Climate change played a role in a nearly five-fold jump in weather-related natural disasters in North America over the last 30 years, Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, said on Wednesday.
North America saw the world’s biggest increase in natural catastrophes between 1980 and 2011, ahead of Asia which had a four-fold rise and ahead of Africa, where such disasters grew 2.5 times, the company said in a study.
“Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways,” Munich Re said in a written statement.
“Climate change particularly affects formation of heatwaves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity,” it said.
And it said the view that weather extremes were becoming more frequent and intense in various regions due to global warming was in keeping with current scientific findings.
The North American continent is exposed to tropical cyclones, thunderstorms, winter storms, tornadoes, wildfires, drought and flood, it said.
One reason is the lack of an east-west mountain range to separate hot from cold air, it added.
Insured losses from weather catastrophes in North America for the three decades until 2011 came to $510 billion, of which $62.2 billion resulted from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the costliest US catastrophe ever.
Peter Roeder, Munich Re board member responsible for the US market, said climate change-related increases in hazards were not automatically reflected in premiums and that risk managers should adapt.
“In order to realise a sustainable model of insurance, it is crucially important for us as risk managers to learn about this risk of change and find improved solutions for adaptation but also mitigation,” he said in the statement.