Munich Re has warned that some of the extreme weather events witnessed in 2021 are likely to become more frequent or more severe as a result of climate change.
Its warning came as the carrier said that natural events caused economic losses of $280 billion globally in 2021, making it the second-costliest year on record,
Last year’s US$280 billion figure was substantially higher than the US$210 billion in 2020 and the US$166 billion in 2019.
Globally, the US accounted for the highest share of natural disaster costs in 2021, at roughly US$145 billion, of which some US$85 billion was insured.
The world’s most expensive natural catastrophe was Hurricane Ida that hit the US and Canada between late August and early September, causing overall losses of $65 billion of which $36 billion was insured.
The flash flooding that followed extreme rainfall in Germany last July was the second costliest disaster worldwide in 2021, with an overall loss of US$54 billion, of which US$13 billion was covered by insurance.
Ernst Rauch, Chief Climate and Geo Scientist at Munich Re, and head of the Climate Solutions Unit, commented on the figures:
“The 2021 disaster statistics are striking because some of the extreme weather events are of the kind that are likely to become more frequent or more severe as a result of climate change. Among these are severe storms in the USA, including in the winter half-year, or heavy rain followed by floods in Europe.”
“For hurricanes, scientists anticipate that the proportion of severe storms and of storms with extreme rainfall will increase because of climate change. Even though events cannot automatically be attributed to climate change, analysis of the changes over decades provides plausible indications of a connection with the warming of the atmosphere and the oceans. Adapting to increasing risks due to climate change will be a challenge.”
Torsten Jerrowek, member of the board of management, added:
“The images of natural disasters in 2021 are disturbing. Climate research increasingly confirms that extreme weather has become more likely. Societies need to urgently adapt to increasing weather risks and make climate protection a priority.”
“Insurers meet their responsibilities by covering a portion of the risks and losses. By applying risk-adequate premiums, they put a price on natural hazards, thereby encouraging carefully considered behaviour to limit the losses. At the same time, severe volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in 2021 showed that we should not overlook these categories of natural disasters either.”