6 March 2004

Insurer Warns of Global Warming Catastrophe

Losses to insurers from environmental events have risen exponentially over the past 30 years, and are expected to rise even more rapidly still, said Swiss Re climate expert Pamela Heck.

'Scientists tell us that certain extreme events are going to increase in intensity and frequency in the future,' Heck told Reuters by telephone. 'Climate change is very much in the mind of the insurance industry.'

Over the past century, the average global temperature has increased by 0.6 degrees Centigrade, the largest rise for the northern hemisphere in the past 1,000 years, Swiss Re said.

In the short- and medium-term, simply knowing that the planet is warming will allow society to adapt, for example, through infrastructure to cope with more-frequent floods or by instructing farmers to use drought-resistant cereals.

In other cases, governments need to restrict risk-taking, such as approving housing developments in low-lying areas, and improve catastrophe management capabilities.

In the long term, Swiss Re said, greenhouse gases widely thought to trigger global warming will need to be reduced, the use of fossil fuels cut and new energy technologies developed.

'The role of the insurance industry is through establishing risk adequate tariffs and to give the risk taker the opportunity to implement appropriate measures to reduce the chance of possible losses,' Heck said.

The global re-insurers have been getting more and more agitated over extreme weather events since the middle 90s. Apparently when the profit motive examines global warming in the harsh light of reality, it doe snot seem so dubious. The UN has reported that global warming is killing 150 000 a year. Why then is terrorism a priority?

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