A busy medical ward is the last place you want the lights to go out in the event of a hurricane, flood or extreme weather event. These are also the conditions that can drive surges of patients to emergency rooms for treatment at a rate that can quickly outpace the hospitals capacity to react. Climate change increases the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events and conditions – from asthma to vector diseases — likely to increase demand for healthcare. However, most hospitals have yet to integrate local climate change projections into their risk management and planning processes.
Working with a coalition of healthcare networks and non-profit Healthcare Without Harm, we developed an award-winning user-friendly dashboard for hospitals to better understand how climate change effects their operations and the patient population that they serve. This innovative application enables participating healthcare networks to integrate climate risk analytics into their hazard and vulnerability assessments, strategic communications and long-range planning.
The Resilient Hospital Dashboard is an interactive platform that enables healthcare networks to identify hotspots, key drivers of risk, and the specific local impacts faced by each of their hospitals. By using climate, socio-economic, public health and facility specific data, our dashboards analytics help hospitals understand the impact of climate change on their community and patients.
Our Resilient Hospital dashboard integrates local climate projections and applies healthcare indicators unique to each hospital’s situation to account for results specific to their populations. It provides hospitals with a cost-effective way to access and understand climate data relevant to their day-to-day operations and specific to the populations they serve.
In the same way that doctors and care providers use their expertise and medical knowledge to provide treatment that returns the best long-term health outcomes for their patients, our applications leverage climate and healthcare data to provide beneficial operational outcomes. It enables our clients to consider both the near and long-term impacts of climate change and expertise that can inspire actions that enable healthcare professionals and hospitals to operate when the need for their services is greatest.
Through the Resilient Hospital Dashboard we aim to tell a story about how hospitals can improve the bottom line, and do so by capturing the many individual stories of climate change. Behind every data point we use to identify risk and impact is a living, breathing patient admitted for treatment of heat stroke, asthma, or other environmental event.
Our data analytics and research shows that the people getting admitted for care are the most vulnerable among us. They include the young, the old, and the marginalized. While we originally set out to identify opportunities for hospitals to improve their operations — and our dashboard does that too, what we ultimately created is a data-driven, visual representation of the footprint climate change is leaving on society.
The trends we are seeing create a much-needed understanding of how climate change impacts communities. From this understanding we can find opportunities to act, and help doctors and care providers choose what actions can best support their planning process, enabling them to provide more consistent and higher quality of care, resilient to the operational shocks and stress of climate change.
The Resilient Hospital Dashboard was developed as part of our commitment to the White House Climate Data Initiative and won the CCBJ 2015 business achievement award. However, Four Twenty Seven no longer does this type of analysis for hospitals.
On September 29th, Mark Carney, recently appointed Governor of the Bank of England, gave a speech on the risks of climate change to financial stability at a Lloyd’s insurance event. Carney referred to climate change as the “tragedy of the horizon,” citing outcomes like the impact of rising seas on the world’s coastlines and infrastructure as one of the largest risks to financial stability around the world. Carney cited three major risks to financial stability from climate change.
First risk: “The impacts today on insurance liabilities and the value of financial assets that arise from climate- and weather-related events, such as floods and storms that damage property or disrupt trade.”
In the context of sea level rise, the impacts of climate change on infrastructure and property along the world’s coastlines are readily apparent. Carney referenced a Lloyd’s study that “estimated that the 20 cm rise in sea-level at the tip of Manhattan since the 1950’s, when all other factors are held constant, increased insured losses from Superstorm Sandy by 30 percent in New York alone.”
Rising seas already compounded the impact of hurricane Sandy, knocking out power grids, flooding subways and causing financial damages estimated to be between $30 billion to $50 Billion. Under current projections of sea level rise up to a 6.6 foot increase is possible by 2100; and as oceans rise so will the physical impact of superstorms.
Second risk: “The impacts that could arise tomorrow if parties who have suffered loss or damage from the effects of climate change seek compensation from those they hold responsible. Such claims could come decades in the future, but have the potential to hit carbon extractors and emitters – and, if they have liability cover, their insurers – the hardest”
Carney suggests that those who suffer the majority of asset loss from climate change could look to hold polluters, governments or private firms accountable for risk exposure.
