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From: Lance Lyon
To: All
Date: 2004-03-01 09:23:00
Subject: Climate change

Planet Ark : Natural disaster deaths rise sevenfold  
GERMANY: February 27,  
2004  
http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/24021/story.htm 
 
 
FRANKFURT - Natural disasters caused by extreme weather claimed 
seven times  
as many victims in 2003 as in the previous year and the trend is set to  
continue, says the world's biggest reinsurance company.  
 
Munich Re said in its annual review of natural catastrophes that  
earthquakes, heat waves and tornadoes had killed 75,000 people 
during the  
year, including 40,000 who died in December's severe earthquake in 
Iran.  
The figure was higher than the 50,000 estimate the company gave in 
a  
preliminary report in December, largely because the full effects of the  
Iranian earthquake were not yet known then, a Munich Re spokesman 
said.  
"After three years of relative calm, no fewer than five great natural  
catastrophes occurred in 2003," the report said, saying the five events  
alone had accounted for about a third of all economic and insured 
losses.  
Apart from the Iranian earthquake, a heat wave that hit central and 
southern  
Europe in the summer claimed 20,000 lives, and an earthquake 
measuring 6.8  
on the Richter scale killed 2,200 in Algeria in May, the report said.  
The most expensive disasters for insurers, however, were in the 
United  
States, where tornadoes battered the Midwest in May and a heat 
wave caused  
drought and forest fires in California in October and November, 
destroying  
thousands of homes.  
The Californian fires cost the insurance industry some $2 billion (1.06  
billion pounds) , Munich Re said, while a massive hailstorm in Texas 
during  
the tornadoes "will go down in U.S. insurance history" after generating  
insured losses of more than $1 billion.  
In total, insured losses were 40 percent higher than in 2002 at $16 
billion,  
said Munich Re, which insures insurance companies for the risks from 
their  
policies. Total economic losses rose 18 percent to $65 billion.  
DRAMATIC CHANGES  
Munich Re said global warming would cause increasing economic 
damage in the  
future. In central Europe alone, an expected two-degree Celsius 
increase in  
temperatures by the middle of the century would cause more heat 
waves and  
floods.  
"It is to be feared that extreme events which can be traced to climate  
change will have increasingly grave consequences in the future," the 
report  
said, adding that insurance premiums would rise and that clear-cut 
indemnity  
limits would be needed.  
"Neither human beings, buildings and infrastructure nor the agricultural 
and  
livestock sectors are prepared for such extremes," it said. "We would 
be  
well advised to prepare ourselves for dramatic changes."  
However, Munich Re said it believed climate protection was about to 
enter "a  
new dimension" and welcomed the impending start of emissions 
trading in the  
European Union in 2005, which will offer a financial incentive to reduce  
pollution.  
The system will allow companies that exceed their emission limits for 
carbon  
dioxide (CO2), blamed by many scientists for global warming, to buy 
and  
trade emissions permits.  
But the EU may review its strategy of backing the Kyoto Protocol, which 
is  
designed to limit CO2 emissions, as Russian hesitations over the 
accord  
threaten to stop it coming into force.  
The United States, the world's top polluter, has already refused to 
back  
Kyoto, saying it is a regulatory straitjacket that will harm industry and  
economic growth.  
 
Story by Georgina Prodhan  
 
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE  
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