drying across south-eastern Australia”,

    “The response of fire to climate change may vary across fuel types characteristic of differing vegetation types (i.e. litter versus grass). Models of fire under climatic change capture these differing potential responses to varying degrees. Across south-eastern Australia, an elevation in the severity of weather conditions conducive to fire has been measured in recent decades. We examined trends in area burned (1975 to 2009) to determine if a corresponding increase in fire had occurred across the diverse range of ecosystems found in this part of the continent. We predicted that an increase in fire, due to climatic warming and drying, was more likely to have occurred in moist, temperate forests near the coast than in arid and semi-arid woodlands of the interior, due to inherent contrasts in the respective dominant fuel types (woody litter versus herbaceous fuels). Significant warming (i.e. increased temperature and number of hot days) and drying (i.e. negative precipitation anomaly, number of days with low humidity) occurred across most of the 32 Bioregions examined. The results were mostly consistent with predictions, with an increase in area burned in seven out of eight forest Bioregions, whereas area burned either declined (two) or did not change significantly (nine) in drier woodland Bioregions. In twelve woodland Bioregions, data were insufficient for analysis of temporal trends in fire. Increases in fire attributable mostly to warming or drying were confined to three Bioregions. In the remainder, such increases were mostly unrelated to warming or drying trends and therefore may be due to other climate effects not explored (e.g. lightning ignitions) or possible anthropogenic influences. Projections of future fire must therefore not only account for responses of different fuel systems to climatic change but the wider range of ecological and human effects on interactions between fire and vegetation.”

  11. 11
    wili says:

    To Philip M at #4: Did you see one of the articles on the recent study by the Climate Council that found that there is in fact a link between bush fires and CC?

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/25/climate-council-clear-link-bushfires

  12. 12
    wili says:

    In the report itself, in the conclusions section, this point jumped out at me:

    “since the 1960s, the mean heat-wave intensity, length and number across the Eastern Mediterranean region had increased by a factor of five or more”

    A factor of five or more seems like a lot. Is that a figure that is reflected elsewhere in the world over that time frame with regard to increases in “heat-wave intensity, length and number”?

  13. 13
    wili says:

    One more link for Phil–tamino’s excellent (as usual) take down of the OZ version of a supposed warming ‘pause’:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/fire-down-below/#more-6799

  14. 14
    markogts says:

    Did a quick reading, a bit disappointed. Basically, the only certain thing is we will have more heat waves and less cold days. Precipitation, floods, storms, no data reliable enough to identify a trend, only some models.

    Thank you for sharing, anyway.

  15. 15
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by markogts — 28 Oct 2013 @ 5:07 PM

    Only some models?

    Steve

  16. 16

    I’m surprised by the ‘kerfuffle’ over wildfire attribution; the question has been studied quite a bit. Google Scholar offers up a whole bunch if you search “wildfire and climate change”.

    Here’s a selection:

    Wildfire in Yosemite Park (1992 study): “Univariate and multivariate analytical techniques reveal that (a) summer temperatures in the Park are increasing, (b) January-June precipitation levels are decreasing, and (c) variations in burn area within the Park are significantly related to the observed variations in climate.”

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00143342

    Wildfire in NE coastal Spain (1998 study):

    “A climatic series (1941 to 1994) from a Mediterranean locality of NE Spain was used to calculate two wildfire hazard indices based on daily meteorological data. Both fire hazard indices increased over this period, as a consequence of increasing mean daily maximum temperature and decreasing minimum daily relative humidity. These trends were observed in both mean values of the indices and in the number of very high risk days. Annual data on the number of wildfires and burned area also show an increase from 1968 to 1994, and are significantly correlated with both fire hazard indices.”