Nestle is now being sued for the use of water in Southern California and their impact on the California drought. Lawsuits against corporations, governments or private land owners who have shifted the true costs of their behavior onto the commons have the potential to be held accountable for their behavior as extreme weather events become more common and impactful.
Liability for the loss of property and adverse health affects due to climate change are not only held by private firms, but also my American taxpayers. In Alaska, the town of Kivalina is already being displaced by sea level rise and melting sea ice. In response the Obama administration has proposed $50.4 Million in federal aid for relocation costs.
Third risk: “The financial risks which could result from the process of adjustment towards a lower-carbon economy. Changes in policy, technology and physical risks could prompt a reassessment of the value of a large range of assets as costs and opportunities become apparent.”
What Carney is getting at here is the fact that an assessment of liability will change the valuation of an asset. This includes what is commonly referred to as “stranded assets”, in particular fossil fuel reserves — and the plants that process and burn them — will become useless is a world focused on carbon-free energy. But it also includes a much greater class of assets that could become stranded, for example real estate on properties that experience frequent and increasing flooding. After the world has seen enough primary property loss and secondary liability loss due to impacts like rising seas our markets will compensate by devaluing at risk assets.
Climate science has been warning us for decades that the impacts of unbridled emissions are on the horizon, but what Carney adds to the conversation is the translation of the risks into financial terms. As acceptance and information about climate change increase so too does the desire to find innovative solutions that build resilience into how we do business and navigate the risks. Being informed about the potential impact of sea level rise and extreme weather events can help industry and government adapt and keep out of the deep waters of rising seas.
By Sam Irvine
On October 3rd, the Obama administration declared a state of emergency in South Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin, which dumped a foot and a half of rain in approximately 24 hours on the Carolinas, caused floods from New Jersey to Georgia and sunk cargo ship El Faro and its crew. While the Charleston and many other cities were battling the floods, with a cost estimated at over $1 billion, France was also experiencing unexpected flash floods near Nice, which caused 17 death. Landslides in Guatemala also claimed the lives of 186 people and were catalyzed by a strengthened El Nino. When considering each event in isolation, it may be possible to overlook the connection between the storms intensity and climate change. Together these extreme weather events are indicative of a larger trend; while we can’t predict where the next big storms will hit, we do know they are becoming more frequent and stronger.
These serve as yet another wakeup call to remind us that we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and that our communities, cities and business need to be prepared for the stormy weather. But, as humans, do we require a crisis to mobilize us into action? Or can the same results be sparked through other methods without the loss of life, property and human well-being?
Climate scientists have warned for years of how climate change will increase the intensity of hurricanes, and the Southeast U.S. is a highly exposed region for such hurricanes. Yet many of us act as if the storm was always going to hit next door, and fail to apply our rational understanding of risk to better preparedness.
At Four Twenty Seven, we created Climate War Games to put executives and decision-makers into the context of the increasing risks presented by climate change. Gaming and simulation provide teachable moments, which we can apply to our real world behavior.
In game play, we assign the players to companies and task them with running their business while getting through a number of rounds in which they experience unpredictable extreme weather events. We break down uncertainty by type of event and their varying impacts to supply chains and infrastructure that can be damaged by extreme precipitation or temperature.
While the specific outcomes are unpredictable, because they hinge on a dice roll, the risk profile of each player’s hand is clearly laid out, so as to enable teams to understand their company’s risk profile and adopt the most cost-effective portfolio of adaptation measures. The winner is the company that earns the most profit – and limits its losses — that way, game play reflects the same challenges organizations face in the real world.
The game emulates the escalating risk of climate volatility and simulates through dice rolls the increasing likelihood of “black swan events” with low probability of occurrence, but high consequences and subsequent costs.
Players have to make the same tough choices they would in the real business world between saving or spending, and we see teams approach the choices in both creative and conventional ways. While there are different ways to play, the real value of the game comes from knowing that the risks actually create business opportunities, and acting through an informed strategy pays out over the long run. The game also helps participants reflect upon the potential human implications of their risk mitigation strategy.
