Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Sign Up
Young's Stuff
Blog Home All Blogs
Search all posts for:   

 

View all (42) posts »
 

Climate Effects on Insurance Stability, Distracted Driving Continues, National Tissue and Organ Donation, Canadian Senate Tragedy

Posted By Thom Young (Full first name: Thomas Clifford John), April 27, 2016

Climate Change Effects on Insurance Stability

In my recent musings through the industry press, I came across an interesting article on climate change entitled “The Earth’s Temperature Has Just Shattered the Thermometer.” Why the insurance industry in particular hasn’t gotten on board with the current flavour of the debate on global warming or, as we’ve come to hear it called now, climate change has always been a mystery to me.

I occasionally hear a smidgen of concern from underwriting gurus and the odd senior executive for the belief that climate change is going have a huge impact on the earth, but there really hasn’t been a full-blown united expression of belief that dire consequences will come about if action isn’t taken immediately to reverse the effects of human influence on the earth’s climate. In my private discussions with a number of senior people in our industry, a nagging doubt persists about the causal relation of human beings to climate change. Often the science of climate change itself is doubted. Some point out that the historic and geological records display wide swings in climate around our globe and that archeological records during human habitation show long periods of cooling and warming in unidentifiable cycles with indeterminable causes. With little consensus on what actually happened, scientists themselves speculate on what caused the last ice age to occur and what caused it to end.

The insurance perspective is unique. In our business, predictive cycles are critical to the success of our enterprise. We share and mitigate loss risks. Actuarial analysis is a predictive science. Assumptions about future events are based on historical data, and those predictions are adjusted by applying variables such as changes in climate, demographics, or even chance. The insurance analysis can get very complicated and inexact, for example, integrating variables such as ethnicity, cultural behaviour, DNA analysis, and the now-mapped human genome. Definitive conclusions are not necessary in actuarial analysis to allow for their possibility and calculate the mathematical probability. (Thinking about such calculations, I’m glad I decided to be a broker, rather than an actuary. Several times in my insurance career, I’ve listened to actuaries debate the validity of their calculations. I have always come away from those meetings with a great degree of confusion—and a throbbing headache.) Thus the divergent views on climate change may be irrelevant to an insurance-based risk analysis.

Regardless, I take exception to the claim in the above article that the effects of global warming may bankrupt our business. Hogwash! Long before our well-capitalized and reserved guarantees would not be honoured, the whole financial sector would need to have collapsed. If anyone is concerned about such a potential collapse, I’ll bet I could find some insurance executives to support increased rate surcharges to build special reserves for that purpose. The thing is, though, the surcharge would have to be shared by all market participants, so the regulator would have to mandate it. In the political realm, I think the science needs to be a little more exact.

As I am finishing up this piece, my morning newsfeeds contain this dire warning:

UN Calls for Long-Term Climate Stability
The world faces even greater catastrophic weather incidents unless leaders vow to go further to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction is today (Apr. 21) calling for signatories of the Paris Agreement to go beyond existing commitments.

“It is clear that weather and climate are implicated in 90% of major disaster events attributed to natural hazards. Droughts, floods, storms, and heatwaves have the potential to undermine many developing states’ efforts to eradicate poverty. Climate change is adding to pre-existing levels of risk fuelled by exposure and socio-economic vulnerability,” Robert Glasser said.

He called for the more than 160 countries that have signed the Paris Agreement to “scale up the level of ambition” to cut emissions or face the “real danger of being overtaken by the rapid pace of global warming.” (Insurance Business)


Let the political discussions begin.

Distracted Driving Continues Unabated

According to Sgt. Glenn Bangs, the number of distracted-driving tickets issued in Edmonton seems to increase year over year. Police in Edmonton say that “the worst offenders are people 33 to 44 years old.” In 2012, 4597 distracted driving tickets were issued in Edmonton, jumping to 5197 tickets in 2013, 5285 tickets in 2014, and 5928 tickets in 2015.

Statistics, damned statistics. Were exactly the same efforts made by the Edmonton police force each year? Likely not, but the statistics make a good angle for a story, don’t they?

Regardless, the anecdotal evidence on distracted driving finds most in agreement that the activity is not abating anywhere in any way. Either the increasingly severe penalties and increased efforts at enforcement seem not to deter the activity, or not enough time has been factored into assessing the result. Since January 1st, 2016, fines for this infraction in Alberta have increased to $287 and, more importantly, add three demerit points on the driver’s license. These demerits brings the activity into our realm, and now insurers are able to select against and charge for the increased risk that these people present. A whole calendar year or more will pass before the deterrent effect of these costs will be measurable.