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1005316632105

    Wildfire in boreal North American and Eurasia (2009):

    “…we found heterogeneous patterns of drought severity changes that were inherent to the nonuniformly distributed impacts of climate change on dryness. Notably, significant trends toward increasing summer moisture in southeastern and southwestern boreal Canada were detected. The diminishing wildfire risk in these regions is coherent with widely reported decreases in area burned since about 1850, as reconstructed by dendrochronological dating of forest stands. Conversely, we found evidence for increasing percentage area affected by extreme droughts in Eurasia (+0.57% per decade; P<0.05) and occurrence rates of extreme drought years in Eurasian taiga (centered principally on the Okhotsk–Manchurian taiga, P=0.07). Although not statistically significant, temporal changes in occurrence rates are sufficiently important spatially to be paid further attention."

    (Long link)

    Global projections of wildfire risk (2010):

    “The increased fire potential is mainly caused by warming in the U.S., South America, and Australia and by the combination of warming and drying in the other regions. Sensitivity analysis shows that future fire potential depends on many factors such as climate model and emission scenario used for climate change projection. The results suggest dramatic increases in wildfire potential that will require increased future resources and management efforts for disaster prevention and recovery.”

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112709006148

    The first two studies show the association of wildfire and climate change, and show also that that association has been known now for more than 20 years (though apparently not by Tony Abbott.) The second shows that climate change can cut both ways; under projections for precipitation, most of the Canada boreal is expected to become moister; therefore, wildfire risk should drop. The converse is true, of course, for most of the Eurasian boreal forest. Sure enough, observations are coherent with this expectation. (And for “poster child” on that score, we have the 2010 Russian wildfires. And wasn’t this summer pretty bad for that, too, FWIW?) Finally, we have a global-level analysis that quantifies the expected response as measured by a straight-forward metric of fire risk. Amazingly, Australia was expected to see more wildfire… guess Mr. Abbott didn’t know that, either. He really should try to keep up; he has responsibilities, after all.

    Anyway, there is lots and lots more; the search terms here show nearly 10,000 hits. Here’s the link for a quick in; those interested can play with the search terms to find items of interest to them. (Wildfire risk where you live? The Greek fire outbreaks (the Eastern Med has long been expected to dry, as the present European report certainly highlights, and Greece had a very nasty fire outbreak in (IIRC) 2005? Strict attributional studies of wildfire?)

  17. 17

    “The second shows that climate change can cut both ways…”

    Strike that and make it “third shows”!

  18. 18

    Reposted from Tamino’s blog; a nice bit of snark on the Australian wildfire ‘question’:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BXjq_4SCIAAi8UC.jpg

  19. 19
    Ed Barbar says:

    The insurance industry could have a vested interest in the outcome of Global Warming causes extreme weather events. First, they could argue that certain events, even if they are normal catastrophic events, would not have occurred without global warming, they may seek government reimbursement. I could also imagine an argument that governments ought to subsidize insurance, thereby increasing the marketplace, because the responsibility for increasing risks is shared even in non-risk areas.

    Studies with insurance industry sponsorship or contribution should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

  20. 20
    John Shelton says:

    @16 K McKinney:

    You had my hopes up about a study on Fire in Yosemite — it’s actually in Yellowstone. Your point is well made though.

  21. 21
    Sean says:

    @#5 John L re “On page 25 this leads to multiple conceptual confusion: [...] But it gives a very sloppy impression in my opinion [...] The RISK is that you lose confidence(sic!) in the assessments, even if it is not deserved.[...]” John I totally agree with you here. Not only does this make it incredibly difficult for the public to read the summaries and the documents like this, the Journalists (ideologically pro or con) always conflate things as a result with their ‘articles’ going global, the CC Denialism activists then pick this “mis-information / confusion” only to spread it as DIS-Information in a billion anti-science blog pages world-wide which further acerbates the pre-existing confusion levels… then Lord Monckton gets 100 calls for a “paid appearance” at the next Heartland Institute, Corporate dinner, Political fund-raiser or Tea Party public forum. Or some well meaning Climate “communicator/educator” eg an pro-CC advocate such as Prof Tim Flannery in Australia stumbles on the words and speaks a technical “untruth” and is pilloriaed for it, further undermining the public’s and politicians’ true knowledge of what the IPCC etc really “meant” to say. imho, this is a key reason behind the success of the “denialist industry” and it;s success over the last 5+ years. It needs ot be nipped in the bud from the get go, and everyone in Climate Science presenting public information has to be on the same page with the same words and the exact same meaning consistently, or forget it. The science itself is complicated enough for Politicians/Policy makers to get their heads around already. Too much focus and attention cannot be placed on this one issue about the complexity in the “words” being used, in my view. best to all.

