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Insuring Canadian Coastal Communities in the Era of Wild Weather

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    Dr. Jason Thistlethwaite University of Waterloo

Assessing the socio-economic impact of existing and future coastal risk on insurability for coastal communities.

The goal of this study is to assess the socio-economic impact of existing and future coastal risk on insurability for coastal communities. The availability and affordability of insurance in coastal communities cannot be taken for granted, as the costs of extreme weather and climate change force insurers to reduce their exposure to certain markets. Underinsurance can lead to significant economic and social hardship, as coverage is required to quality for a mortgage and local taxpayers must bear the costs of extreme weather and natural disasters.

This study conducted the first of its kind case study on insurability in the coastal communities of the District of Shelburne, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI).

Notable achievements include:

  • Initial results from the insurability analysis were presented to researchers studying coastal resiliency at the 10th Annual North Atlantic Forum, which focused on Canadian Rural Revitalization.
  • Presentations on the findings of the insurability analysis were given to policymakers, including a lecture to federal members of parliament, senators and scientists and the Ontario Ministry of Environment. 
  • Results were presented to Aon Benfield, and the Guy Carpenter flood insurance research teams in addition to a lecture at the Ontario Conference of Casualty Actuaries annual conference.
  • Project results have also received important media attention via a Toronto Star article exploring the implications of insurability in PEI, in addition to coverage in insurance industry trade journals.
  • In April 2016, the results from the insurability analysis were presented at the Adaptation Canada Conference in Canada.
  • In conjunction with the Partners for Action Network at the University of Waterloo an audience with Public Safety Canada was requested to include information on the project's insurability findings into decision-making on flood risk management. These findings were presented at the World Council on City Data in April 2016 in Toronto.
  • To improve assessments of insurability, an innovative partnership has been established with Guy Carpenter to use their flood model to assess how insurability could change under different climate change scenarios.
  • This project involves a knowledge exchange from the Canadian Water Network, which developed the IDF curves used in this project.
  • Consultation is underway with JBA Consulting in the UK to develop a national approach to modelling the insurability of Canada in the era of climate change.
  • A Community of Practice has been established on Coastal Hazard Risk Governance that integrates this research with work ongoing on both coastlines.  


  • Partnership for Canada-Caribbean Climate Change Adaptation (ParCA)
  • C-Change: Managing Adaptation to Environmental Change in Coastal Communities: Canada and the Caribbean
  • Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction


  • Daniel Scott


  • Andrea Minano University of Waterloo Ontario


  • Paterson,Barbara ,. 2013, A short history of the Namibian Hake fishery - A social-ecological analysis, Ecology and Society, 18(4): 66,
  • Thistlethwaite,Jason,. 2015, Canada’s Coming Property Insurance Crisis, CIGI Policy Brief No. 57,
  • Paterson,Barbara ,. 2014, Rebuilding the Namibian hake fishery: a case for collaboration between scientists and fishermen. , Ecology and Society,
  • Paterson,Barbara ,Scott,Daniel,Sowman M, Green L, Hara MM, Hauck M, Kirsten K, Raemaekers S, Jones K, Sunde J, Turpie JK. . 2013, Shallow waters: social science research in South Africa’s marine environment, African Journal of Marine Science, 35(3): 385-402,
  • Thistlethwaite,Jason,Minano, A.. 0, Sustainable property insurance in Canadian coastal communities in the era of climate change, , No 93,No 93,
  • Thistlethwaite,Jason,. 2016, The emergence of flood insurance in Canada: Navigating competing institutional uncertainty, Risk Analysis,

Information on insurability in coastal communities will contribute to improving Canada’s ability to manage and respond to risk in coastal environments. Local communities will be able to identify areas where insurance is at risk to justify investments in structural defenses, climate change adaptation and land-use change. 

Insurers will be able to engage with local communities and pursue strategies necessary for sustaining and expanding coverage to help recovery from disasters. In addition, the study’s findings will support a research tool that can be used to assess insurability risk in coastal communities across Canada.