Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Downed power lines and poles after Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on November 7, 2017. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

Of the $337 billion in insured losses from disaster events in 2017, $330 billion was caused by natural catastrophes, marking a nearly 90% increase from the previous 10-year average. If 2017 was an annus horribilis for the world and the risk-finance industry, which covered $144 billion of these losses, 2018 is on track to be even worse, since this is the year insurers will directly incur these costs on their balance sheets.

The big picture: Research shows that the world’s cities can expect on average $320 billion in lost economic productivity each year because of climate-related risks — climate change, floods, droughts, wild fires and heat-island effect, among others. Meanwhile, because more than 60% of these direct and indirect costs are not typically covered by insurance, insurers and public finance are in retreat as suppliers of last resort. For example, 60% of FEMA claims in Puerto Rico have been denied. Even against predictable threats like floods, earthquakes and wildfires, the protection gap is massive.

In the U.S., from 1950 to 2000, FEMA recorded an average of 39 natural disasters per year. In the 18 years since, the annual average has climbed by 318% to 124, making a calamitous year like 2017 the new normal. These events, even as single catastrophes, can now be directly correlated to climate change.

The effects are damning to the actuarial models insurers rely on to price risk. Houston, for example, had the biggest rainstorm ever recorded in the U.S. when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, and that flooding followed other historic floods there in prior years. Ellicott City, Maryland, no stranger to catastrophic flooding, has had two consecutive 1,000-year floods in as many years. If last year’s fires in California were the deadliest, this year they are the largest in state history. When actuarial math is broken in this manner, people are left high and dry and high finance struggles to overcome its expense ratios, ranging between 30% and 50% for every dollar of risk premium.

What's next: Closing the protection gap is an urgent global priority requiring as much public policy work as innovation in human adaptation and financial resilience. Research shows that a 1% increase in insurance adoption yields a 22% decrease in the share of risk borne by taxpayers, which will help stricken communities get back on their feet faster.

Dante Disparte is the founder and CEO of Risk Cooperative.

Go deeper

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.

By the numbers: States weighing voting changes

Data: Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law; Cartogram: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Georgia is not alone in passing a law adding voting restrictions, but other states are seeing a surge in provisions and proposals that would expand access to the polls, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Driving the news: Just Wednesday, the New York State Assembly passed a bill to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have been released from prison.