Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Climate change, catastrophic risk and disaster law

Rosemary Lyster in Eco-Business.com (Australia): ... From a risk perspective, it suggested factoring climate change-induced flooding into urban and regional planning, the design of flood mitigation works, and reviews of emergency management procedures. More recent research suggests it would be naïve to think the 2012 floods that inundated NSW and Queensland are not driven in part by human-induced climate change.

...Two areas of law are particularly relevant when it comes to catastrophic climate risks – environmental planning and assessment law, and insurance law. The 2010 Final Report of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, for example, proposes changing Victoria’s planning regime to reconsider siting homes in areas of high bushfire risk, clearing native vegetation and protecting biodiversity.

But the real question that needs to be answered is whether we can go on simply tweaking and upgrading our legislation or whether we need wholesale reform as we confront catastrophes never before envisaged.

...The Australian government’s report, Climate Change Risks to Australia’s Coast claims that a sea level rise of 1.1 metres, and possibly of several metres within the next few centuries, is plausible for the purposes of risk assessment. This means up to $63 billion of existing residential buildings are potentially at risk of inundation. Australia’s infrastructure concentrated in the coastal zone is also at risk.

We really need to begin planning on a multi-decadal basis specifically with the risk of climate catastrophes in mind. We also need to be clear about who should bear the financial risk of these catastrophes – government, the public or the insurance industry? In 2010, global re-insurers faced costs of $28 billion following floods and hailstorms in Australia and earthquakes in New Zealand. The Insurance Australia Group confirmed that it has recently increased it catastrophic reinsurance from $4.1 billion to $4.7 billion, which includes cover for blanket flood insurance...

"The Flood on the Darling River, New South Wales," 1890, by William Charles Piguenit

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