Munich Re sees sharp rise in 2020 natural disaster damages

Financial losses worldwide caused by natural disasters rose sharply in 2020, German reinsurance giant Munich Re said Thursday, urging action to prevent climate change from bringing about more such hazards.

The global bill came to $210 billion (171 billion euros) in damage, due to a record hurricane season and major forest fires, compared with $166 billion in 2019, Munich Re said in an annual report.

The insured amount came to $82 billion, or around 40 percent of the total, the Bavarian company said.

The disasters claimed around 8,200 lives worldwide, the report said.

“Climate change will play an increasing role in all of these hazards,” said Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek.

As part of the Paris Agreement, “the global community set itself the target of keeping global warming well below two degrees Celsius. It is time to act,” he added.

Six of the most costly disasters were in the United States, which suffered the most active hurricane season on record in 2020.

The North Atlantic season was “hyperactive”, Munich Re said, with a record-setting 30 storms including 13 hurricanes.

Hurricane Laura, which made landfall in August in Louisiana with winds of 150 miles an hour, caused $13 billion in losses, of which $10 billion was insured.

Forest fires raged in the west of the US, with four times the average area of California hit than in 2015–2019.

Elsewhere, flooding in China during the summer monsoon season caused about $17 billion of damage, of which only about two percent was insured.

In Europe overall losses came to $12 billion, of which $3.6 billion was insured. Heavy rain hit the Mediterranean coasts of southern France and Italy in the autumn, destroying hundreds of houses, bridges and roads in the process.

The global average temperature was around 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, Munich Re noted, and just 0.01 degrees Celsius shy of 2016, the warmest year on record.

The year’s extreme weather fits “with the expected consequences of a decades-long warming trend for the atmosphere and oceans that is influencing risks,” Munich Re’s chief climate scientist Ernst Rauch said. via Agence France-Presse

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