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Minerva Intelligence develops Canada-wide wildfire risk map

Company says climate85 platform is first to offer nation-wide predictions

Minerva Intelligence's findings about wildfire risk in Canada. (Courtesy Minerva Intelligence)

Minerva Intelligence, a Vancouver-based software and data analytics company, has released a nation-wide risk map that predicts the chances of a wildfire and helps industries such as insurance to prepare for a warming climate.

The company was founded in 2017 to employ artificial intelligence to solve complex data problems in geology and mining. It transformed into a software and data analytics firm that has extended its reach into climate science and risk assessments, Minerva COO Sharon Lam said, including a product called climate85.

Its team of scientists apply the latest in climate science and AI so the answers can be more digestible and help "extract valuable insights from datasets that (are) in a wide range of industries from insurance, ESG disclosures in the financial sector, and also government, to inform policy,” Lam told SustainableBiz.

Due to global warming, extreme weather events like the Fort McMurray fire are expected to increase in frequency and intensity, impacting many Canadians and industries. The Insurance Institute of Canada published a report in 2020 that forecasts a doubling of average annual severe weather claims paid by insurers in Canada over the next 10 years, increasing from $2.1 billion a year to $5 billion.

“With this dataset, if there is a property in a portfolio, you can look at the likelihood of being impacted by a wildfire today and next year and five years and 10 years. And you can take proactive action to mitigate your wildfire risk,” Gioachino Roberti, Minerva's head of product, said.

How climate85 works

The cloud-based climate85 platform provides forward-looking physical risk exposure ratings for properties today and up to the year 2100, under multiple Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate change scenarios. The data covers major climate
risk factors like weather patterns, extreme heat, wind patterns, precipitation and wildfires.

The wildfire predictions are centered around annual and 30-year probabilities of wildfire ignitions, and their spread in Canada. The predictions are based on over 400 million simulations, and the output is used to produce an assessment of risk exposure to properties and other assets.

Its analysis found roughly 300,000 buildings in Canada are exposed to a high wildfire risk, and over one million properties are at some risk of being impacted by wildfires during the typical mortgage term.

A unique feature of climate85 is how it provides national-level assessments. There is no other nation-wide, forward-looking dataset that predicts the long term probability of wildfires, Roberti said.

climate85 find its roots in Minerva’s consulting projects for the Canadian government in inventorying and integrating provincial-level datasets. The experience showed that hazard datasets are traditionally produced at a regional level, so two provinces would publicize datasets with different standards, making it difficult to compare assets’ risk across provincial boundaries, hence Minerva started to develop national-scale datasets for national-scale assessments.

Lam said climate85 provides an address lookup allowing everybody to get information about their property climate risk exposure. Alternatively, more technically minded clients can access the information through climate85’s application programming interface (API) – offered via software-as-a-service – to explore the data on their own.

“If a business has a real estate portfolio across Canada, they can now look at one place and at the risk affecting the properties from British Columbia to Quebec,” Roberti said. He also emphasized how climate85 uses peer-reviewed methodologies, including peer-reviewed software developed by scientists in the Canadian government and from academia.

Helping industries adapt to future climates

By harnessing climate85, Minerva says industries impacted by wildfires and other climate risks can mitigate their risk.

Roberti said property managers can reduce risk by buying wildfire insurance or adding fire-rated roof tiles. The engineering field can manage infrastructure design by fine-tuning building materials for projected heat stress.

Farmers can see how wildfires, drought and precipitation will affect crops. The forestry and carbon credit industries can see what kind of trees would fare best in the future under different climate change scenarios to optimize their business.

Lam said Minerva has found the greatest success in financial disclosures of climate risk. Minerva is currently engaged in the space, she said, and there is interest due to upcoming mandatory regulatory requirements that would affect a company’s ability to get investments.

With upcoming regulations like the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, Lam said climate85 can help manage the complex science behind climate risk. She hopes the software will set a consistent standard for risk disclosure in Canada and the world.

Lam did not disclose specific Minerva clients, but said the company has stirred interest from the insurance, real estate and finance sectors.

Its European market has a focus on forestry. Roberti said Minerva is in talks with European partners where the regulations require more transparency on physical climate risk compared to North America.

What Minerva is working on

As it continues to work on climate85, Minerva is exploring capabilities beyond wildfire risk. Roberti said the company is targeting all the major physical climate risks usually included in a financial disclosure. The Minerva team is working on making more nation-wide datasets available, including for floods, landslides and volcanoes.

Minerva is actively seeking partnerships with new industries, Roberti said, and hopes to expand its coverage globally.

Lam said Minerva’s focus will be on improving the quality of climate85’s data and enhancing its user interface with interactive elements so the offering can grow beyond its consulting service and the API.

Editor's note: There were errors and mix-ups in SustainableBiz's description of how climate85 works and Minerva's consulting jobs. SustainableBiz regrets the errors.

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