Insurance Giant Study Warns “Extreme Events a Game Changer”

October 25, 2012

We’re watching the progress of Hurricane Sandy as it heads on a course that may bring it ashore on the US east coast.

Mandatory disclaimer: No particular weather event can be ascribed to climate change – however, as one very well informed advisor messaged me yesterday , the set-up for this storm track is “.. certainly what I’d expect to see occurring more frequently in association with the huge ice loss this summer.”

Big re-insurer Munich Re (Re-insurers are companies that insurance companies go to for insurance) has been publishing their concerns about climate change hazards since 1973, and climate expert Peter Hoppe figured prominently in Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives, one of my most popular recent videos.

From a powerpoint by Munich Re’s Peter Hoeppe. Munich Re publication from 1973 warning of impacts of extreme events due to climate change.

The video above describes the concerns that Munich Re has, and the company has now released a study that quantifies some of these risks. According to the vid,”between 1980 and 2011 the number of weather related loss events increased almost 5 fold” in North America.

According to Munich Re hazards expert Peter Hoeppe, “..the higher the sea surface temperature.. the higher the risk for high intensity hurricanes is..”, and we have seen those SSTs increase around the globe, due to human caused climate change.

According to the Munich Re press release on the most recent report:

A new study by Munich Re shows that North America has been most affected by weather-related extreme events in recent decades. The publication “Severe weather in North America” analyzes all kinds of weather perils and their trends. It reports and shows that the continent has experienced the largest increases in weather-related loss events.

For the period concerned – 1980 to 2011 – the overall loss burden from weather catastrophes was US$ 1,060bn (in 2011 values).The insured losses amounted to US$ 510bn, and some 30,000 people lost their lives due to weather catastrophes in North America during this time frame. With US$ 62.2bn insured losses and overall losses of US$ 125bn (in original values) Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the costliest event ever recorded in the US. Katrina was also the deadliest single storm event, claiming 1,322 lives.

The study was prepared in order to support underwriters and clients in North America, the world’s largest insurance and reinsurance market. Using its NatCatSERVICE – with more than 30,000 records the most comprehensive loss data base for natural catastrophes – Munich Re analyzes the frequency and loss trends of different perils from an insurance perspective. The North American continent is exposed to every type of hazardous weather peril – tropical cyclone, thunderstorm, winter storm, tornado, wildfire, drought and flood. One reason for this is that there is no mountain range running east to west that separates hot from cold air.

Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways. Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity. The view that weather extremes are becoming more frequent and intense in various regions due to global warming is in keeping with current scientific findings, as set out in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as in the special report on weather extremes and disasters (SREX). Up to now, however, the increasing losses caused by weather related natural catastrophes have been primarily driven by socio-economic factors, such as population growth, urban sprawl and increasing wealth.

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22 Responses to “Insurance Giant Study Warns “Extreme Events a Game Changer””

    • Martin Lack Says:

      The only possible justification for believing a multi-decadal trend like this could suddenly stop (or go into reverse) is the faith-based assertion that anthropogenic CO2 is not the main cause.

      However, whereas volcanoes, ocean currents, and solar activity can explain short-term pauses in land surface warming, only the steady build-up of anthropgenic CO2 can explain the long-term warming of the entire planet (including melting ice and thawing permafrost).

      The increased frequency of extreme weather of all kinds could have been predicted by any undergraduate physicist. There is therefore no reason why anyone should be surprised; but there are plenty of reasons why many don’t want to face up to admit it.

  1. jbowers2 Says:

    More intense tropical storms, just as IPCC AR4 said.

    Climate indicators at NOAA, and all just as scientists said would most likely happen.

  2. prokaryotes Says:

    Scientists Denounce Dubious Climate Study by Insurer

    By Axel Bojanowski

    Whether it’s hurricanes, thunderstorms or tornadoes, extreme weather is big business for insurers. Now German re-insurer Munich Re claims to have found proof that man-made climate change is causing more weather catastrophes in North America. Scientists are outraged. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/scientists-denounce-dubious-climate-study-by-insurer-munich-re-a-862857.html

    Apparently the Scientist here is Roger “Straw men” Pielke Jr., someone with a doctorate in political science.

    So who controls the dubious claims from the media? Why is it that we are in collective denial about climate change? It is because we read conflicting messaging on the topic.


  3. As usual, Roger Jr. is late out of the gate… Munich Re has publicly held this stance in a very open way for the last decade.

    The “outrage” if any, is purely the product of various propaganda machines colliding with each other :)

  4. guylacrosse Says:

    We live in age where information is easily accessible. The problem is that there no vetting process for releasing new information. Anyone can write anything they want without backing it up factually and lot of people will buy into it.

  5. kokuaguy Says:

    Don’t forget to do a story on Michael Mann’s lawsuit. http://www.newser.com/story/156364/climatologist-sues-critics-for-defamation.html


  6. [...] We’re watching the progress of Hurricane Sandy as it heads on a course that may bring it ashore on the US east coast. Mandatory disclaimer: No particular weather event can be ascribed to clim…  [...]

  7. rayduray Says:

    NASA’s Earth Observatory today is discussing the remarkable transformation of the glaciers that fed the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica. As you’d expect in our warming world, the glaciers are losing a significant amount of mass:

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=79493


  8. [...] Insurance Giant Study Warns “Extreme Events a Game Changer” [...]


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