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. Insurance giant says climate change could cost billions

by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) Nov 26, 2009
Natural disasters linked to climate change could cost the insurance industry billions of dollars in extra settlement payments every year, German insurance giant Munich RE said Thursday.

The company's statistics show that "globally, the average number of major weather-related catastrophes such as windstorms, floods or droughts is now three times as high as at the beginning of the 1980's."

"Losses have risen even more, with average increases of 11 percent per year since 1980," it said.

The firm said that although it was unclear to what extent the increased losses were a direct consequence of climate change, preliminary analysis suggested a "low single-digit percentage of annual overall losses."

"The amounts involved are enormous," it said. "Even conservative estimates show that we are talking here about climate change costs already running into billions per year.

"The insurance industry is able to adapt but, in the end, each individual has to bear the cost," the firm said.

The statement came ahead of UN-sponsored climate change talks starting on December 7 in Copenhagen.

The talks are aimed at hammering out a global pact to reduce man-made emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for droughts, heavy flooding and unpredictable weather patterns.

Munich RE said it "makes economic sense to lay cornerstones for a new agreement, with ambitious targets, in Copenhagen.

"Even now, climate change can no longer be halted, it can only be attenuated. And it is high time this was done."

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President Barack Obama will head to next month's Copenhagen climate summit to offer the first US plan to cut carbon emissions, officials said Wednesday, reviving hopes the closely watched meeting will succeed. The Obama administration offered to curb US emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 -- less than calls by the European Union, Japan and UN scientists but the first numbers on ... read more

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