Craig Allen recently accomplished a personal first as an ecology professor by getting listed on a patent for a fireball-dropping drone.
“For me, because I expect that I will probably never have another patent in my life, because I do science that’s generally not patentable and I really don’t have the capacity for that kind of thing, the patent is fully unique and, thus, will have a special place in my heart,” said Allen, director of the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship at Nebraska.
He worked with agronomy professor Dirac Twidwell, computer science professors Sebastian Elbaum and Carrick Detweiler, and former Nebraska students Christian Laney, James Higgins and Evan Michael Beachly in developing IGNIS, the drone product.
At first, the three discussed using drones as a less dangerous way to sample invasive species like zebra mussels in Nebraska waters. Then, when a person was injured on an ATV during a prescribed burn, the three professors turned to discussing using drones in prescribed burns.
Allen said about 40,000 acres of rangeland in Nebraska are invaded by trees every year and fire is the best way to control that.
Typically, firefighters on ATVs or in helicopters carry out prescribed burns, but both methods can be dangerous.
In a typical year, about 100 storms and tropical disturbances develop in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Some of these turn into tropical storms, and on average, two each year become hurricanes that make landfall in the U.S.40 Between 1851 and 2016, 289 hurricanes affected the continental U.S. Of these, 63 made landfall in Texas.41
Of course, hurricanes and other major storms affect the entire country, not just the Gulf Coast. Exhibit 6 lists the most destructive storms affecting the U.S. in the last half-century.
Hurricane Katrina, which caused $161.3 billion in damages, still ranks as the costliest storm in American history; Hurricane Harvey is expected to rank second, with total estimated damages of about $125 billion.45
Publication Date: February 2018, accessed April 2023
Publication Site: Fiscal Notes, Comptroller of Texas
Insurers are bracing for a hit of between $28 billion and $47 billion from Hurricane Ian, in what could be the costliest Florida storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to U.S. property data and analytics company CoreLogic.
Wind losses for residential and commercial properties in Florida are expected to be between $22 billion and $32 billion, while insured storm surge losses are expected to be an additional $6 billion to $15 billion, according to CoreLogic.
“This is the costliest Florida storm since Hurricane Andrew made landfall in 1992 and a record number of homes and properties were lost,” said Tom Larsen, associate vice president, hazard & risk management, CoreLogic.
RETHINKING UNINSURABILITY While many have viewed insurability as a binary choice with respect to a risk (i.e., insurable or uninsurable), insurability is more appropriately considered on a continuum, ranging from easy-to-insure, such as automobile or life insurance, to difficult-to-insure, such as pandemic, loss of the electrical grid, and other extreme catastrophic risks.
FRAMEWORK The role of private and public sectors in dealing with risks that are difficult-to-insure should be to develop strategies that enable a greater degree of insurability. To do so, the framework suggests that policymakers consider three fundamental options in dealing with the insurance industry:
Status Quo (SQ) –This option (SQ) contemplates a similar dynamic to that experienced with COVID-19, wherein businesses, nonprofits, and local governments found limited (if any) insurance coverage for their losses and ex post relief programs funded by the government.
Service Provider (SP) – This option (SP) contemplates an administrative, non-risk-bearing role for the insurance industry while the entire cost of claims would be publicly financed.
Service and Risk (SR) –In addition to its role as a service provider as characterized by SP, this option (SR) would expect insurers to commit capital – in an amount that does not threaten their financial viability – to cover a specified layer or other defined element of losses.
High levels of Covid-19 deaths hurt fourth-quarter results in MetLife Inc.’s business of providing employer-sponsored life insurance as the Delta variant persisted in the U.S., but the outsize payouts were more than offset by unusually strong investment gains.
The New York company’s net income soared to $1.18 billion, compared with a year-earlier period that had been hurt by mark-to-market losses on financial hedges that aim to protect against falling interest rates. MetLife’s adjusted earnings, which analysts track as a measure of recurring profitability, were flat at $1.84 billion.
Another household-name insurer, Allstate Corp., reported a 70% drop in net income to $790 million, and a 50% decline in adjusted net income to $796 million, primarily driven by worsened car-insurance underwriting income. Accident volume increased on more-crowded roads, and inflation pushed repair costs higher.
Catastrophe costs were also higher. U.S. property insurers ended the year with two high-profile catastrophes: deadly tornadoes in and around Kentucky, and devastating wildfire between Denver and Boulder, Colo.
The American Academy of Actuaries presents this summary of select significant regulatory and legislative developments in 2021 at the state, federal, and international levels of interest to the U.S. actuarial profession as a service to its members.
