CrowdDoing is a non-profit, social enterprise organization with the goal of achieving systemic change through the power of multi-disciplinary collaboration. CrowdDoing’s projects cover a wide range of impact areas in need of social innovation. Our SUMANI team worked on CrowdDoing’s Wildfire Prevention Derivative project which focuses on creating a product for insurers or other large corporations to invest in as a risk reduction guarantee for wildfires. Our team was tasked to create a Cost of Inaction Assessment and a Preventive Solutions Assessment aimed to further the development of this guarantee product.
Cost of Inaction Assessment – Our task was to quantify the costs of wildfires in regard to public health and infrastructure and restoration. We analyzed data from the total economic impact of California wildfires in 2018, and we used the 2018 Camp Fire as a case study for potential impact reduction cost savings. These costs were expressed categorically as deaths from air pollution, deaths from fires, smoke-related hospitalizations, medical expenses, PTSD, work time disrupted, insurance loss estimates, debris removal, etc.
Preventive Solutions Assessment – Our team investigated prescribed grazing as a potential preventive solution. Prescribed grazing utilizes livestock (e.g., goats, sheep, etc.) to consume excess plant material linked to increased risk of wildfire ignition and spread rate. This strategy aims to decrease the fuel load (i.e., flammable vegetation available) to reduce the risk and overall impact of wildfires for the given area.
One of the main challenges for this project was the availability of specific cost data and empirical data for prescribed grazing. For our Cost of Inaction Assessment, we found that much of the data was only available at large-scale levels, such as the public health costs of all the wildfires in California in 2018. This made further analysis for potential cost savings difficult without extrapolation. For our Preventive Solutions Assessment, a major obstacle was finding applicable data to relate grazing practices and vegetation reduction to wildfire risk reduction or impact reduction. Empirical evidence of this connection is limited, and establishing decision model parameters was also difficult without numerous detailed case studies.
Our final deliverables included two decision models, or analysis spreadsheets, consisting of the data we collected and our quantitative analysis. Our prescribed grazing decision model created a framework for assessing grazing impact, vegetative composition, and optimal terrain for a potential grazing project. We also provided a cost assessment based on our research and conversations with experienced herders. Other deliverables included a paper review database and a collection of datasets related to the parameters of our decision models that can be used to more accurately estimate impact based on the location of the proposed grazing project. Finally, we produced a report that (1) highlights key findings of our research and expert interviews, (2) provides insight into how to utilize our other deliverables for Prevention Derivatives project, and (3) summarizes our assessment of potential obstacles and opportunities moving forward.
Our findings indicate that this project has tremendous potential given the potential impact of future megafire events and comparative cost for prevention. However, we noted a lack of widespread data that will be essential for the prevention derivative development. We are optimistic that more relevant cost data will become publicly available given the recent wildfires in California and increased wildfire risk under expert climate projections. We are also optimistic about prescribed grazing as a more ‘natural’ and cost-effective solution for wildfire prevention, and recommend it be seriously considered as a viable option among other prevention strategies.