  22. 22
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Ed Barbar … insurance industry … healthy skepticism
    Dr. Punnett?

  23. 23
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ed Barbar, Healthy skepticism does not mean ignoring the information. It means considering it, validating it against other sources and examining its implications.

    What you are suggesting is effectively an appeal to ad hominem fallacy.

  24. 24
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ed Barbar wrote: “… they may seek government reimbursement. I could also imagine an argument that governments ought to subsidize insurance …”

    So basically you are arguing that because the economic losses and other destructive consequences of global warming may result in demands for government action to deal with them, we should reject the scientific evidence that such consequences are already occurring and are likely to get worse.

    Where have I heard that before.

    Oh, that’s right — from pretty much every denier who ever commented on a blog.

  25. 25

    #20–D’oh! Sorry ’bout that…

  26. 26

    Thanks for all the comments on Australia fires. I had seen some of that but having all this in one place will help those searching for attribution evidence. Not that evidence ranks very high in the concerns of the current Australian government.

  27. 27
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Ed: “I could also imagine an argument that governments ought to subsidize insurance, thereby increasing the marketplace, because the responsibility for increasing risks is shared even in non-risk areas.”

    Your imagination is is in congruence with facts. It’s deemed economically beneficial for government to intervene in the insurance market.

    Ed concludes: “Studies with insurance industry sponsorship or contribution should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

    More generally:

    The insurance industry is in the business of spreading claims costs among a larger population than loss victims, something a skeptic must acknowledge in a productive critique of the industry. Suggesting that the insurance industry is somehow wrong in spreading claims costs isn’t useful.

    Useful skepticism should also include the notion that insurance companies seek to entirely avoid paying claims. The easiest and most efficient way to do that is to ensure that claims are to the very greatest extent possible completely avoided. Public information campaigns directing potential claims beneficiaries toward behaviors minimizing claims are not dishonest and are quite in keeping with the nature of the insurance business.

    More, the insurance industry indeed pushes government to better regulate activities prone to generating expensive claims. An insurance claim is a formal acknowledgement of a poor outcome, a disaster of one kind or another. Fewer claims record success in reducing the frequency of disasters. In the past the insurance industry has promoted such things as mandatory automobile safety belt installation and use. Was this a bad thing? Most of us would agree it wasn’t.

    Insurance companies are uniquely positioned to record the ebb and flow of disaster by the proxy of claims payouts. Despite their best efforts to shape their markets we’ll learn a lot about climate impacts from insurance companies, as statistical margins are eaten away by forthcoming changes.

  28. 28
    tokodave says:

    27 Doug Bostrom’s comments: For a detailed look at insurance companies and climate change visit sites like Munich Re (http://www.munichre.com/en/group/focus/climate_change/default.aspx) or Lloyd’s of London (http://www.lloyds.com/news-and-insight/lloyds-blog/our-experts/trevor-maynard/2013/10/climate-change-the-future-is-in-our-hands).

    These guys have skin in the game. If they don’t come close to getting it right they lose big money. Doug is exactly right in observing their “unique position…”

  29. 29
    BillS says:

    Re: Doug #27 & tokodave #28

    At my place, many spend their time talking to lawyers, insurance companies, and municipal engineers. These people, the executives & engineers, are no longer sitting quietly on the sidelines. They have bottom lines and communities to protect and most seem willing to do what is necessary to protect both.
    We can bemoan the fact that they weren’t driven earlier to act but better late than never.

  30. 30
    Hank Roberts says:

    Actuaries are statisticians.
    The trends are emerging from the background variation.
    Attribution, done by professionals on their own data, convinces them.

