2023 Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Report: APAC Insights
Navigating new forms of volatility
- Catastrophes and natural disasters in the Asia Pacific region in 2022 amounted to a total economic loss of USD 80 billion.
- A substantial protection gap of 86 per cent meant many disaster losses were uninsured.
- The extreme weather records broken across the year highlight the continuing need to strengthen resilience to better protect the communities in which we live and work.
With new extreme weather records broken and natural disasters affecting much of the Asia Pacific region (amounting to a total economic loss of USD 80 billion and a substantial protection gap of 86 per cent1), 2022 served as another reminder of the need to continually seek ways to better prepare and protect our communities for the future.
Brad Weir, Head of Analytics, Asia, Reinsurance Solutions for Aon discusses how the data, statistics and analytics of Aon’s 2023 Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Report may help organisations as they look to understand natural disaster and extreme weather trends; to quantify and qualify issues influencing catastrophe risk; and to make better decisions to enhance resilience.
Q. 2022 served as another reminder of the potential impact of climate on the region and the need to continually strengthen resilience. What are the key factors organisations in the Asia Pacific region need to understand and be aware of in order to better protect against severe weather and natural disasters?
Organisations, communities and risk carriers should support the development of more resilient buildings and infrastructure both now and into the future. When property is severely damaged after an event there is the opportunity to build back better – structures that will conform to current wind loading standards for instance, will be much more resilient than older properties. In locations that have been impacted by an event such as a cyclone, to the point where for example, a building requires a totally new roof, these buildings become more resilient to future events after repair.
At the more extreme community-impact level, such as regular inundation from flooding, decisions need to be made around whether it is practical to build back at the exact location verses the required investment in improvements to flood defences. Where frequent floods are impacting businesses, another consideration could be whether there are opportunities to mitigate this frequency through improved localised defences or mitigation around storage and placement of stock. Future planning and development on flood plains needs to be seriously questioned going forward and the insurance industry needs to have a greater involvement in the planning process as one of the key stakeholders in protecting and supporting community livelihood and economic development.
Q. As organisations develop their short- and long-term business strategies, what role does severe weather event and natural catastrophe data analysis play?
Aon believes natural catastrophe analytics should be a fundamental component of business strategy planning, both in the short and long term. If an organisation wants to remain in business in the long term, they need to consider the impact of climate on their business from many different aspects, both physical and transitional. In many cases they also need to consider these impacts on their client and supplier networks, and also the potential for reputational impacts their climate decisions may have.
Q. How do these insights help an organisation build resilience and help the wider industry plan for future insurance impacts?
Future climate impact scenarios are a way of providing a series of theoretical impacts that enable any risk carrier to understand how they might need to adapt their business models and strategies to remain resilient in the future. Being able to understand the impact of future climate on their business enables organisations to adapt and increase resilience to be future ready.
Through a more robust understanding, the insurance industry can also be better positioned to ensure there is sustainable access to required capital to support current and future business development.
Q. What key impacts are expected for the APAC region as we see the phase shift from La Niña to El Niño, and what can we expect with regards to projected losses?
It is generally accepted that climate in the Asia Pacific region follows the cyclical nature of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), with drier conditions during El Niño and wetter weather during La Niña. Episodes of El Niño and La Niña are known to shift rainfall patterns in different parts of the world, and also shift their onset. This means that hazards such as droughts or floods may arrive earlier and/or cover a larger area.
Key impacts of ENSO follow closely the weather conditions they bring. On land, drought-like conditions during El Niño are associated with bushfires, and reduced groundwater recharge and streamflow, critical for agriculture. Warming ocean temperatures affect fishery in terms of decline in fish catch. Above-normal rainfall during La Niña is typically associated with floods, and increased typhoon activity and/or intensity.
The catastrophic flooding in southeast Australia in February and March 2022, and later in October, which incurred a loss of USD $3.8 billion (AUD $5.9 billion)2, is an example of losses sustained by the insurance industry during the La Niña phase. This followed record-setting bushfires in 2019-2020, with an insured loss of USD $1.5 billion (AUD $2.3 billion)3, coinciding with El Niño. The relationship between La Niña and the industry impact in 2022 is also evident in other parts of Asia Pacific. For example, the Pakistan flooding resulted in USD 15 billion (PKR 4,274 billion)4 of direct physical damage and disrupted the livelihoods of 33 million inhabitants. December 2021 and into January 2022 saw significant industry losses with floods in Malaysia and Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) in the Philippines.
If trends of El Niño and La Niña continue based on how we understand their behaviour (in two- to seven-year cycles), then we would expect the associated impacts of flood and droughts of the respective phases of ENSO to hold true.
Losses, both economic and insured, incurred during La Niña are higher than during El Niño, particularly in Australia where we find that we find 80 per cent of flood losses and 65 per cent of cyclone losses occur during La Niña years.5 Therefore, moving from La Niña to El Niño, we would anticipate the industry to continue to sustain comparable losses as experience suggests, but lower, given the nature of hazards during El Niño.
It is also noteworthy to point out that ENSO monitoring is based on sea surface temperature anomalies over a three-month period ending with the current month. Skilful ENSO prediction can be made at least six months in advance, though there is still a limitation on how far into the future we can project ENSO. This is also complicated by general year-to-year variability in weather and climate across the Asia-Pacific regions.
1 Aon, 2023 Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Insight
2 Insurance Council of Australia, 2023, Historical Catastrophe Data
3 Insurance Council of Australia, 2023, Historical Catastrophe Data
4 Aon, 2023 Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Insight
5 Aon, 2022, Say Goodbye to the Big Wet and Excessive Losses
Find out more in Aon’s 2023 Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Report: Asia Pacific Insights.
We also welcome readers to access our global natural catastrophe analysis.