Gore Says Adjust Actuarial Tables for Climate Crisis
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 6, 2011
When I heard that former Vice President Al Gore was speaking at this year’s IASA Educational Conference and Business Show, I expected political posturing and bloviation mixed with carefully chosen fuzzy bits of science. I was not disappointed.
Gore, the first-day keynoter at the event, was ostensibly speaking on “The Democratization of Technology.”
To be fair, he did touch on this topic for a few minutes with historical references showing the movement of technology access from the elites to the rest of us. He could not, however, resist diving into what he called the “climate crisis” and its alleged importance to the insurance industry.
Wisely, the former vice president made mention of the invaluable contributions of the insurance industry to American life and safety.
Unfortunately, he also characterized the insurance sector as “in the forefront of adopting technologies as soon as they are available.
Much as I love our industry, we all know that this statement contains as much truth as, well, the average politician’s speech. So let’s just say that Gore wasn’t quite up to speed about what is happening technologically in insurance.
That didn’t stop him from telling us that insurers’ actuarial tables need to be changed because several “100-year extreme events” have occurred “in the same decade.”
While that is certainly troubling, it ignores the fact that “100-year” events are not necessarily related to each other in their occurrence schedules.
They may actually overlap without causing us to say that some outside force (in this case, climate change) is at work. It’s kind of like the urban legend that people die in threes—as if a higher power had developed his own actuarial triplets for death.
This is my main objection to Gore’s version of climate science—that statistics take on meanings they were never intended to convey.
Gore pointed to recent studies citing one-degree Fahrenheit increases in temperature globally, but actually the increase has been in ocean (not air) temperatures overall.
He said this was happening because the “big tub of water” in the sky wasn’t refilling as quickly as it used to, so we’re getting more extreme weather events that insurers need to build into their risk calculations.
I’m afraid the connection eluded me.
Interestingly, in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, author Donald J. Boudreaux said the following:
“Contrary to what many environmentalists would have us believe, Americans are increasingly less likely to be killed by severe weather. Moreover, because of modern industrial and technological advances—radar, stronger yet lighter building materials, more reliable electronic warning devices, and longer-lasting packaged foods—we are better protected from nature’s fury today than at any other time in human history. We do adapt.”
In fact, Boudreaux went so far as to offer a $10,000 wager to Gore or any other taker that the average annual number of Americans killed by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes will fall over the next 20 years.
He adds that he’ll bet that the average annual number of Americans killed by these violent weather events from 2011 through 2030 will be lower than it was from 1991 through 2010. Gore did not mention the wager and was apparently not putting his own money on the line.
Gore also cited a “new” statistic demonstrating that stronger storms (alleged to be caused by man-made climate change) will have more of a destructive impact on buildings due to higher wind speeds, adding that “98 percent of climate scientists agree” with him.
Thus, again, actuarial tables need to be adjusted. Now I’m not an actuary, but I’m betting that those who are may have already considered this. I also haven’t seen the climate scientist poll on this, either, but I could have missed it.
No one could rationally argue that it would not be a good thing to keep our environment as clean and healthy as possible, but the rush to demonize the human race and to buy carbon offset credits to soothe our collective consciousness has gotten a bit ridiculous—while lining the pockets of certain individuals who sell those credits.
And Gore, to his own credit, did a smashing job of raising the guilt level of many prospective offset customers.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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