Horizon scanning identifies emerging issues in a given field sufficiently early to conduct research to inform policy and practice. Our group of horizon scanners, including academics and researchers, convened to identify fifteen nascent issues that could affect the conservation of biological diversity. These include the impacts of and potential human responses to climate change, novel biological and digital technologies, novel pollutants and invasive species. We expect to repeat this process and collation annually
Businesses have an unrivalled ability to mobilize human, physical and financial capital, often manage large land holdings, and draw on resources and supply products that impact a wide array of ecosystems. Businesses therefore have the potential to make a substantial contribution to arresting declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services. To realize this potential, businesses require support from researchers in applied ecology to inform how they measure and manage their impacts on, and opportunities presented to them by, biodiversity and ecosystem services.We reviewed papers in leading applied ecology journals to assess the research contribution from existing collaborations involving businesses. We reviewed applications to, and grants funded by, the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council for evidence of public investment in such collaborations. To scope opportunities for expanding collaborations with businesses, we conducted workshops with three sectors (mining and quarrying, insurance and manufacturing) in which participants identified exemplar ecological research questions of interest to their sector.Ten to fifteen per cent of primary research papers in Journal of Applied Ecology and Ecological Applications evidenced business involvement, mostly focusing on traditional rural industries (farming, fisheries and forestry). The review of UK research council funding found that 35% of applications mentioned business engagement, while only 1% of awarded grants met stricter criteria of direct business involvement.Some questions identified in the workshops aim to reduce costs from businesses’ impacts on the environment and others to allow businesses to exploit new opportunities. Some questions are designed to inform long-term planning undertaken by businesses, but others would have more immediate commercial applications. Finally, some research questions are designed to streamline and make more effective those environmental policies that affect businesses.Business participants were forward-looking regarding ecological questions and research. For example, representatives from mining and quarrying companies emphasized the need to move beyond biodiversity to consider how ecosystems function, while those from the insurance sector stressed the importance of ecology researchers entering into new types of interdisciplinary collaboration.Synthesis and applications. Businesses from a variety of sectors demonstrated a clear interest in managing their impacts on, and exploiting opportunities created by, ecosystem services and biodiversity. To achieve this, businesses are asking diverse ecological research questions, but publications in leading applied ecology journals and research council funding reveal limited evidence of direct engagement with businesses. This represents a missed opportunity for ecological research findings to see more widespread application.
The evaluation of forecast performance plays a central role both in the interpretation and use of forecast systems and in their development. Different evaluation measures (scores) are available, often quantifying different characteristics of forecast performance. The properties of several proper scores for probabilistic forecast evaluation are contrasted and then used to interpret decadal probability hindcasts of global mean temperature. The Continuous Ranked Probability Score (CRPS), Proper Linear (PL) score, and IJ Good's logarithmic score (also referred to as Ignorance) are compared; although information from all three may be useful, the logarithmic score has an immediate interpretation and is not insensitive to forecast busts. Neither CRPS nor PL is local; this is shown to produce counter intuitive evaluations by CRPS. Benchmark forecasts from empirical models like Dynamic Climatology place the scores in context. Comparing scores for forecast systems based on physical models (in this case HadCM3, from the CMIP5 decadal archive) against such benchmarks is more informative than internal comparison systems based on similar physical simulation models with each other. It is shown that a forecast system based on HadCM3 out performs Dynamic Climatology in decadal global mean temperature hindcasts; Dynamic Climatology previously outperformed a forecast system based upon HadGEM2 and reasons for these results are suggested. Forecasts of aggregate data (5-year means of global mean temperature) are, of course, narrower than forecasts of annual averages due to the suppression of variance; while the average "distance" between the forecasts and a target may be expected to decrease, little if any discernible improvement in probabilistic skill is achieved.
Climate change is already affecting the global insurance industry. These changes are often seen as being negative, although opportunities also exist. Other areas of insurance coverage may also be affected in addition to property damage. The potential for third-party liability claims from climate change is less well understood but has even greater potential to affect the industry. Financial assets held to meet claims and provide a capital buffer may also be affected. Therefore the balance sheet of an insurer may be damaged from all sides. Insurers cannot force policyholders to mitigate CO2 emissions, but they can give them a choice and a number of them are already offering such policies. They can also take steps to reduce their own carbon emissions. Insurance is adaptation; there are a surprisingly large number of small to medium companies that do not have catastrophe cover, so increasing insurance penetration of these markets would be an adaptive measure. Insurers will continue to lobby governments for appropriate weather defences to keep areas insurable for as long as possible. Non-traditional forms of insurance are available (such as those based on weather indices with parametric triggers) and it may be possible to continue to offer these for longer than traditional insurance. They do bring basics risk with them, and therefore possibly reputational risk to the industry. Insurers can only pool risk; we cannot insure our way out of this problem, but we can help to spread the impacts where possible. The Geneva Papers (2008) 33, 140–146. doi:10.1057/palgrave.gpp.2510154
Multi-year insurance has been proposed as a tool to incentivise policy-holders to invest in property-level adaptation. In a world of rising natural catastrophe risks, such autonomous adaptations could have significant benefits for the property owner, the insurer and society. We review some arguments made in respect of multi-year contracts and provide new analyses on their price implications. We conclude that even under conditions of known and stationary risk, initial capital requirements could be around 50 per cent higher for a 10-year contract than an annual contract and the annual premium around 5.5 per cent higher; in the real world of changing and uncertain risks, premiums would be even higher. We also conclude that multi-year contracts have several additional disadvantages that are likely to limit their demand and availability in the general retail insurance market. For adaptation, we conclude that other tools, such as risk-based premiums and loans for adaptation tied to the property, have greater potential.
Capital and cost of capital form a bridge between the insurance firm and the financial markets. The term capital is used in various ways. In current parlance, economic capital is frequently used to mean capital calculated using a risk-based measure which is independent of the regulatory requirements. In this paper we discuss the concept of target capital, where the firm takes account of three different approaches to risk appetite: regulatory capital plus a buffer; rating agency views; and the views of shareholders, where they make commitments to customers and wish to protect franchise value. We describe how, when blending these views, the firm needs to understand the trade-offs between too high and too low amounts of capital, with reference to the double taxation burden, insurance gearing (leverage of premiums to capital ratio), and the impact of the firm's credit rating on maximising franchise value. We then discuss the main drivers of the cost of capital, which we define as the required total return on the market value of the firm, as determined by reference to the opportunity cost of alternative investments of equivalent risk. We explain that, because the stock market value of the firm is not the same as the capital held inside the firm, the cost of capital derived from external studies cannot be directly applied to internal measures of target return such as return on equity (ROE); it is necessary to translate between the two measures. We separate the risk of the firm between the investment risk and the insurance risk. We describe the frictional costs of investing in an insurance firm, and explain the role of parameter and model risk arising from the uncertainty of the future claim costs of the firm. We describe the findings of two studies of the actual historical stock market returns of United States P&C companies. One of them suggests that applying the Fama-French model produces higher and more accurate cost of capital estimates than the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) method. This is explained by linking the price to book ratio to the costs of financial distress, which are particularly important for general insurance firms, given the influence of insurance strength ratings from the rating agencies. Finally, we attempt to estimate the risk load required in premiums to compensate investors for the elements of cost of capital which we have described, in a way that combines the financial economic approaches to insurance target returns with the traditional actuarial approaches to assessing the risks in the insurance business.
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