Catastrophe losses of $61 billion in 2020 were notably more severe than in 2019, with a record number of catastrophic events in the United States in 2020.46 Despite the more severe catastrophic event losses, lower losses in personal and commercial auto and workers’ compensation lines kept total loss and loss adjustment expenses flat from 2019 to 2020. Reserve development was again favorable in 2020, adding to underwriting profits. Figure 24 shows losses from catastrophic events in the United States since 2016, and Figure 25 shows reserve development over the same period.47 The expense ratio decreased very slightly from 2019 to 2020.
Science has provided America with a decent idea of which areas of our country will be most devastated by climate change, and which areas will be most insulated from the worst effects. Unfortunately, it seems that population flows are going in the wrong direction — today’s new Census data shows a nation moving out of the safer areas and into some of the most dangerous places of all.
Some of the examples are genuinely mind-boggling. For instance, upstate New York is considered one of the country’s most insulated regions in the climate crisis — and yet almost all of upstate New York saw population either nearly flat or declining. At the same time, there were big population increases in and around the Texas gulf coast, which is threatened by extreme heat and coastal flooding.
Similarly, the city of Philadelphia is comparatively well situated in the climate crisis — but it saw only modest population growth of 5 percent. It was surpassed on the list of biggest cities by Phoenix, which saw an 11 percent population growth, despite that city facing some of the worst forms of extreme heat and drought in the entire country.