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Posted: November 22, 2007

Nanotechnology, climate change, infrastructure among top risks for insurers

(Nanowerk News) The four emerging risks facing insurers moving forward are nanotechnology, climate change, aging infrastructure and “the unknown,” Robert Landry, president and CEO of Zurich’s Canadian operations told delegates of the Property Casualty Underwriters Club luncheon.
While the science is still new, Landry compared the development and use of nanomaterials to that of asbestos. With so many unknowns, and such widespread use (by 2008 the demand for nanoscale materials will be $28 billion), we cannot be sure that there is not a risk to human health somewhere, he said.
The industry, he continued, needs to be proactive in addressing climate change. Changes are already apparent and will have a ripple effect, he warned. “Right now the best place to grow a tree is in central British Columbia. In 80 years, it will be just north of the Yukon border. Think of the effect that will have on your clients in the forestry industry.”
He went on to cite numerous examples of infrastructure failure, including 2006’s Laval overpass collapse that claimed the lives of five people. “Almost 80% of Canadian infrastructure is past its due date,” he said, noting $130 billion is needed to fix already existing problems. In North America the repair costs approximate $16 trillion, he added.
“Does it mean all of the bridges will fall down? No. But I’m not sure which ones will.”
And where the unknown is concerned, it is impossible to predict which small events will have massive impacts, he said. “But we have an obligation to use underwriting as a tool, to give good early warnings, and to be alert,” Landry said. “We have to get involved and influence public policy, because at the end of the day it might be us picking up the tab.”
Source: Canadian Underwriter