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The Dilemma

By Allan Lynch

Climate change impacts everyone, every place and every industry. It’s such a pervasive issue that three years ago, 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Accords. The objective was to inspire countries to set their own timelines for reducing the rate of global warming to two degrees, which still left parts of the world at risk from rising sea levels and temperatures. However, in October 2018 the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) warned that exceeding a 1.5-degree temperature rise could kill all coral reefs by 2040, and exacerbate the frequency of major wildfires, heat waves, droughts, storms and flooding.

Climate change also contributes to the frequency and intensity of typhoons, cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis. This means the meetings sector has to factor in climate specialists’ predictions when considering program timing and destinations.

The 2017 and 2018 hurricane seasons were an insight into the future. The catastrophic 2017 Atlantic hurricane season resulted in 3,000 deaths and over $282 billion in damage across the Caribbean and Texas. That bill doesn’t include the cost of disrupted and cancelled travel and business.

The 2018 hurricane season expanded its reach and damage as far north as Maryland, Lake Michigan and Atlantic Canada.

Focusing on where the bulk of Canadian groups travel for events, Ignite checked with climate specialists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA scientist Tom Knutson says, “We cannot yet say whether global warming is going to lead to an increase in hurricane occurrence in more northern regions, such as Canada. The science is still developing.” However, he adds, “We have some confidence that the hurricanes they [Eastern Canada] experience will gradually become stronger on average,” but the good news is this is not over the short-term.

A paper published by NOAA suggests while there won’t be a growth in the number of hurri­canes, there is a potential for significant increase of high-intensity hurricanes over this century. “Note that these are very general projections for the next 100 years. Subsequent work sup­ports the notion that the fraction of hurricanes that reach Category 4 and 5 levels is likely to increase, but we have less confidence that the annual number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes will increase in the Atlantic.”

The issue of intensity goes to the destination damage, like what Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm, did to places like Puerto Rico and Dominica.

Beyond the headline-making weather destruc­tion are developments in mild weather patterns. NOAA researcher Sarah Kapnick says, “Changes in mild weather days are due to changes in tem­perature, precipitation or humidity. In general, mild weather days are lost in the tropics due to increases in temperature (days become too hot) and humidity. Mild weather days are generally gained in the mid-to-high latitudes (above 45°N, where Seattle and Canada are located) and at high elevations due to increasing temperatures (where cold non-mild weather days are replaced by warmer mild weather days in the future). While this is positive if you enjoy being outside, other research has shown this is at the expense of the number of days when snow can occur, decreasing the amount of snowfall in many places, which is an issue for water resources and tourism.”

Over the next century, NOAA projects that Vancouver, Seattle, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto will add three weeks of mild weather, while Orlando and the Caribbean will lose three weeks to the discomfort of heat and humidity.

Changing weather means planners can turn to their insurer for advice. Andrew Spencer, an account executive with Prolink Insurance in Toronto, says, “Because these events are becoming more frequent and of a greater mag­nitude, in the last five years, sales of our Events Cancellation Insurance has gone up tenfold.”

So before committing to a contract, see what the insurance industry thinks of your time and destination. Their opinion could be reflected in higher premiums or an outright refusal to provide coverage.

Spencer’s advice is to consider whether to insure anticipated revenues or budget, then asking “what happens if there is a significant incident that leads to the attendance of your event being reduced by a big factor, but doesn’t merit cancellation of the entire event? A lot of insurance policies will only pay out if the entire event is cancelled. However, a good event can­cellation policy will cover additional costs due to postponement or relocation. In this case, it’s in the insurance company’s best interest to work with the event planner to relocate [the event].” It’s one tool to prevent bad weather from ruining your program.

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