January 24, 2011

Weather-Related Natural Catastrophes on the Rise

Has global warming contributed to a greater number of weather related natural catastrophes? The argument that it has was made by Munich Re, the global reinsurer, in a recent report. The evidence is complicated because some damage, for example, is the result of greater population and built-up areas near coasts that have been subjected to hurricanes. On the other hand, there have been improvements in warning times and in building codes that should mitigate the above effect. One of the co-authors of the Munich Re study, Dr. Peter Höppe, offered this intriguing piece of evidence to Joe Romm of Climate Progress: 
For me the most convincing piece of evidence that global warming has been contributing already to more and more intense weather related natural catastrophes is the fact that while we find a steep increase in the number of loss relevant weather events (about tripling in the last 30 years) we only find a slight increase in geophysical (earthquake, volcano, tsunami) events, which should not be affected by global warming. If the whole trend we find in weather related disaster should be caused by reporting bias, or socio-demographic or economic developments we would expect to find it similarly for the geophysical events. 

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