The Academy focused on key policy debates in 2021 regarding pensions and retirement, health, life, and property and casualty insurance, and risk management and financial reporting.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing ever-changing cyber risk concerns, and analyzing the implications and actuarial impacts of data science modeling continued to be a focus in 2021.
Practice councils monitored and responded to numerous legislative developments at the state, federal, and international level. The Academy also increased its focus on the varied impacts of climate risk and public policy initiatives related to racial equity and unfair discrimination in 2021.
The Academy continues to track the progress of legislative and regulatory developments on actuarially relevant issues that have carried over into the 2022 calendar year.
Insurance giants Chubb, Liberty Mutual, and AIG are three of the biggest insurers of fossil fuel infrastructure around the world. But thecompanieshave just announced plans to scale back their homeowner coverage in California, where they insist future climate-related losses will likely prevent them from turning a profit.
The coverage withdrawals may soon ignite a big money battle in the state’s legislature, pitting insurance giants against lawmakers trying to preserve coverage for their constituents. Meanwhile, climate campaigners are decrying what they say is a fundamental hypocrisy.
Last year, Chubb’s chairman and CEO Evan Greenberg said the company was reducing its coverage in parts of the state that were “both highly exposed, and even moderately exposed, to wildfire” because it was unable to obtain an “adequate price for the risk, and not by a small amount” due to both the costs of wildfires and California’s regulatory climate.
A main solution proposed by industry is that they be allowed to use “catastrophic modeling,” a method where rates are set based on predictions of future losses, rather than recorded past losses, as is currently the case. All other states allow the use of this technique in at least some cases.
Regional conflicts are heating up around the world. Resource needs will accelerate the trend. Fresh water in the Himalayas provide multiple countries who have nuclear arsenals. Oil and rare earth metals could also trigger a war. Climatic events are happening more often, so the cost takes money away from solutions while making the goals seem more obvious.
Resource depletion has no recommended debit treatment from accountants, but attribution analysis is going to do the work after the fact and charge companies for their past practices through the court system. I assume this is how the asbestos risk played out but I will need to learn more about similar historical events as these events play out. How should this enter your thought process as an investor? In 2021 I wrote 4 papers about climate; Climate System, Integrated Assessment Models, Impact of Climate Change on Investors and Municipalities and Climate Change. They are part of the SOA’s Environmental Risk Series. The impact of climate on investors will continue to evolve for many years. One topic of interest to me is how TCFD (disclosures) will play out – we could see “bad” investments like oil companies, gun makers and cigarette companies become privately owned. This would make it harder to apply peer pressure so is an important reminder to be careful what you wish for!
Jerry Theodorou IT IS HARD TO CALCULATE. THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY WAS FACED WITH MASSIVE FLOOD LOSSES BUT FOUND THAT IT DID NOT HAVE THE DATA TO PRICE IT ACCURATELY. IT STARTED REDUCING AND EXCLUDING FLOOD FROM STANDARD INSURANCE POLICIES AND THE GOVERNMENT STEPPED IN TO CREATE THE PROGRAM. TO PROVIDE SOME LEVEL OF FLOOD INSURANCE. THERE IS AN INHERENT TENSION IN THE PROGRAM BECAUSE IT HAS TWO GOALS IN CONTENTION WITH EACH OTHER. THE GOAL TO PROVIDE AFFORDABLE FLOOD INSURANCE AND SOME DEGREE OF FISCAL SOUNDNESS. THEY ARE PAYING ABOUT $400 BILLION IN INTEREST, WHICH IS A BURDEN, SO IF WE FOCUS STRICTLY ON AFFORDABILITY, YOU WILL HAVE UNDERPRICED INSURANCE, NOT PRICED ACCORDING TO THE ACTUAL VOLUME. THIS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW WITH LARGELY IMPACT — OVERPRICED INSURANCE. FOCUSING ON FISCAL SOUNDNESS, YOU WILL HAVE THOSE EXPOSED. IT IS A LITTLE BIT OF A BALANCE. DO YOU WANT FISCAL SOUNDNESS? PROBABLY A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH, WHICH IS MY NEXT MONTH, OCTOBER 1, THE NEW BEATING WILL BE INTRODUCED TO MAKE IT MAKE THE PRICING AND THE COST OF FLOOD INSURANCE MORE APPROPRIATE FOR THE LEVEL OF RISK. IT IS EITHER OR. IF YOU LIVE IN A FLOOD ZONE, YOU PAY HIGHER PREMIUMS. IT IS NOT BLACK-AND-WHITE BECAUSE THERE IS A SPECTRUM FOR THE DEGREE OF RISK. IT WILL INTRODUCE MORE VARIABLES SO THAT IT IS MORE APPROPRIATELY CORRELATED WITH THE LEVEL OF RISK.