The second-warmest year on record brought storms, fires, and floods that killed at least 8,200 people and cost the world $210 billion in losses, according to a report by Munich Re. The insurer is still calculating where 2020 ranks against other calamitous years but said damages last year exceeded those of 2019, which saw $166 billion in losses.“Natural catastrophe losses in 2020 were significantly higher than the previous year,” Torsten Jeworrek, a member of Munich’s board of management said in the report. “Record numbers for many relevant hazards are a cause for concern, whether we are talking about the severe hurricane season, major wildfires or the series of thunderstorms in the U.S.”
Six of the most expensive disasters happened in the U.S., including a destructive derecho in the Midwest, a record number of tropical storms and hurricanes strikes, and an all-time high acreage burn in California. U.S. damages totaled at least $95 billion, with $67 billion of that in insured losses, said Munich.
The disasters piled up as the world came within 0.01 Celsius of tying the warmest year on record set in 2016, Munich said. While it didn’t draw direct link between 2020’s disasters and climate change, the insurer said the ongoing issues caused by a warming world would raise the potential for more perilous years ahead.“Even if the weather disasters for one year cannot be directly linked to climate change, and a longer period needs to be studied to assess their significance, these extreme values fit with the expected consequences of a decades-long warming trend for the atmosphere and oceans that is influencing risks,” said Ernst Rauch, chief climate and geoscientist at Munich Re. The year’s single worst disaster was flooding across China during its monsoon that amounted to $17 billion, of which only about 2% was insured, Munich said. Globally, 60% of 2020’s losses weren’t insured. The growing Asian economies saw the least number of insured losses.
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