Global Natural Catastrophes: Rising Tally

Floods in Central Europe, wildfires in Russia and flooding in Pakistan contributed to the second highest number of natural catastrophe events on record for the first nine months of the year since 1980, according to latest data from Munich Re.

A total of 725 weather-related events resulted in insured losses of $18 billion and overall losses of more than $65 billion in the period from January to September 2010, Munich Re said.

Some 21,000 people lost their lives, 1,760 in Pakistan alone, where up to one-fifth of the country was flooded for several weeks.

Munich Re makes the point that in the course of the last three decades there has been a marked increase in the number of weather-related events.

For example, its global database reveals there has been a more than threefold increase in loss-related floods since 1980 and more than double the number of windstorm natural catastrophes, with particularly heavy losses as a result of Atlantic hurricanes.

Note: despite producing 13 named storms, the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season has been relatively benign to date, thanks to the favorable courses pursued by the hurricanes.

In a press release, Munich Re says the rise in natural catastrophe losses is primarily due to socio-economic factors, but it also emphasizes to the probability of a link between weather extremes and climate change.

In many countries, populations are rising, and more and more people moving into exposed areas. At the same time, greater prosperity is leading to higher property values. Nevertheless, it would seem that the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.†

Still, an article in National Underwriter cites a recent report from the Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije University in the Netherlands indicating that increases in economic and insured losses in recent decades can be tied to increasing exposures and value of capital at risk, rather than climate change.

For related information, check out I.I.I. facts and stats on global catastrophes  and an I.I.I. update on climate change and insurance issues.

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