Climate change research centre established at University of Waterloo

Property insurer Intact Financial Corp. is spending $4.25 million to help launch a new research centre at the University of Waterloo aimed at reducing the growing amount of property damage caused by severe weather.

Property damage caused by severe weather is leading cause of property insurance claims

The High River area of Hampton Hills is shown during the 2013 floods in Alberta. The cost of that flood helped focus attention on the problems associated with extreme weather. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Property insurer Intact Financial Corp. is spending $4.25 million to help launch a new research centre at the University of Waterloo aimed at reducing the growing amount of property damage caused by severe weather. 

The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation (ICCA), which will be based at the university's faculty of the environment, will carry out its own research, monitor other applied research and study ways of protecting Canadian homeowners, businesses and communities from the costly ravages of extreme weather.

"Addressing the effects of climate change and extreme weather is a pressing challenge for everyone. This unique national partnership applies Waterloo's research excellence in a way that serves communities across the country," said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president of the University of Waterloo, in a statement.

Among the ICCA's first initiatives will be green infrastructure program that will try to protect Canadian communities from severe precipitation. Another program will focus on the particular vulnerabilities to extreme weather faced by various industries.  

The ICCA is also launching what it's calling a national home adaptation audit program that's designed to assess how vulnerable homes are to flood damage.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says property damage caused by severe weather is the leading cause of property insurance claims, exceeding payouts from fire damage in many parts of the country.

Payouts from extreme weather are doubling every five to 10 years, the IBC says, with the industry paying out a record $3.4 billion in 2013 because of severe flooding in Alberta and Toronto.

Following those big losses that year, many insurers announced they were raising premiums by as much as 20 per cent to deal with the added costs of weather-related property damage. 

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