Related - Floodplain Manager February 2021

Road Swept Away by Floodwaters North of Carnarvon

Once in a decade flooding on the Gascoyne River results in $8.5 million in road repairs.

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Carnarvon in the northwest of Western Australia has experienced flooding in the days preceding and on 9 February 2021, when up to 200 millimetres of rain fell in and around the town. The Bureau of Meteorology reported that more rain fell in 24 hours than had fallen in all of 2020. The Gascoyne River peaked at 7.1 metres at Nine Mile Bridge on 6 February 2021. The Bureau of Meteorology has said that flooding of this magnitude occurs once every ten years. Ten kilometres of road were swept away, and local residents were evacuated, including those in the Carnarvon Caravan Park at 3:45 AM. State Emergency Services have said that the levees built following the last serious flooding in 2010 helped protect the community. (Read here and here).

Hundreds Evacuated as Northern Territory Floods

The Aboriginal community of Jilkminggan, along the Roper River south of Katherine, was fully evacuated on 26 February as all access roads were cut by water and further inundation expected.

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About 250 people were evacuated via bus and car from the Northern Territory community as heavy rainfall caused the Roper River to break its banks and inundate roads. Residents were evacuated as a precaution as flood waters continued to rapidly rise, and were brought to the nearby Mataranka where they were provided temporary accommodation at the town hall. Access to the area was cut, and members of the public were advised to keep away from the flooded roads. A moderate flood warning was also issued for the Daly River on 25 February 2021. (Read here).

Middle of Night Flooding Leaves Residents Stranded in NSW Mid North Coast

Residents were stranded on the roofs of their homes waiting for assistance as houses were inundated in Corindi, NSW.

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More than 500 millimetres of rain fell on 25 February 2021, causing houses to flood in Corindi and a freight train to derail in nearby Nana Glen. Greenhouses have been destroyed in some parts of this blueberry and raspberry growing region. NSW State Emergency Service conducted about 15 flood rescues from inundated homes, and three rescues from vehicles that had driven through floodwaters. (Read here and here).

Declining La Nina to Still Bring Wet Autumn

The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts a wetter-than-average autumn as La Nina maintains a weakening influence over eastern Australia’s weather.

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Above average rainfall is expected in eastern and some northern parts of Australia, along with above average minimum temperatures across the majority of the country. La Nina conditions over the past summer have brought the highest rainfall since the summer of 2016-2017. While dam levels are already high, saturated ground means that high catchment runoff into reservoirs is expected. In Western Australia, La Nina brought a marine heatwave but little rain for the state’s south. (Read more here).

Call for National Policy to Account for Property Climate Risk

Researchers in a recently published paper say that zoning changes must be put into place to prevent development in areas at high risk from hazards such as flooding and bushfires.

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Residences “scattered” along coastlines or into bushland are more vulnerable to climate hazards, require a more energy intensive lifestyle, and can put extra pressure on emergency services during disasters. In a recently published paper, researchers call for land use planning to be reassessed to prevent rebuilding and new building in risky areas, such as many areas affected by the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires. Instead, a transition towards climate-resilient properties and communities is required to prevent recurring disasters. This includes a planned retreat from at-risk areas, incorporating Indigenous knowledge into fire management, and a transition towards more sustainable energy systems. Without these changes, homeowners will have to face increased insurance premiums, or will be unable to obtain any insurance. Climate Risk 2019 found that up to 720,000 Australian properties would be uninsurable by the end of the century. (Read more here).

Determining the Cause of Underinsurance in Australia

A new national study has found that underinsurance is commonly a product of a lack of knowledge of options and a lack of trust in insurers, and more insurance is not necessarily the solution.

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Up to 10% of homeowners do not have home insurance, and about 40% of renters do not have contents insurance. This makes post-disaster recovery much more expensive and difficult. Key causes for this are a lack of clarity on what insurance covers or does not cover, and a lack of trust in insurers based on unfavourable previous experience. Making insurance work better for the public by making it more equitable and accessible is advised as a better solution compared to simply encouraging renters and homeowners to purchase more insurance. Based on an understanding of why people are underinsured or uninsured, this research suggests that governments should not rely on individuals to manage their own risk with insurance, and that the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens with tools that include but also go beyond insurance. (Read more here).

Why Farmers Have Not Taken Up Federal Flood Relief Grants

Following the 2019 north Queensland floods (FM February 2019), less than a quarter of the federal grant money has been accessed by farmers.

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Following the floods, $400,000 grants were offered to graziers and primary producers; however, they needed to match the funding with their own money. Researchers studying the program are not surprised that dollar-for-dollar grants are not popular, as the farmers would usually be required to take out a bank loan to access the funding. While the grants have provided an important role in recovery for some graziers, there are calls for the federal government to reassess their scheme which requires farmers to take on more debt. Local officials say that drought following the flooding is the main reason why farmers did not access the grants, as their cattle stocks were low. (Read more here).

Gwydir Valley Floodplain Harvesting Restrictions

The NSW Government will cut 52 gigalitres from irrigators in the Gwydir Valley from July, when it will issue licenses for floodplain harvesting for the first time.

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A report has shown that the Gwydir Valley, a major cotton producing area, takes 11% more water than is allowed under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Licensing is being enacted to bring floodplain harvesting back down to legal limits and increase delivery into downstream areas such as the Menindee Lakes. However, there is concern over new carryover rules which allow irrigators to store 500% of their allocation in farm dams, as well as unlicensed irrigation infrastructure, particularly in areas of high environmental significance. The NSW Water minister says that the decisions have been made based on data and science, and that there would be a crackdown on any illegal irrigation works. (Read more here).

Targeted Satellite Images to Improve Flood Forecasting

A new Australian study investigates the potential of targeted satellite observation strategies to more accurately forecast flooding after model-data integration.

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Synthetic experiments were conducted based on the 2011 flooding of the Clarence Catchment in northern NSW to simulate multiple different satellite image acquisition possibilities and assess how they impacted flood forecast accuracy. The location and timing of the images were shown to be more important than the revisit interval of image acquisition. This will help determine how best to focus resources for improved forecasting, considering high-resolution satellites can only observe small areas relative to the total area of large river systems during a flood. A more targeted approach will ensure more cost-effective flood monitoring using satellite observations and maximise forecast accuracy. (Read more here).

Partial Settlement for 2011 Brisbane Flood Victims

Victims of the 2011 Brisbane floods have won $440 million in a class action partial settlement from the Queensland government and state-owned SunWater over the operation of the Wivenhoe Dam in north-west Brisbane.

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The settlement covers 50% of the liabilities for the damage suffered by 6,500 residents affected by the flooding and comes over a year after the NSW Supreme Court ruled that negligence by the operators of the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams exacerbated the 2011 Brisbane floods. The class action continues to fight against an appeal on behalf of a third party, the Queensland Bulk Water Supply Authority (Seqwater), which was not a party to this settlement and is liable for the remaining 50% of the damage. (Read more here, here and here).

Reanimating New Zealand’s Rivers for Better Flood Management

Adopting alternative river management techniques besides river confinement may better reduce the impacts of future disasters.

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Constraining a river’s flow concentrates its energy, increases flood magnitude and can accentuate downstream flooding problems. This study suggests that more effective river management involves working with the natural geomorphology of the river system and allowing it to naturally dissipate energy. International research has found that allowing a river space to move and self-adjust is more effective and cheaper in the long-term and aligns with indigenous land use practices. While flood management in New Zealand is currently primarily concerned with protecting as much land as cheaply as possible with engineering works, reanimating rivers should be considered as a more sustainable and equitable river management technique. (Read more here).

Canadian Cities Bolster Flood Preparedness

While most Canadian cities lack proper flood preparation, Edmonton, Regina, and Toronto have effectively boosted flood-readiness according to a new national study.

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On average, Canada’s 16 major cities did not improve their flood preparedness from 2015 to 2020. However, works such as  supplementary pluvial flooding assessments for all electrical substations in Edmonton, drainage system upgrades in Regina, and installation of dual power feeds for critical infrastructure in Toronto have boosted these cities’ scores to B+, the highest in the country. Across the country, the primary vulnerability was consistently high exposure risk of residential properties to flooding. Insurable losses in Canada reached $2.5 billion in 2020, which is set to rise due to climate change, aging infrastructure, and loss of wetlands. (Read more here and here).

Flood Risk Reduction Lacking Despite Willingness to Pay in Southern France

Research shows that in a flood-prone community in the South of France, willingness to pay does not lead to increased implementation of flood reduction measures.

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This study found that implementation of individual adaptation measures was low, and that people were more willing to contribute to collective mitigation measures rather than individual ones. Many study participants who did not implement risk reduction measures perceived their risk to be low, or believed they were not exposed to flood risk. Prior experience of flooding was a major factor in increased preparedness, but investment in measures only remained high for a few years after the event. Overall, it was concluded that there is a low cost-efficiency of individual adaptation measures. Therefore, low-cost adaptation measures should be promoted as the focus of flood risk reduction policies. (Read more here).

Humanitarian Engineering for Better Flood Warning

The development of small, low-cost solar or hydropower units with integrated flood warning systems is being investigated as a tool to both improve energy access and flood preparedness.

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A new field of humanitarian engineering seeks to find engineering solutions for vulnerable populations that can serve to mitigate against disasters such as flooding. In many global communities, a lack of electricity means a lack of an effective early warning system. This makes events such as flash flooding particularly devastating. By implementing small hydropowered units in a river, or solar powered units nearby to a river, electricity can be generated while sensors detect water levels and velocities. This would allow for the system to trigger warnings when critical levels were reached, to be incorporated into flood warning systems. It is important that there is community ownership and leadership over these solutions to ensure they are appropriate and useful. (Read more here).

Does Flood Experience Increase Preparedness?

Both cultural factors and the severity of prior flood experience play a role in determining if flood experience correlates with increased preparedness.

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This study investigated the differences in the relationships between flood experience and preparedness across the regions of England. It was found that there was a lesser increase in preparedness with increasing flood experience in the Midlands, North West and Thames regions, while the South and South West regions had a higher correlation between the two. Additional factors that may influence the relationship include the severity of prior flood experience, and whether English is the first language or not. These findings can be integrated into strategies to increase levels of flood preparedness. (Read more here).

Faster Tsunami Prediction Using AI and Supercomputers

While conventional supercomputer tsunami prediction techniques make rapid prediction difficult to implement, a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) model can make highly accurate predictions within seconds using an ordinary computer.

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The new Japanese AI model harnesses the power of the world’s fastest supercomputer, Fugaku, to predict tsunami flooding. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011 highlighted the need for improved disaster mitigation and improved evacuation information. The new model leverages the power of the supercomputer to generate training data for 20,000 scenarios, which have been used to streamline an AI model that can predict flooding based on offshore wave data prior to a tsunami making landfall. The model operates at a high spatial resolution and can be a powerful tool in tsunami disaster mitigation. (Read more here).

How to Boost Innovation in Flood Risk Management

A “Systems of Innovation” approach that analyses the interactions, elements and relationships that can lead to new and useful knowledge has provided insight into factors that promote or inhibit innovation in the multidisciplinary field of flood risk management.

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It has been found that the encouragement of champions of flood risk innovation should be enhanced, and that learning should be facilitated to maximise the understanding and development of innovation. Risk-adverse cultures need to be stymied to allow for progress in this space. More work can be done to integrate innovation facilitation processes into existing systems to make them part of the standard procedure, rather than being left to chance. The study says that flood risk management professionals need to recognise where institutional and organisational roadblocks inhibit innovative progress. (Read more here).

Global Sea-Level Data Confirms Climate Model Predictions

A recently published article shows that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sea-level predictions are in line with observed sea levels over the period of 2007 to 2018.

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The study found that the trends of sea-level predictions published in both the IPPC Fifth Assessment Report and the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate agree well with the observations from satellites and tide gauges over the decade. The findings show that the projections were accurate at the global, regional, and local levels. This analysis indicates that the world is currently tracking between the middle and worst-case greenhouse gas emission scenarios, showing that more needs to be done to reduce global emissions and meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement.  (Read more here).

Improved Methods for Assessing Hydrological Extremes

A new method has been developed that utilises pooled data from a regional group of hydrologically similar catchments, allowing for better characterizations of changes across several individual sites in a region.

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Models of hydrological extremes for individual catchments are often limited by short available records. This inhibits the consistent comparison of trends across different sites. By developing a new pooled slope parameter for catchments that are considered hydrologically similar and by cross-correlating annual maximum events across sites, a clearer assessment of changes across multiple sites is possible. This new approach has been applied to a national dataset in the United Kingdom and has shown that applying the new regional magnification factor could lead to an increase in design flood levels of up to 50% in some parts of the country for the next 50 years.   (Read more here).

Adaptation Chosen Over Climate-Driven Migration

In the Philippines, ties to home communities mean that migration is not considered a primary flood risk mitigation strategy.

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The coastal nation experiences far more floods than any other weather-related disaster, and research suggests that the country will have to cope with five to ten times more people living below the projected high-tide level by the year 2100. However, the study found that people have a strong sense of place and occupational attachment and would rather spend money to adapt their current homes than move elsewhere. However, staying in the same location requires increasingly demanding adaptation measures, such as house elevation, changing livelihoods, and relying on the government and others for aid. Planned climate retreat has not been systematically managed in the country, and those who had moved often had to do so suddenly in response to intolerable climate impacts. Study participants voiced concern over leaving their homes even temporarily during an evacuation, for fear of looting and uncertainty over the benefits of sheltering in a crowded evacuation centre, particularly during the pandemic. (Read more here).

Post-Flood Recovery for People with Disabilities

During Hurricane Harvey, the people of Houston living with disabilities faced disproportionate exposure to flooding, and major hurdles to recovery.

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Over one million people with disabilities in Houston were directly affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which caused catastrophic flooding across the city. People with disabilities in the US are already more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed, and have limited access to healthcare. Neighbourhoods with higher proportions of residents with disabilities, and particularly cognitive disabilities, were more likely to experience hurricane-induced flooding during the storm. Reports following the hurricane found that informal shelters did not provide adequate disability-compliant facilities such as restrooms and showers, and some people in assisted living facilities were abandoned or neglected during the storm. In addition, people with disabilities were inappropriately institutionalised following the disasters due to a lack of accessible housing. This case study highlights the barriers people with disabilities encounter on a larger scale, and the work that needs to be done to provide just and equitable access to resources during post-flood recovery.   (Read more here).

Aging Dams Pose Looming Threat

Following a boom of dam-building in the mid-20th century, a new UN report has found that tens of thousands of large dams across the world are reaching the end of their expected lifespans.

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As the world’s dam infrastructure ages, there are concerns about the threat posed to the hundreds of millions of people living downstream of deteriorating dams worldwide. According to the World Bank, there are already 19,000 dams higher than 15 metres that are more than 50 years old, many of which are undergoing structural decay and might fail under natural hazards such as moderate earthquakes. Dam engineers say that the greatest risks are aging dams in China and India, which have already suffered deadly dam failures in recent decades. With the dam-building boom over and dams now barricading the majority of the world’s rivers, there is a call for more rigorous inspection of existing dams, more investment into dam repair, and the decommission of dams that cease to serve a purpose. (Read more here).

Why are Flood Policies Failing?

Collaboration with stakeholders is essential to help disadvantaged communities that are both more exposed to and more vulnerable to natural hazards.

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This report highlights the need for scientists and policymakers to work together to build solutions by integrating sound science, communications, and social justice to boost the preparedness and resilience of all communities, including the more economically disadvantaged. To enact an equity approach, individual circumstances must be taken into consideration to provide the necessary support for historically disadvantaged communities. Programs that incentivise public outreach and engagement at the community level, along with integration of science, are key to building better flood policies. In addition, understanding local nuances rather than applying a regional one-size-fits-all approach improves the effectiveness of mitigation strategies. (Read more here).

 

International Floods

There were 31 international floods reported across 23 countries in February 2021. At least 115 people died, 150 are missing and more than 100,000 were displaced.

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Internationally significant floods included:

Indonesia

As of 22 February 2021, the Indonesian capital of Jakarta was inundated by up to 2.5 metres of water as heavy rain caused river embankments to break. Flooding has caused at least five deaths and the displacement of 30,000 people, with residents being evacuated to the outskirts of the capital. Earlier in February, four people died and over 60,000 people were displaced when heavy rain caused flooding and landslides on the Indonesian island of Java. (Read more here, here and here)

India

A Himalayan glacier has broken in Uttarakhand, India on 7 February, sending glacial ice down valley, and triggering a landslide and subsequent flooding. The torrent of water and rock swept through a dam construction site and a hydropower project. At least twenty people have been found dead so far, and another 150 are feared dead. (Read more here, here, here, and here)

South Africa

Heavy rainfall during late January and early February has resulted in flooding that has caused at least 30 fatalities. Ten fatalities were reported on 13 February in Limpopo province due to drowning in flooded rivers. (Read more here)

Philippines

At least one person has died, and 10,000 people have been displaced after flooding following heavy rainfall in Eastern Visayas in the Philippines from 8 February. On 21 February, more than 18,000 people were additionally pre-emptively evacuated from the south of the country as tropical storm Dujuan brought heavy rains and inundated many villages. (Read more here and here)

Paraguay

Heavy rainfall in Paraguay has resulted in the deaths of ten people in floods and landslides in early February. The Paraguay River Asuncion rose by 1.98 metres within a week, prompting the evacuation of residents living along the river. (Read more here)

Morocco

Flash flooding in Tangier has killed at least 28 workers in an illegal textile factory, where at least 40 workers were trapped. Local media has speculated that the victims died from electrocution after power cables in the factory were submerged. Ten survivors were rescued.  (Read more here and here)

Diary

Ten years post the QLD-Wide Flooding of 2011: Who has done what, and why?
Where: Queensland University of Technology
When: 4 March 2021
For more information visit here

Flood and Coast 2020 Conference and Exhibition
Where: Online and Telford International Centre, UK
When: Multiple online and in person between December 2020 to June 2021
For more information visit here

Call for Papers: Climate Change and Flood Risk Management
Where: Here
When: 20 April 2021

International Conference on Urban Flood Control and River Flood Management
Where: Singapore
When: 03 to 04 May 2021
For more information visit here

Association of State Floodplain Managers 45th Annual National Conference
Where: Raleigh Convention Center, North Carolina
When: 9 to 12 May 2021
For more information visit here

Floodplain Management Australia National Conference 2021
Where: Virtual conference
When: 25 to 28 May 2021
For more information visit here

FLOODrisk 2020 European Conference on Flood Risk Management
Where: Budapest, Hungary
When: 21 to 25 June 2021
For more information visit here

46th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop
Where: Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder
When: 11- 14 July 2021
For more information visit here

Eighth International Conference on Flood Management
Where: The University of Iowa, USA
When: 9 to 11 August 2021
For more information visit here

Australian Disaster Resilience Conference 2021
Where: International Convention Centre, Sydney, NSW
When: 18 to 19 August 2021
For more information visit here

Flood Expo
Where: Birmingham, UK
When: 22 to 23 September 2021
For more information visit here

 

Resources

Total Flood Warning System Review by Neil Dufty

Molino Stewart’s Neil Dufty has published a review of Australian Total Flood Warning Systems (TFWS) in the January 2021 edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management. His review concludes that Australia’s TFWS compares favourably to its international counterparts, particular with its added “Review” component, which is highlighted as critical to the process. Suggestions are given for extensions to the current framework to include components such as emergency management and planning, and proactive community flood education.

Testing Flood Warning Systems Without a Flood

This paper in the January 2021 edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management introduces the agent-based simulation software HEC-LifeSim by testing how it can inform targeted and timely flood warning. It tracks the movement of individuals on the road network, providing useful insight into the mechanisms of evacuation, and can be used to estimate the benefits of improving specific elements of flood warning systems.

Australian Journal of Emergency Management January 2021

The entire January 2021 edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management focused on the topic of warnings is available here.

Natural Flood Management Measures: A Practical Guide for Farmers

This guide produced by the Cumbria Strategic Flood Partnership and Catchment Based Approach Partnerships provides clear information pertaining to natural flood management for farmers and landowners in the North West of the United Kingdom.

Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience Handbook Updates

The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience has progressed to the second draft of writing the Disaster Resilience Education for Young People Handbook, by lead writer Neil Dufty of Molino Stewart. Updates and further information about the handbook collection is available here and here.

Social Approaches to Building Flood Resilience

The Risky Cities project is using innovative approaches centred in the arts and humanities to build climate awareness and boost flood resilience through learning and communication.

Status of Disaster Risk Reduction in Australia in 2020

This status report provides a snapshot of disaster risk reduction in Australia under the four priorities of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, highlighting the progress and challenges, and making recommendations to local and national institutions.

Report on Flood Risk Communication in Australia

The final project report on flood risk communication by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre focuses on understanding behaviour in and around floodwater, collating flood risk communications, and co-developing flooding Community Service Announcements for national use. Key aspects involve consultation and collaboration with stakeholders and end-users.

Online Tools for Flood Risk Engagement

“Landscapes to Lifescapes” is an online public exhibition on flood risk that provides ways to engage with different audiences on flood risk awareness created by researchers at Lancaster University, the University of Hull, and the Environment Agency in the United Kingdom.

House of Commons 2019 - 2020 Flooding Report

This inquiry investigated aspects of the Government policy on flood risk management and the response to increasingly frequent severe flood events in the United Kingdom, such as occurred over the autumn and winter of both 2019–20 and 2020–21.

Live Stream Gauge Online Mapping

The ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World has introduced a new version of Live Stream Gauges which includes important upgrades and enhancements to the layer that provides access to near real-time stream gauge readings from a variety of agencies and organizations.

Building Flood Resilience in El Salvador

This video showcases the flood risk awareness work and resilience framework Plan International is applying in El Salvador as a part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance.

The Geneva Association Climate Change Risk Assessment for the Insurance Industry Report

The Geneva Association report by the Task Force on Climate Change Risk provides a decision-making framework for assessing climate risks and scenarios for home and life insurers, considering all physical and transition climate change risks for the sector.