A Locus Classicus in the Making
Nov 14, 2022

Locus classicus is an old but useful phrase. It denotes a document or an excerpt which is broadly considered the best expressed or most authoritative on a particular subject. In the risk business this concept most often applies to the risk or underwriting analyses from major reinsurers that we cite routinely. It captures an idea that “oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.”

 

The draft of a new version of the Congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment is now being circulated*. The last report was issued in 2018, so there is a good deal of new information to consider. This is a very comprehensive look at the latest data and ideas about what’s going on with the climate specifically in the US. We expect it to become a locus classicus in our ongoing discussions of climate related risks, so we thought a quick look at some of its major conclusions might be useful. Keep in mind that the following highlights are from the draft version which has yet to go through both public comment and peer review. The final report should be issued sometime in 2023.

 

The headlines (drum roll, please):

  • Every part of the U.S. is grappling with climate change but not equally. For example, temperatures are rising faster in Alaska than in the Lower 48. In general, locations already having extreme weather events will have even more of them.
  • A warming world threatens reliable water supplies. The major drought in the western states is one example, but note that major rivers around the globe are at record lows as we write this summary. The Mississippi is only one of many**.
  • Extreme events are wreaking havoc on homes and property. This is where we risk professionals come in. The actual mechanisms are many and varied—floods, wind storms, rising tides, drought, etc.
  • The U.S. can expect more forced migration and displacement. We note above that New Orleans still has not recovered some of the population lost when Hurricane Katrina hit. Smaller, more subtle effects are happening along coasts, in flood plains, and so forth. Sea level changes, for example, may well be the longest lasting effect of warming, lingering through the current century.
  • Climate change is a growing public health threat. As prevailing weather changes, various “varmints” move into new areas, like rabies-spreading vampire bats in Texas and Florida or Lyme Disease carrying ticks moving into new locales.
  • It's not just humans who are feeling the effects. Our herd animals, our major crops, even our colonies of bees are impacted as well and this change in risks rolls right into our food supply.
  • There is also good news and opportunity to still shape the future. Climate change is dynamic and we act on it even as it acts on us, so the associated risks don’t all move from bad to worse, as our piece about Babcock Ranch points out.
     

Watch for the final version of the report next year. We hope to alert our readers when it comes out. It is bound to be widely cited as our discussion of risk and climate continues. Just what we should expect from a locus classicus.

 

*Thanks to the Washington Post for this look ahead. For a more detailed account check out the post article at Climate change threatening ‘things Americans value most,’ U.S. report says (msn.com).

** The Rhine, the Po and the Yangtze, for example

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