I’ve always been on the fence on this subject, and I’m still looking for the statistical link between the activity and increased claims costs. So far, I’ve yet to see any unbiased assessment that supports such a claim. I’m not arguing that the activity is safe or that it should be allowed, just wryly observing that incidence of loss overall doesn’t support the conclusions of many.

Technology is available to limit the use of cell phones in automobiles. Perhaps, as with seat belts, such controls should be mandatory. Someone with three distracted-driving tickets in Alberta would owe nearly $1000 in fines and incur 9 demerit points, leaving the Facility as the only carrier willing to insure such a driver. The extra cost of installing limiting technology in such a person’s vehicle would look like a bargain in comparison.

Clearly, this debate must continue before a resolution to the problem will present itself. When I was a young lad, the largest distraction while operating a motor vehicle was drinking and driving. The rules weren’t very severe or enforced. Many didn’t believe it was a problem, and people who pronounced their proficiency at operating a motor vehicle after consuming considerable amounts of alcohol were unchallenged by the majority. Statistics and science proved them wrong, and the social rules that allowed for drinking and driving started to change. The seriousness of the act and the carnage it produced became a significant social issue that produced stronger and more effective penalties and intolerance for the activity to the extent that effective enforcement is now the norm and the results life changing. We will continue to monitor this issue closely.

National Tissue and Organ Donor Week

If you attended an Alberta Registry Office last week, you may have noticed that the clerks were wearing a lanyard to bring attention to the need for organ and tissue donors in Canada. The Alberta Registry Association has undertaken this cause to promote donor registration in the Alberta. The voluntary process for collecting the permission of Albertans to donate their organs and tissues is woefully inadequate to the need. Currently, 120,000 people are on waiting lists for transplants, and that number seems only to be rising. The simple act of registering to make this huge humanitarian contribution takes only a minute and can end up giving the gift of a healthy life to someone living on the edge of finality or with the limitations of an easily corrected disability. Please make this a topic for discussion in your household. It costs you nothing and improves the community around you. When you next visit a Registry Office for any service, consider asking for assistance in registering yourself for this donation. You can even do it now yourself at MyHealth.Alberta.ca.

I believe that donation consent should be implied, meaning that approval is implied unless someone registers to opt out. People would then be required to make an effort to register their objection and to think about the donation. Tens of thousands of people would be removed from waiting lists and receive the simple procedures that would improve their lives. In a perfect world, everything would be perfect, wouldn’t it? Do have this discussion. It is important!

The Senseless Tragedy of the Canadian Senate

One of the most controversial articles I’ve written, as measured by the reader response, was my observations on the Duffy trials and tribulations. My point regarding the unnecessary existence of the Red Chamber in the workings of our Canadian parliamentary system brought a number of comments about the sober second thought envisioned by Sir John A. MacDonald, the need for an unbiased review to restrain the mob of democracy, and the belief that an august group of esteemed Canadians could bring some influence upon political realities. I responded to these writers by observing that the current structure of our senate meets none of the desires envisioned for it and that, without any political will to fix the problem, perhaps the senate could be done away with by a consensus. Well, that demolition is not likely in my lifetime.

The declaration by the judiciary that senator Mike Duffy has been found innocent of all charges brought against him is not a declaration that his actions were moral, just, or even wrong, but one that reinforces the wanton abandon of accountability to the people of all the senators in our Canadian senate.

I predicted that Mike Duffy would not be convicted of the charges brought against him. Political pandering and media circus aside, there was never any inkling of any rules broken or laws broken. The legal review affirmed that no expense rules existed to begin with. Mr. Duffy can now expect to be reinstated in good standing to his position and fully reimbursed for any holdbacks on his compensation and expenses. Likely a jig will be danced, particularly by those who were waiting to see if any charges might be brought against them for similar claims. In the end, the shame of it all is that the cost of all of these proceedings, including Mr. Duffy’s defence costs, will be borne by the Canadian taxpayer. No doubt though, the shame will neither be great enough nor the cost absurd enough to stimulate any action to correct the deficiencies!

In Closing

Once again, with the wonderful spring we’re having, watch for the two-wheelers on our roads and highways. Look twice. The most common accident between a car and a motorcycle occurs when the car turns in front of the biker. The first thing car drivers always say is that they didn’t see the biker. The truth is that they weren’t looking for them.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of IBAA.
Comment on this post below or email Thom Young privately. Thom also encourages suggestions for topics.

 

Tags:  actuarial analysis  catastrophic risk  climate change  distracted driving  organ and tissue donation  regulation risk management  senate reform  senator Mike Duffy 

Share |
Permalink | Comments (0)
 
more IBAA Courses and Events

2017-10-19
Leveraging Social Media: Tips, Tricks, and Targeting

2017-10-23
Lethbridge Local Council Errors & Omissions

Featured Members

Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal