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Seminar on the Impact of Insurance in Stockholm

by Birgit Müller

Insurance Seminar

Insurance has been promoted by policy makers at the global level as an appropriate instrument to cope with increasing climate risk under global change. However, are there unwanted by-effects? In a recent letter published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, David and I pointed out that insurance schemes may give rise to unintended social-ecological consequences because they may lead to a change of land use strategies. Our perspective, rather absent from the current literature on the impacts of insurance, resulted in an invitation to Stockholm. I presented our insights in a keynote for a seminar on “Insurance, Finance, and the Biosphere” at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on the 6th of April, 2016.

In this seminar, I had the chance to discuss with scientists from the Academy’s “Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere” programme, as well as speakers from insurance companies and financial service providers, on the potentials and risks of insurance. My input was based on a review we have compiled in collaboration with Leigh Johnson, a social geographer from the University of Oregon. The lively discussions were very inspiring for me. To name just one key message and one open question I took home from the seminar: not insurance per se is the problem, but the underlying paradigm of development (whether growth or sustainability). Furthermore, the scientific community working on this topic should aim to understand: “How to incentivize people (farmers) to behave in a risk-reducing / sustainable manner?” Then insurance could be designed in such a way that it would not cause adverse effects.

After the seminar, I stayed an extra day to meet colleagues and friends from the SES-Link project – exploring interactions in social-ecological systems – and to present the work of our POLISES group at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Furthermore, I really enjoyed being hosted so kindly on a beautiful little island at the outskirts of Stockholm. Thanks a lot, Romina!

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