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Munich Re: 2008 Natural Catastrophes Show That “Climate Change Has Already Started”

by Jack Rosebro

Munichre08
2008 natural disasters, by location and severity. Source: Munich Re. Click to enlarge.

Munich Re, one of the world’s largest re-insurers, has released its annual figures on worldwide losses from natural catastrophes, and has termed 2008 “one of the most devastating years on record,” partly due to the large number of tropical cyclones as well as the Sichuan earthquake in China.

According to the company, the year is the third most expensive on record, exceeded only by 2005—the year that Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans—and 1995, the year of the Kobe earthquake.

It is now very probable that the progressive warming of the atmosphere is due to the greenhouse gases emitted by human activity. The logic is clear. When temperatures increase, there is more evaporation, and the atmosphere has a greater capacity to absorb water vapor, with the result that its energy content is higher. The weather machine runs in top gear, bringing more intense severe weather events with corresponding effects in terms of losses. This relationship is already visible today in the increasing heavy precipitation events in many regions of the Earth, the heat waves, and the hurricanes in the North Atlantic.

—Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo-Risks Research unit
“The [natural catastrophe] loss statistics for 2008 fit the pattern that the calculations of climate models lead us to expect.”
—Peter Höppe

Despite a drop in loss-producing events compared with 2007 (from 960 to 750), insured losses in 2008 rose to US $45 billion, about 50% higher than in the previous year. More than 220,000 people died worldwide this year as a result of natural catastrophes.

Torsten Jeworrek, of Munich Re’s Board of Management, commented: “This continues the long-term trend we have been observing. Climate change has already started and is very probably contributing to increasingly frequent weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes. These, in turn, generate greater and greater losses because the concentration of values in exposed areas, like regions on the coast, is also increasing further throughout the world.

In Asia, Cyclone Nargis is estimated to have claimed the lives of more than 135,000 people in Myanmar, with 54,000 people still missing. With large parts of Myanmar’s mangrove forests—a natural form of coastal protection—eradicated in recent years, storm surges reached as far as 40 kilometers (25 miles) inland. The country was inundated with water up to three meters deep, and more than a million of Myanmar’s inhabitants were made homeless.

Munichre08b_2
Ten largest natural disasters in 2008. Source: Munich Re. Click to enlarge.

Six tropical cyclones—Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike—reached the US coast this year. Ike made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane near Galveston, and submerged large sections of the Texas and Louisiana coast. The incidence of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic this year was also higher than the long-term average, as well as the yearly average of the current warm phase (14.7 cyclones) since 1995. A total of 16 tropical cyclones were counted in 2008; eight reached hurricane strength, with five classified as major hurricanes (Categories 3 to 5).

Preliminary estimates published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) identify 2008 as the tenth warmest year since the beginning of routine temperature recording, and the eighth warmest in the northern hemisphere.

This year, Munich Re began collaborating with Lord Nicholas Stern, lead author of the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, (earlier post) and the London School of Economics, where Stern is a professor, on research concerning the economic impacts of climate change.

A report by Stern, entitled Key Elements of a Global Deal on Climate Change and released last April, focused on strategies and cost calculations for a greenhouse gas stabilization target of 500 ppm CO2 equivalent, as opposed to than the 550 pm CO2 equivalent target examined by the Stern Review.

The reason that we have chosen to focus on 500 ppm rather than 550 ppm,” explained Stern, “is that subsequent evidence has indicated that the position is more risky than assumed in the Stern Review.”

Stern gave four primary reasons for revising the stabilization target:

  • Emissions are growing faster that the IPCC trajectory used in the Stern Review, as summarized in Australia’s Garnaut Climate Change Review (earlier post).

  • The absorptive capacity of the planet, including of the oceans, appears to be lower than many earlier models had assumed.

  • The weights in the upper tail of climate sensitivity (the effect of eventual temperature increases on stocks of greenhouse gases) appear to be higher than anticipated.

  • Physical effects of global warming from a given temperature change, via climate change and directly from the warming, appear to be happening faster than had been anticipated.

Dr. Jeworrek said that the increase in natural catastrophes “have resulted in three action strategies, which we are resolutely pursuing.

Firstly, we accept risks in our core business only at risk-adequate prices, so that if the exposure situation changes, we adjust the pricing structure. Secondly, with our expertise we develop new business opportunities in the context of climate protection and adaptation measures. Thirdly, in the international debate, we—as a company—press for effective and binding rules on CO2 emissions, so that climate change is curbed and future generations do not have to live with weather scenarios that are difficult to control.

As of January 2009, graphs and tables derived from current analyses of natural catastrophes will be available at the NatCatSERVICE download center. Munich Re is headquartered in Munich, Germany and insures in about 160 countries.

