Johns Hopkins SAIS graduates collaborate with Swiss Re to address critical international environmental policy challenges

The electric grid is one of the most critical infrastructure systems for modern life, but it is also one of the most vulnerable. The U.S. insurance industry has identified a $20–55 billion annual financial loss from power outages caused by flooding, hurricanes, and extreme temperatures.
Recent graduates of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and global reinsurance company Swiss Re have released a study that examines how extreme weather and other natural disasters are evolving in the Pacific Northwest, and the implications for electric infrastructure and potential economic disruption.
“Lights Out: The Risks of Climate and Natural Disaster Related Disruption to the Electric Grid,” finds that climate change, expanding populations, and insufficiently diversified energy sources make the future of energy more unpredictable.
The group focused on the Pacific Northwest as an illustrative case study in climate and natural disaster related electric grid disruption. The region is prone – not only to high-frequency, low-intensity natural disasters such as droughts and flooding – but is also at risk of catastrophes like the Cascadian Subduction Zone (CSZ) event, an earthquake-tsunami combination that is expected to devastate the coastline from northern California to southern British Columbia. As climate change alters the seasonality of water runoffs in the Pacific Northwest, electricity generation, as well as the operation and maintenance of hydroelectric dams, face additional challenges.
The release of the study comes as chief resilience officers attend the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities’ Urban Resilience Summit to address key urban challenges and opportunities to build community resilience.
“The cost of disasters has increased fourfold over the last 30 years. The total loss of $55 billion a year from unplanned electric outages in the U.S. is more than the U.S. government spends on all federal highways,” said Alex Kaplan, Senior Vice President of Global Partnership at Swiss Re. “We have to think not only about the physical destruction of these assets and the cost to replace them, but also the impact of the extreme weather and how it destroys economic productivity over the longer period of time.”
The report is a part of a practicum project in the Energy, Resources and Environment Program at Johns Hopkins SAIS, which gives students the opportunity to collaborate with partners from private, public, and multilateral institutions to address global energy and environmental challenges. The team of student researchers is comprised of Annabella Korbatov, Julia Price-Madison, Yihui Wang, and Yi Xu, who were assisted by Celeste Connors, a former White House official on climate change and Johns Hopkins SAIS faculty advisor.
“Natural disasters and climate-related, severe weather events pose real risks to vulnerable communities and are currently costing billions in damages globally,” Connors said. “Local governments are taking the lead in reducing this risk by investing forward in resilient infrastructure systems. New and innovative financing mechanisms and partnerships can play a key role in helping governments manage their risk.”
The full report is available for download: “Lights Out: The Risks of Climate and Natural Disaster Related Disruption to the Electric Grid
The latest report is the fourth collaboration between Swiss Re and Johns Hopkins SAIS focusing on catastrophic risks and policy strategies. The previous reports are:
Pandemics in a Changing Climate-Evolving Risk and the Global Response
Fueling Resilience: Climate and Wildfire Risk in the United States
Own Your Risk: Reframing Risk and Resilience in the Columbia River Basin
Media Contacts
Celeste Connors
Associate Practitioner in Residence
Energy, Resources and Environment Program
202.330.3809 mobile
Danielle Craig
Communications Manager
Swiss Re
914.828.8692 office
Stacy A. Anderson
Communications Manager
Johns Hopkins SAIS
202.663.5620 office
202.853.7983 mobile
About Johns Hopkins SAIS
A division of Johns Hopkins University, the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) is a global institution that offers students an international perspective on today's critical issues. For nearly 75 years, Johns Hopkins SAIS has produced great leaders, thinkers, and practitioners of international relations. Public leaders and private sector executives alike seek the counsel of the faculty, whose ideas and research inform and shape policy. Johns Hopkins SAIS offers a global perspective across three campus locations: Bologna, Italy; Nanjing, China; and Washington, D.C. The school’s interdisciplinary curriculum is strongly rooted in the study of international economics, international relations, and regional studies, preparing students to address multifaceted challenges in the world today.
For more information, visit the Energy, Resources and Environment Program or @ERESAIS.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017