Climate is the context for life on earth. Global climate
change and the ripples of that change will affect every
aspect of life, from municipal budgets for snowplowing
to the spread of disease. Climate is already changing,
and quite rapidly. With rare unanimity, the scientific
community warns of more abrupt and greater change
in the future.
Many in the business community have begun to
understand the risks that lie ahead. Insurers and
reinsurers find themselves on the front lines of this
challenge since the very viability of their industry rests
on the proper appreciation of risk. In the case of
climate, however, the bewildering complexity of the
changes and feedbacks set in motion by a changing
climate defy a narrow focus on sectors. For example,
the effects of hurricanes can extend far beyond coastal
properties to the heartland through their impact on
offshore drilling and oil prices. Imagining the cascade
of effects of climate change calls for a new approach
to assessing risk.
The worst-case scenarios would portray events so
disruptive to human enterprise as to be meaningless if
viewed in simple economic terms. On the other hand,
some scenarios are far more positive (depending on
how society reacts to the threat of change). In addition
to examining current trends in events and costs, and
exploring case studies of some of the crucial health
problems facing society and the natural systems
around us, “Climate Change Futures: Health,
Ecological and Economic Dimensions” uses scenarios
to organize the vast, fluid possibilities of a planetary-
scale threat in a manner intended to be
useful to
policymakers, business leaders and individuals.
Most discussions of climate impacts and scenarios stay
close to the natural sciences, with scant notice of the
potential economic consequences. In addition, the
technical literature often “stovepipes” issues, zeroing in
on specific types of events in isolation from the real-
world mosaic of interrelated vulnerabilities, events and
impacts. The impacts of climate change cross national
borders and disciplinary lines, and can cascade
through many sectors. For this reason we all have a
stake in adapting to and slowing the rate of climate
change. Thus, sound policymaking demands the
attention and commitment of all.
While stipulating the ubiquity of the threat of climate
change, understanding the problem still requires a lens
through which the problem might be approached.
“Climate Change Futures” focuses on health. The
underlying premise of this report is that climate change
will affect the health of humans as well as the
ecosystems and species on which we depend, and
that these health impacts will have economic
consequences. The insurance industry will be at the
center of this nexus, both absorbing risk and, through
its pricing and recommendations, helping business and
society adapt to and reduce these new risks. Our
hope is that Climate Change Futures (CCF) will not
only help businesses avoid risks, but also identify
opportunities and solutions. An integrated assessment
of how climate change is now adversely affecting and
will continue to affect health and economies can help
mobilize the attention of ordinary citizens around the
world and help generate the development of climate-
friendly products, projects and policies. With early
action and innovative policies, business can enhance
the world’s ability to adapt to change and help
restabilize the climate


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