Resources

  • Earlier posts on Munich Re Annual Catastrophe Reports (2007, 2006, 2004)

Comments

ai_vin

@ kelly
Al does what he can, which is more than most-
http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/gorehome.asp

ai_vin

@globi
To see what Germany is doing
http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/natureofthings/2008/suzukidiaries/ -click 'watch online'

and watch
http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/2008-2009/the_gospel_of_green/video.html

Andrey Levin

Ai:

Germany is perfect example of the most stupid energy policy, period.

First they finished their coal industry.

Second they decimated their highly developed nuclear power plant building industry.

Then they yielded their electricity generating maneuverable reserve to stabilize Danish wind power.

Then they become hostages to Russian natural gas.

Currently, recognizing that their electricity generating capacity is inadequate, they are building 26+ coal powered plants, with coal coming from abroad (Poland, mostly).

Now they are building like crazy wind farms, knowing perfectly that it will destabilize their electricity grid.

Not to mention that they missed completely dawn of hybrid car technology, and concentrated heavily on overweighed and overpriced gas guzzlers with dubious reliability.

globi

Actually, as opposed to nuclear power, wind has a double digit growth worldwide and the 83% exported German wind turbines are even generating enough profit to easily finance this double digit growth.

And as opposed to nuclear power, wind power cannot fall back on expensive government funded international agencies such as IAEA or Euratom to promote their power plants.

But of course Germany has still a very powerful coal lobby, which still collects subsidies and is not interested in losing their market share at all. And naturally with all this opposition, Germany and Denmark (which exports well over 90% of its wind turbines) don't install wind turbines like crazy, they just export them with profit like crazy.

Denmark has only 3.1 GW wind power installed and is interconnected with Norway, Sweden and Germany. Germany alone has 121 GW total power installed. So, even if interconnected wind farms wouldn't provide baseload and even if Norway wouldn't have 99% flexible hydro power installed, Sweden wouldn't have 43% flexible hydro power installed and Denmark wouldn't have flexible co-generation power plants installed, Danish wind power can hardly have a big influence on the German grid.

The German government expects to see 1 million EVs by 2020, which will require about 2-3 billion kWh at the same time they believe its feasible to generate 150 billion kWh of wind power by 2020 (particularly by expanding their offshore capacity).

kelly

The many global warming comments are interesting with many factors. It's hard to separate wheat from chaff.

If I understand correctly, prior 1000's of years of climate cycles(per ice core readings,..) at worst, never exceeded 300 ppm of CO2. Since the Industrial Age began, a exponential increase began with present CO2 levels approaching 380 ppm. This correlates with global temperature increases and weather instability, which alarms scientists, Gore, Obama, and affects us all.

globi

FWIW, follow up regarding Roy Spencer

http://mediamatters.org/items/200703130003

The article further cited Roy Spencer, who was identified only as "a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville." But the article did not note that Spencer co-authored a 2003 global warming study with John Christy, the director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Their report, which concluded that the troposphere had not warmed in recent decades, was ultimately found to have significant errors. As the Times itself reported on August 12, 2005, when their miscalculations were taken into account, the data used in their study actually showed warming in the troposphere.

Spencer has ties to the George C. Marshall Institute, which Congressional Quarterly has described as "a Washington-based think tank supported by industry and conservative foundations that focuses primarily on trying to debunk global warming as a threat." Beyond his criticism of global warming theory, Spencer has also taken up another cause that places him well outside the scientific mainstream -- his view that "intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism."

Mark_BC

>>>Google “Maunder”,

I found this article which was interesting and fair, but didn't really have much evidence to show.
http://www.stsci.edu/stsci/meetings/lisa3/beckmanj.html

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
>>>The Maunder Minimum coincided with the middle — and coldest part — of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America, and perhaps much of the rest of the world, were subjected to bitterly cold winters. Whether there is a causal connection between low sunspot activity and cold winters is the subject of ongoing debate.

From everything I could find it appears to be a tenuous at best, with little easily identifiable causal relationship, but worthy of more investigation of course.

Reel$$

FWIW:

Media Matters has not always been forthcoming about its high-profile backers. In particular, the group has long labored to obscure any financial ties to George Soros. But in March 2003, the Cybercast News Service (CNS) detailed the copious links between Media Matters and several Soros "affiliates"—among them MoveOn.org, the Center for American Progress, and Peter Lewis.

Confronted with this story, a spokesman for the organization explained that "Media Matters for America has never received funding directly from George Soros" (emphasis added), a transparent evasion.

Nor were groups cited by CNS the only connection between Media Matters and Soros. As investigative journalist Byron York has noted, another Soros affiliate that bankrolled Media Matters was the New Democratic Network. In addition, Soros is reported to be involved in the newly formed Democracy Alliance, a partnership of some 80 affluent financiers who each have vowed to contribute $1 million or more in order to build up an ideological infrastructure of leftist thinks tanks and advocacy groups.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2007/10/media_matters_claims_nonpartis.html

globi

Ok, let's just assume Media Matters is evil.

Does this change anything about the checkable links and information regarding Roy Spencer which is obviously not from Media Matters itself?
http://mediamatters.org/items/200703130003

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