Confronting the reality of what climate change is going to bring upon us can feel overwhelming at times. By providing a safe environment with clearly delineated risk profiles, and challenging players to make decisions and take action in a context of uncertainty, we help break down mental and cultural barriers to corporate adaptation, and set participants on track to build climate resilience. We do not know where the next storm will hit, but we can and should prepare to the best of our ability using climate science and probabilities.
Learn more about Climate War Games and our training courses offering here.
By: Sam Irvine
The recent winter weather that buried Buffalo, NY under more than 5 feet of snow and ground life to a halt should attract the attention of US businesses leaders across the country. Although Buffalo is prone to heavy snowfalls, the long-term outlook for more frequent and severe snowstorms for business is not good. Extreme winter storms in the US have been increasing in frequency and severity over the past 30 years (graph “US winter storm loss trends, 1980-2011”: http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/catastrophes-us), with average annual associated financial losses nearly doubling over that time.
Heavy snowfalls can halt local business activity and cause extensive physical damage. Establishments from businesses to schools and government buildings were barricaded in and could not open their doors. Driving bans were even imposed on several areas. While damage was widespread as the snow was caving in windows, doors, and roofs, some business, like Schmitt’s Collision and Glass and VSP Marketing Graphics Group, had complete cave-ins and equipment losses approaching $1 million. Even the Bills-Jets NFL game was moved to Detroit, losing the Bills both home advantage and ticket sales revenue.
An extreme snowfall can also initiate indirect economic losses and cascade into supply chain disruptions. One hour down the blocked NY State Throughway, Rochester companies have had difficulty receiving shipments from normal supply routes and have scrambled to find replacement goods with varying degrees of success. Buffalo is home to major distributors for businesses such as the area’s major supermarket chain Wegmans. The snowfall has impacted the heavily used trucking route that runs through Buffalo from areas as distant as Wisconsin. Trucking companies are also sending out refrigerated trailers earlier than normal, at an additional cost, to prevent food from freezing because of the extreme cold.
Weather forecasts predict the snowfall to be followed by warmer weather and rain, which could lead to severe flooding from snow melt. Flood warnings have been issued as light rain and temperatures in the 50s and 60s threaten to flood areas that have never been at risk of flood before. Governor Cuomo commented on the new dangers arising from the snow melt and recommended people to leave at-risk homes early:
“Err on the side of caution…Flooding, in my opinion, is worse than dealing with snow,” Cuomo said. “It’s not water. It’s a toxic brew.”
Although it seems counter-intuitive, these winter storms are not getting worse despite global warming, but rather because of it. The complexity of this result illustrates how confusing climate change signals can be and the importance of creating accurate awareness. Scientists point to a weakening of the jet stream, the Earth’s halo of fast moving air, caused by warming in the arctic outpacing that of the rest of the world. A slower jetstream tends to meander and is more easily pushed off track, bringing warm air further north and cold air further south as its normally straight flow forms waves.
Experts trace the recent jet stream wanderings to Typhoon Nuri. The typhoon pushed the jet stream off course and north with a large body of warm air as it moved into the northern Pacific. As the air current bulged northward, arctic air downstream had nowhere to go but south, pushing the jet stream ahead of it over the continental US. Events like this year’s “Arctic Blast” and last year’s famous “Polar Vortex” will be more easily triggered by climate change-weakened jet streams. This chain of events, along with a Lake Erie’s warming by long-term climatic changes, caused the flow of very cold air to pick up additional moisture and dump it on Buffalo as “lake effect” snow. Energy from Typhoon Nuri then proceeded to be carried down the jet stream to Buffalo, resulting in the warming spell that causes flooding. (See Al Jazeera’s excellent in-depth explanation of this phenomenon).
As the climate continues to change, events like these are predicted to become regular occurrences and not outlying record-setting events. Businesses need to ready themselves for a future of 6-foot snowfalls and be better prepared to act quickly.
Image: (c) Munich Re, Getty Images, and AccuWeather.com