Category Archives: Ben Kirtman

The Biggest Challenge Facing the Insurance Industry: “Climate Change”

One of the first interviews that I ever conducted, I guess I was 14 at the time, was with Dr. Ben Kirtman, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). Dr. Kirtman was incredibly gracious with me that day and offered hours of insight, as well as my very first tour of the RSMAS campus on Key Biscayne.

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I vividly remember many things from my visit and time with Dr. Kirtman that day, but two things particularly stood out.

The first was his answer to my question about what he thought would happen to animals in coastal places such as South Florida, Antarctica and elsewhere, as sea levels continued to rise and rise. His response was something to the effect of “well, Delaney, I’m not sure, but I think the polar bears are in trouble.” That answer led to the title of the comic book I wrote a few months later entitled “Where Did All Of The Polar Bears Go?” So props to Dr. Kirtman for planting that particular seed.

The other comment from that day that I have been thinking a lot about this week had to do with his answer about what he believed might ‘force’ the changes that our society will require to get serious about addressing our climate change crisis. He explained that he thought that certain industries such as mortgage lenders and insurance companies might lead the way. Coastal homes or businesses subject to routine flooding and rising seas would become poor risks for mortgage lenders who would fear that a property could be rendered useless, abandoned, and then have their loan defaulted. Insurers would also increasingly be reluctant to insure such locations and stop offering coverage all together at some point rather than pay claims for flood losses was his other thought.

His comment about the insurance industry came to mind again when I read an article this week from Insurance Business Magazine that quoted a New Zealand insurer as believing that our climate change crisis is the biggest challenge the insurance industry faces in its future. Here’s the quote from David Rush, Director of Vision Insurance, that captured my attention:

“The first challenge we face is climate change – dealing with the increasing frequency of natural disasters, and the on flow effects of premium increases and policy restrictions.”

Mr. Rush’s comments are, of course, logical.

More and larger devastating wildfires, as we’ve seen in California and elsewhere around the world as temperatures continue to rise.

More numerous and larger devastating hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis.

Carbon pollution in our oceans and atmospheres that have grown to historic and alarming levels.

Rising sea levels all over the planet.

Record heat waves and temperatures (with 2018 behind us, consider that four of the hottest last five years on record have just taken place).

Droughts in the American West and elsewhere in North America much less all over the world including in the Holy Lands in Israel and other places in the Middle East.

All sorts of industries are beginning to find the value of becoming sustainable and of offering sustainable products. They are doing this not only to meet increasing consumer demand, but also because it is good business for their bottom line.

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Dr. Kirtman sure was right when he predicted that our climate change crisis would soon capture the attention of industry and that some industries would likely force changes in their business, what they are and are not willing or able to do, in order to address the opportunities and challenges that they face.

To start off 2019 by reading that an insurance executive believes that climate change is the biggest challenge his industry faces is, I am sure, just the start. As the damage from our climate change crisis continues to grow, the impact to people and businesses all over the world will likewise exponentially increase and, thus, the sooner we shift our world economies to sustainable, clean energy solutions, the less costly these impacts will be for all of us.

A TEDx Talk Mother’s Day Gift

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I am humbled and excited to share with you that the video for the TEDx Talk that I gave on sea level rise earlier this year has just been released and I cannot think of a better day to share it with everyone than Mother’s Day.

The reason that sharing this with you today is so appropriate is because of the wonderful support that my mother (and father and brother) has given to me is beyond anything that I could have hoped for and is part of the reason that The Sink or Swim Project has touched thousands of people in such a short time.

I sincerely hope that you will share this TEDx Talk with as many people as possible. The topic and the message are very important to South Florida, our country, and our planet. As you will see, the talk focuses on the fact that our planet is warming, seas are rising, that we must and can overcome political obstacles that protect old habits, and that the children of my generation “get it” and will demand solutions, as well as lead the way during our lifetimes to implement them.

Thank you to my mother for all of her love and support and happy Mother’s Day to your moms. The love of a mother is like no other and should be cherished, and that includes cherishing our environment and Mother Earth.

A Special Report from the University of Miami

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Dr. Ben Kirtman, Professor and Director of the Cooperative Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, is one of the world’s leading climate scientists, a co-author of the NOAA Climate Prediction Task Force and the IPPC’s most recent report, as well as someone who has been very kind to help educate me about climate change and sea rise over the last few years. He and many other exceptional educators all over the University such as Dr. Hal Wanless, Professor and Chair of the School’s Department of Geological Sciences, are at the absolute cutting edge of the study of sea level rise science, the social and health impacts that climate change will increasingly have on our world, alternative energy solutions that we must commit to and the policy making issues that will help us solve this growing crisis.

The University of Miami is, in my view, uniquely positioned to both study and help solve this growing crisis and, although I admit being biased (I am a graduate of the school’s Summer Scholars Program in Tropical Marine Biology and plan to study Ecosystem Science & Policy there this coming summer as well as follow my mom, dad and grandfather, all of whom are Miami grads, by applying late this year for undergrad admission), I am deeply proud and excited that the new University President, Julio Frenk, has made climate change a major focus of his administration, of part of what he calls The Relevant University. In his recent Inauguration speech Dr. Frenk made his commitment to helping the world on its climate concerns clear when he said;

    For instance, rising sea levels—a major threat to Miami as well as the rest of the world—was discussed repeatedly during my listening exercise. Climate change is an arena where virtually every academic discipline has something to contribute, and where the institution is already showing the way forward. In the coming months, we will announce a new University-wide effort to expand our considerable expertise in sea level rise. This is exactly the kind of transformative, global contribution that Miami can and should be making to the search for sustainable solutions.

So with these thoughts in mind I am pleased to share the news of the University’s campus wide focus on climate change and to share with you their brand new overview that shows the depth of their commitment and ability to help our community and world. As we say around these parts, it really is “All About The U’!

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