Risk Analytics and Innovation for Community Climate Adaptation (2024-2025)

Background

The impacts of climate change are already here. In 2023 alone, there were 23 confirmed extreme weather events in the U.S. that exceeded $1B in economic impact. Trendlines indicate increased risk of flooding, sea level rise, wildfire, convective storms and extreme heat for much of the country. As a result, the question of long-term insurability has become a national issue. Underserved and overburdened communities are largely un- or under-insured and there are reports of leading insurers withdrawing capacity from climate-exposed geographies, fueling a debate over the proper role of private markets versus public insurance schemes.

To support communities’ efforts to develop and deploy climate resilience plans, the Biden Administration has made available over $20B in grants, multiple training programs and a prioritization mechanism favoring the 500 most vulnerable communities – socially and physically – across America. These commitments have catalyzed a resurgence in technical assistance and capacity-building programs aimed at helping communities understand and deploy these new capabilities. 

Managing risk is the business of insurance, but their business model may need to change in response to climate change. For example, insurance companies may be able to help make communities more insurable by sharing their risk analytics and providing credible information about the risks communities face and how to reduce them. Information like historical loss data, projected future exposure analysis and cost-benefit analyses of various risk mitigation options would be useful to communities as they consider how to adapt, and insurance companies may be able to build new community-based insurance models that incentivize and monetize climate adaptation and risk reducing behavior like protecting or restoring floodplains. 

Project Description

This project team will apply modern risk data, modeling and analytics to explore innovative new insurance and risk management models in North Carolina’s primarily rural climate-vulnerable communities. Team members will:

  • Create new models for risk analytics data sharing with underserved communities that can support improved resilience planning;
  • Explore whether new types of community based insurance products (e.g., Community Based Catastrophe Insurance (CBCI))  can help address gaps in existing risk management tools for these communities, particularly as they apply to traditionally underserved populations; 
  • Consider the critical elements for building viable CBCI models that are necessary for communities and the insurance sector; and 
  • Evaluate whether nature-based solutions can be integrated into community risk reduction and be incentivized through CBCI models.  

The team will leverage earlier work on this issue, including a workshop of statewide or regional organizations (e.g., state agency staff, rural water utility organization, sea grant, religious organizations, local and regional philanthropies, regional insurers) to discuss what roles different organization would be willing to play and how to build scale and sustainability; and direct outreach to organizational partners and community leaders, including key staff, key local stakeholders and residents for pilot communities to understand their needs related to risk analytics and insurance.

Team members will assess the ability of available risk data and analytical tools to meet community needs. They will then apply these data and tools to explore the feasibility and advantages of innovative new risk management models such as CBCI and nature-based risk reduction projects.

The team will collaborate with three North Carolina communities located within the 13 North Carolina census tracts recently designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as Community Disaster Resilience Zones. Team members will generate and deliver three community-specific risk management plans that include an assessment of whether CBCI models could help address risk protection gaps in participating communities; the identification of those critical elements communities and insurers would need to efficiently and effectively deploy CBCI programs; and the potential role nature-based risk reduction projects could play in the community, and how/whether CBCI could help capture the economic benefits of such projects.

Anticipated Outputs

Community-specific risk management plans; white paper

Student Opportunities

Ideally this team will include 5 graduate students and 4 undergraduate students interested in decision sciences, sustainability, economics, organizations and management, marketing, public policy and/or computer science.

This project blends technology, social research, public policy, finance, partnership development, influence and climate science in a manner that aims to achieve meaningful local impact. It will expose students to what it takes to achieve scaled impact through sectoral initiatives and public-private partnerships. 

Team members will have the unique opportunity to engage directly with state agencies, intermediary organizations that work with communities, the insurance sector and local community leaders to address a complex and crucial issue. Students will be exposed to advanced risk analytics tools, including the interpretation and delivery of results, as well as identifying key learnings and best practices as the basis for a fully scaled national program. 

See also the related Data+ project for Summer 2024; there is a separate application process for students who are interested in this optional summer component.

Timing

Summer 2024 – Spring 2025

  • Summer 2024: Develop analytical approach via IN-CORE and other tools
  • Fall 2024: Apply analytical tool(s) to assessment of communities’ CBCI and nature-based solution options
  • Spring 2025: Draft white paper documenting best practice, lessons learned and actionable insights; issue recommendations on how the insurance sector can scale efforts

Crediting

Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding available

See related Data+ summer project, Making Climate Hazard Risk Data Useful for North Carolina Communities (2024).

 

Image: Community Disaster Resilience Zones in North Carolina
 

Community Disaster Resilience Zones in North Carolina.

Team Leaders

  • Elizabeth Albright, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Mark Borsuk, Pratt School of Engineering-Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Francis Bouchard, Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability
  • Lydia Olander, Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability
  • Ashley Ward, Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability