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A race against time to save a reef from climate change

As soon as the port reopened, they rushed to the areas of the reef where they had spent the most time on repairs. The parts were so damaged that Dr. García Rivas had difficulty recognizing where she was.

“I felt helpless,” she said, “confused by so many disasters. But closer inspection showed that while the outskirts of the reef were messy, some of their work in the center had withstood the second hurricane. “When I saw the fragments that we had glued still in place, I had a sense of hope,” she says.

They got back to work.

In 2015, Kathy Baughman McLeod, then Director of Climate Risk and Resilience at Nature Conservancy, asked a deep question: Could you design an insurance policy for a coral reef?

At first glance, the idea might have seemed absurd. For starters, no one owns a reef, so who would even buy the policy? And it is not easy to assess the damage to something that is underwater.

But Ms Baughman McLeod, along with Alex Kaplan, then a senior executive at Swiss Re, a leading insurance company, found workarounds. First, the policy could be bought by those who profit from the reef – in this case, the state of Quintana Roo, which is also home to Cancun and Tulum and has an estimated tourism economy of over $ 9 billion.

“Without this reef there is no beach,” Kaplan said. “Without this beach, there are no tourists.”

Second, rather than basing payment on damage to the reefs, it could be triggered by something much easier to measure: the wind speed of the storm. The stronger the wind, the more severe the alleged damage to the reef.

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