Quenching wildfire risk: Swiss Re/Johns Hopkins report examines new resilience measures

While wildfire is a natural and important occurrence in the western United States, climate change has resulted in extended wildfire seasons, which are only expected to increase in severity and volatility. As California endures one of the worst fire seasons in the state's history, and the U.S. Forest Service is on track to spend over 50% of its budget putting out fires, it is clear that policymakers must consider new and innovative solutions to manage wildfire costs.

The study, “Fueling Resilience: Climate and Wildfire Risk in the United States,” released today by Swiss Re in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, examines public financing for wildfires and the role that risk-transfer tools can play in enhancing the resilience of state budgets. This study suggests that by pursuing a holistic approach to risk management, governments can reduce volatility in annual budgets and better allocate funding for long-term mitigation, land use planning, and community preparedness.

"Currently, most US states lack a sustainable financial strategy to respond to the changing climate landscape. Although individual decision-makers largely agree that the “rear-view mentality” regarding wildfire costs is no longer acceptable, the urgency of covering immediate fire suppression needs limit the resources and capacity available for long-term planning", explains Alex Kaplan, Senior Client Manager, Swiss Re Global Partnerships. "Although financing natural disasters through private insurance markets remains a frontier arena, the western states of the US have demonstrated leadership in proactively addressing climate change and now have the opportunity to redefine wildfire resiliency!"

"We're very proud to have worked on this second study with students from John's Hopkins University Advanced International Studies. The study supports Swiss Re's broader strategy to assist countries and cities in building conscious resilience strategies in the face of growing climate impacts," Kaplan concluded.