2005 sets record for weather-related disasters, UN climate conference told

7 December 2005 – This year witnessed the largest financial losses ever as a result of weather-related natural disasters linked by many to human action, more than $200 billion compared to $145 billion in 2004, the previous record, according to statistics presented to the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently meeting in Montreal, Canada.

“It is vital that, before this meeting ends, Governments send a clear signal to business, industry and the people of the world that they are determined to continue the battle to curb global warming,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Klaus Toepfer told the conference yesterday.

“The best form of adaptation is to reduce the world’s emissions by embracing a revolution in the way we use rather than abuse energy and by dramatically boosting energy efficiency and using technologies and techniques already available or at our finger tips,” he said of the statistics drawn up the Munich Re Foundation, part of one of the world’s leading re-insurance companies.

This year’s figures, partly as a result of the highest number of hurricanes or tropical storms ever seen since records began in 1850, are part of a climbing trend being linked by many in the industry with climate change as a result of human-made emissions.

Insurance industry experts point to growing scientific evidence, including studies in the journal Nature, which indicate that major tropical storms in the Atlantic and Pacific have increased in duration and intensity by about 50 per cent since the 1970s.

The year was also marked by the highest ever rainfall recorded in India (in Mumbai), the first ever hurricane to emerge that approached Europe, and the appearance of the strongest hurricane on record.

“There is a powerful indication from these figures that we are moving from predictions of the likely impacts of climate change to proof that it is already fully underway,” Munich Re Foundation chief executive Thomas Loster, said.

“Above all, these are humanitarian tragedies and show us that, as a result of our impacts on the climate, we are making people and communities everywhere more vulnerable to weather-related natural disasters,” he added, noting that economic losses due to atmospheric-linked disasters showed a far stronger trend than those due to earthquakes for the years 1950 to 2004.

“We do not want to underestimate the human tragedy of earthquakes like the recent one in Pakistan which can kill tens of thousands of people a year,” he said. “But our findings indicate that it is the toll of weather-related disasters that are the ones on the rise.”

According to preliminary estimates presented by Munich Re, $70 billion of this year’s losses were insured compared to $45 billion last year.

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