The giant reinsurer Munich Re applauds the human response to these calamities but warns that the survivors are increasingly exposed to losing everything
BERLIN, 11 Jan. (DPA / EP) –
The world's largest reinsurer, Munich Re, has positively assessed the decrease in the number of deaths from natural disasters but has also warned that climate change is polarizing temperatures to the point that these disasters will end up becoming phenomena as unexpected as regulars by definition, with the usual increase in economic losses and the brutal impact on survivors.
Without minimizing the human tragedy, the chief climatologist at Munich Re, Ernst Rauch, explains to the DPA agency that “in 1991, more than 100,000 people died in Bangladesh at the passage of a cyclone; a number of deaths that today it would be more unlikely. ”
He does it to put the situation in perspective. In 2019, some 10,000 people died in natural disasters such as cyclone Idai – which swept through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, leaving a thousand dead in its path -. However catastrophic that number is, it pales in front of the 317,000 dead of 2010, the 235,000 of 2008, or the 240,000 of 2004. In fact, since 2011 the number of deaths from natural disasters has not exceeded 31,000 annually, according to figures from the International Disaster Database of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium
“The reality is that, fortunately, fewer and fewer people die in natural disasters. It is an advance that has driven the population trend. I think the world has improved in this regard,” explains the climatologist, who notes a general improvement in warning systems and evacuation protocols.
However, a constant, and rising, are the exorbitant economic costs of material devastation. In 2019, damage from natural disasters remained at 150,000 million dollars, in line with what was recorded in recent years. The insurance sector assumed a third of these costs, some 52,000 million.
The costs are enormous both in the specific phenomena – such as the 17,000 million dollars in destruction caused by the typhoon 'Hagibis' in Japan – and in the anticipated ones, such as the summer heat wave in Europe that threw 2.5 billion dollars in losses and repairs. And that is why, if there is a clear forecast, it is that economic costs will increase in the coming years as these phenomena accelerate due to the worsening of climate change.
Munich Re, which has studied global warming since the 1970s, perceives constant indications of this trend worldwide. From the multiplication of typhoons and cyclones in Asia to the rise of thunderstorms in North America and Europe, accompanied by hail, tornadoes and floods.
More recent is the case in Australia, where an area greater than that of the Netherlands has already burned. Twenty-eight dead, 6,000 buildings destroyed, more than 10 million hectares razed and more than one billion wild animals burned in a wave of fires during the hottest and driest year ever recorded in the country.
And, thus, an increase in weather-related disaster losses will cause premiums to rise and make it difficult for people – businesses and individuals – to buy insurance, an option that is practically still shining by its absence in places where development paths, Rauch warns.
“Two years have gone by since Japan records record losses for typhoons. The 'Hagibis' left more than 1,000 milliliters of rain in less than 24 hours. More than the annual average rainfall in Germany,” Rauch added. “The routes of high and low pressure areas have slowed down in recent years, so heat waves and torrential rains last longer,” he says.
Actually, if there is an imminent danger for the reinsurer, it is the one that represents the economic damage, which does not seem to end this year. “In fact, we fear that 2020 will be part of this trend towards increasing losses due to climate-related disasters, a trend that we have been observing over the past decade,” Rauch lamented, in additional statements to the CNN network.