  31. 31
    Jack Maloney says:

    tokodave says:”For a detailed look at insurance companies and climate change visit sites like Munich Re or Lloyd’s of London. These guys have skin in the game. If they don’t come close to getting it right they lose big money.”

    Actually, the insurance “game” makes its money by peddling fear. The difference between feared costs and real costs is where they make their profits; more fear = more money paid in to Munich Re and Lloyd’s. If no one feared the future, there would be no insurance industry.

  32. 32
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jack Maloney — 2 Nov 2013 @ 7:19 AM

    It sound like you are saying that if no one feared the effects of increasing CO2 there would be no problem.

    Steve

  33. 33
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jack Maloney,
    Any insurance company that adopted the business model you posit would fail in a matter of a few years. Insurance companies rely on investments to make up the difference between premiums and pay outs. I would suggest talking out of your mouth rather than the orifice you currently employ.

  34. 34

    tokodave wrote in 28:

    For a detailed look at insurance companies and climate change visit sites like Munich Re or Lloyd’s of London. These guys have skin in the game. If they don’t come close to getting it right they lose big money.

    Jack Maloney responded in 31:

    Actually, the insurance “game” makes its money by peddling fear. The difference between feared costs and real costs is where they make their profits; more fear = more money paid in to Munich Re and Lloyd’s. If no one feared the future, there would be no insurance industry.

    The people you should really pay attention to are the re-insur-ers. Munich Re is one of them, but there are others. re-insur-ers are the insurance companies that the insurance companies go to. insurance companies hedge their risk against big payouts by taking out their own insurance which they get from the reinsurers.

    If reinsurers were playing the game that you claim the insurance companies are playing, namely, inflating the perceived risks in order to increase their profits, then any insurance company that saw through this game would stand to benefit by not paying the inflated prices. Furthermore, a re-insur-er that did not inflate the perceived risks would stand to benefit by undercutting the competition. What they lost in lower rates they would make up for in volume.

    To be continued…

  35. 35

    So where do the reinsurers stand?

    Let me quote from the executive summary of a document recently published by the Geneva Association:

    In the non-stationary environment caused by ocean warming, traditional approaches, which are solely based on analysing historical data, increasingly fail to estimate today’s hazard probabilities. A paradigm shift from historic to predictive ri-sk assessment methods is necessary.

    pg.3, Warming of the Oceans And Implications for the (Re)insurance Industry
    The Geneva Association, June 2013
    https://www.genevaassociation.org/media/616661/ga2013-warming_of_the_oceans.pdf

    The members of the board of the Geneva Association consist of representatives from over a dozen major, prestigious companies from throughout the world.

    I don’t trust any one insurance company or any one reinsurer. But if the perceived risks of climate change were being inflated by reinsurers someone would stand to make a great deal of money by bursting the bubble, and the reputations of those inflating the perceived risks would be greatly damaged. But nobody is bursting any bubble here. In point of fact, re-insur-ers have released a document that stresses the risks posed by climate change to their way of doing business, and a shift in paradigms is required if their industry is to survive.

  36. 36
    Jack Maloney says:

    Steve 32: No, I am only saying that the insurance industry depends on fear of the future. More fear = more demand for insurance.

    I worked in corporate management at a major life insurance company. Insiders called one of the classic sales techniques “backing up the hearse.” It was certainly not in their interest to minimize their prospects’ consciousness of risk.

    “A paradigm shift from historic to predictive risk assessment methods is necessary.” Translation: rather than calculate our premiums on known risk, we’ll just guess.

  37. 37
    Hank Roberts says:

    > rather than calculate our premiums on known risk

    It’d be foolish to continue to base expectation on the past history, after changing the facts.

    Until the middle of the 20th century, the discipline of climatology was a stagnant field preoccupied with regional statistics representing a static “normal” climate. The study of climate change (what to many climatologists seemed a contradiction in terms) was only an occasional interest of individuals …
    … people saw … catastrophes as just part of the normal situation, transient excursions within an overall state that looked permanent on the timescale of human society. The job of the climatologist was to remove uncertainties with statistics, fixing the probable size of a “hundred-year flood” and so forth.

