Reinsurer: Global losses linked to climate change mounting

Climate change likely has accounted for a significant share of the roughly $1.6 trillion in worldwide weather-related losses since 1980, the company said, and there has been a major increase in weather-related natural catastrophes since 1950.

“We need as soon as possible an agreement that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions because the climate reacts slowly and what we fail to do now will have a bearing for decades to come,” he said.

 A light North Atlantic hurricane season and a lack of “major” catastrophes held down losses in 2009, the company said in a survey of global natural hazard-related losses released Tuesday.

The company estimates that economic losses were $50 billion and insured losses were $22 billion, compared to $200 billion in total losses and $50 billion in insured losses in 2008. The death toll from natural catastrophes in 2009 was also below average, the company said.

“However, we should make no mistake: despite the lack of severe hurricanes and other megacatastrophes, there was a large number of moderately severe natural catastrophes. In particular, the trend towards an increase in weather-related catastrophes continues, whilst there has fundamentally been no change in the risk of geophysical events such as earthquakes,” said Peter Höppe, a top researcher for the company.