Bioethics Blogs

Insuring for Climate Change

Vanessa Lam considers how the federal government might respond to climate change.


The devastating floods of 2016 in Sydney and of 2013 in Calgary and in the Greater Toronto Area highlight the risks of climate change in Canada. Since climate change is expected to result in more frequent floods of greater severity, the federal government has an interest in finding sustainable options for overland flood disaster recovery.

At present, the Government of Canada spends increasing amounts of taxpayers’ money on flood recovery efforts through Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. This financial assistance is an important resource for provinces recovering from natural disasters. However, this spending is becoming problematic. Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer has reported that flood recovery represented 75% of Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements spending and cited a lack of overland flood insurance for property owners among the causes of this expense. Since property owners do not have overland flood insurance, Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements cover expenses that might otherwise be covered by insurance, including the repair and restoration of primary residences and small businesses.

Overland flood insurance was not available in Canada until 2015, when a single insurance company offered coverage for freshwater, but not saltwater, overflows. Insurance companies are hesitant to offer overland flood insurance because overland flooding traditionally affects a fraction of the Canadian population. Since the demand for overland flood insurance is low and purchasers presumably live in areas more prone to flooding, insurance premiums would be unaffordable as the risk is not spread across a large enough population of persons paying insurance premiums.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.