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/climogy.htm

  38. 38
    Hank Roberts says:

    And, seriously, read that AIP page. One further quote, just to point out how outdated Jack Maloney’s position on change is. References are at the original page.

    Painful experience drove the point home. One notorious case was the experience of firms that contracted to build dams in central Africa in the 1950s, and consulted with climatologists about the largest floods that could be expected according to past statistics. The firms then began construction, only to suffer “fifty-year floods” in each of the next three years.(28) Such experiences pulled the props out from the traditional climatology. The laboriously compiled tables of past statistics were plainly not reliable guides to the future.(29)

  39. 39
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jack Maloney: “I worked in corporate management at a major life insurance company.”

    What a pity you didn’t learn the difference between the sales technique and the actual business model. Frankly, I would not invest in an insurance company that set premiums by “guessing”, and I rather doubt any other smart investor world either. Insurance companies have been among the most aggressive in statistical research–addressing such issues as fat-tailed distributions, Bayesian methods, etc. I’m guessing you were an MBA.

  40. 40
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jack Maloney, all you are doing is engaging in an extended — and with all due respect, rather clumsy — ad hominem fallacy.

    It is really pretty boring.

  41. 41
    Jack Maloney says:

    40 SecularAnimist: You are mistaken. I have made no attack on any person, in this forum or any other. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. For an example, see Ray Ladbury’s comment #33: “I would suggest talking out of your mouth rather than the orifice you currently employ.”

  42. 42
    Mal Adapted says:

    Jack Maloney appearts to be saying that insurance companies collude to artificially elevate premiums. That’s possible, but given the legal climate (at least in the U.S. and Canada), I’d need better evidence than Mr. Maloney has offered before I gave it any credence.

    It’s plausible that at the retail level, insurance premiums can be inflated by exploiting anxiety, even with robust competition. Retail insurance customers (you and me) may have little access to actuarial data. It’s much less plausible WRT the re-insurance market, where the customers (retail insurers) have their own actuaries. Timothy Chase’s argument @34 is thus persuasive.

  43. 43
    Hank Roberts says:

    > at a major life insurance company.

    Flood insurance, crop failure insurance, shipping insurance — are more likely to show patterns of losses changing as climate changes.

    Projecting an individual’s life expectancy, not so much.

    Same as with phenology — we can’t say what an individual tree or flower or bird is going to do different as climate changes. But we can already see the patterns changing.

  44. 44
    Radge Havers says:

    So, I’m generally suspicious of the motives and activities of businesses when it comes to shaping policy, but I’m not seeing a basis for all the grunting and snorting with respect to this foundational report.

    If you’re going to develop policies for preparedness, then of course you’re going to have to have input and cooperation from a broad number of sectors at various stages. And yeah, you’ll have to keep an eye on the process to make sure it functions properly. As it stands, the contribution from the insurance industry seems pretty prosaic and straightforward. I’m not hearing the implied conspiratorial machinations, only a bunch of smirking stuff from actors who seem threatened by any movement forward on the subject.

    Perhaps someone could point to something concrete about the way the report is constructed that should actually be considered untoward?

  45. 45
    Jack Maloney says:

    42 Mal Adapted says:

    Jack Maloney appears to be saying that insurance companies collude to artificially elevate premiums.

    Not at all. Premiums are not at issue, nor is collusion. Insurance companies (and industry associations) have no need to collude – it is naturally in their individual and collective interest to elevate fear of risks in order to motivate the public to buy their products.

    Insurance rates are regulated in most countries, so “inflated premiums” are not likely. You needn’t raise prices to increase profits – you just need more people to believe they are at greater risk and need to buy more insurance.

  46. 46
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jack Maloney — 3 Nov 2013 @ 4:13 PM

    I don’t think anything you have said is ad hominem but then neither is Ray’s comment. Ray addressed what you said directly by claiming that it was wrong in an insulting manner. It would be ad hominem to say, for example, that you were wrong because of some unrelated negative character trait or behavior. The classic example for climate change is to denigrate Al Gore’s video because he is fat.

    Steve

  47. 47

    I had quoted (in 35) from a document by the Geneva Association:

    In the non-stationary environment caused by ocean warming, traditional approaches, which are solely based on analysing historical data, increasingly fail to estimate today’s hazard probabilities. A paradigm shift from historic to predictive risk assessment methods is necessary.

    pg.3, Warming of the Oceans And Implications for the (Re)insurance Industry
    The Geneva Association, June 2013
    https://www.genevaassociation.org/media/616661/ga2013-warming_of_the_oceans.pdf

    Jack Maloney responds in 36:

    “A paradigm shift from historic to predictive risk assessment methods is necessary.” Translation: rather than calculate our premiums on known risk, we’ll just guess.

    But that is precisely the problem. There is no “known risk” independent of a means of knowing. Traditional historic risk assessment based upon what has happened before, given the assumption that things will remain the same, is itself a “guess” and a bad one at that. What the Geneva Association recommends consists of:

    The available tools are time-dependent model forecasts which incorporate the improved observations of changes in the ocean and simulate its likely influence on the short- to medium-term future. Such time-dependent or medium-term outlooks, which go beyond historical averages, are already provided by commercial model vendors, such as Risk Management Solutions (RMS). These products represent, at least in principal, a significant improvement over simple long-term averages of historical data.

    pg. 16

    Later they state:

    The selection of scenarios should include a reasonably wide range of hypothetical but scientifically justifiable scenarios, including an upper limit defining the worst case. Alongside hypothetical scenarios, a set of scenarios should also include all available and scientifically justifiable models (e.g. Ranger and Niehörster, 2012).

    pg. 20

    If congressmen coming from gerrymandered districts with campaigns financed by fossil fuel interests put climate scientists out of work, perhaps those scientists will find lucrative positions where more resources will be made readily available. Who knows? Progress in climate modelling might very well accelerate.

  48. 48
    Doug Bostrom says:

    The funny thing about this insurance discussion is how it centers on us paying literally trillions per year for things we hope won’t happen. Indeed, given our psychology, most of us are probably pretty skilled at deluding ourselves that nothing bad is going to happen to us personally, ergo that our fear isn’t justified. Yet we pay anyway.

    We’re quite ready to pay for risk reduction and psychological comfort, the ability to sleep at night.

    Note: the world economy is not collapsing because we’re “wasting” our money, trillions of dollars per year, on insurance. Money after all doesn’t vanish.

    Some people would like us to think that if we look at other risks and decide to pay money to reduce those, everything will be fundamentally different. Money will vanish and we’ll be wasting it.

    If we’re going to be cynical about corporate motivations and money, let’s remember how the vector of trillions of dollars will move, should we choose to buy peace of mind and lower risk by addressing climate change. Also, let’s be consistent about whether we think money can vanish, or not.

  49. 49

    Jack Maloney wrote in 45:

    Premiums are not at issue, nor is collusion. Insurance companies (and industry associations) have no need to collude – it is naturally in their individual and collective interest to elevate fear of risks in order to motivate the public to buy their products

    Do insurers themselves believe that risks are elevated? Would they be willing to pay more for reinsurance (either at a higher price or at a higher volume) than they need to when they could simply pocket the profits?

    If, as you say, insurance companies make money by peddling fear, are they themselves afraid? If so, why? Are they incapable of judging the extent to which they need to buy reinsurance as part of their own risk management?

  50. 50
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jack Maloney,
    If an insurance provider adopted the business practices you claim, they would not stay in business long.

    Also, your attack on the study is classic ad hominem–attacking the source/motivations of the source rather then the facts and substance of the study. It doesn’t matter that the source is not a human. What matters is that you do not address the substance of the study.

    OTOH, my jibe toward you is NOT ad hominem, because it does not form the basis of my argument. Rather, it is a plain, old ordinary insult.


Switch to our mobile site