There's time to turn it around if we address the root cause
The uninsured paid the price for violent weather
The growing clamor from even businesses to avoid runaway climate change may raise awareness of a basic solution -- geonomics. We append this 2008 article from the BBC of December 29.
by the BBCGerman insurance company Munich Re said the impact of the disasters was greater than in 2007 in both human and economic terms.
The company suggested climate change was boosting the destructive power of disasters like hurricanes and flooding.
It has called for stricter curbs on emissions to prevent further uncontrollable weather scenarios.
Although there were fewer "loss-producing events" in 2008 than in the previous year, the impact of natural disasters was higher, said Munich Re in its annual assessment.
More than 220,000 people died in events like cyclones, earthquakes, and flooding, the most since 2004, the year of the Asian tsunami.
Meanwhile, overall global losses totalled about $200bn (£137bn), with uninsured losses totalling $45bn, about 50% more than in 2007.
This makes 2008 the third most expensive year on record, after 1995, when the Kobe earthquake struck Japan, and 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina in the US.
Torsten Jeworrek of Munich Re said the pattern continued a long-term trend already observed.
"Climate change has already started and is very probably contributing to increasingly frequent weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes," he said.
Asia was the continent worst hit by natural disasters in 2008, Munich Re reported.
Cyclone Nargis in Burma killed an estimated 130,000 people and devastated much of the low-lying Irrawaddy Delta region, while the earthquake which struck China's Sichuan province in May left an estimated 70,000 dead and millions homeless.
Munich Re said the losses of $85bn made Sichuan the second most expensive earthquake after Kobe.
Although Nargis and the Sichuan quake brought the biggest cost in terms of human lives, the economic losses were mostly uninsured.
The most expensive single event in 2008 was Hurricane Ike, which brought $30bn in losses. It was one of five major hurricanes in the North Atlantic over the year, which saw a total of 16 tropical storms.
In addition, roughly 1,700 tornadoes across the US caused several billion dollars of damage, as did periods of low pressure weather activity in Europe.
Munich Re quoted World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) figures showing that 2008 was the 10th warmest year since reliable records began, meaning that the 10 warmest years on record all occurred in the past 12 years.
"It is now very probable that the progressive warming of the atmosphere is due to the greenhouse gases emitted by human activity," said Prof Peter Hoppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research.
"The logic is clear: when temperatures increase there is more evaporation and the atmosphere has a greater capacity to absorb water vapor, with the result that its energy content is higher.
"The weather machine runs into top gear, bringing more intense severe weather events with corresponding effects in terms of losses."
The company said world leaders must put in place "effective and binding rules on CO2 emissions" to curb climate change and ensure that "future generations do not have to live with weather scenarios that are difficult to control".
"If we delay too long, it will be very costly for future generations," said Mr Jeworrek.
JJS: How to cut emissions is not just a matter of technology or regulation or ethics. It’s all that and more. It’s a matter of correcting what went wrong in the first place -- the loss of the commons. We need to revive the commons and put the worth of Earth into that category of valuable gifts for all of us to share.
Once we have to pay “land dues” or land taxes into the public treasury, we lose the motive to speculate in sites and resources. Instead, metro owners put sites in cities to good use, which shortens urban trips and cuts exhaust. And oil owners lose the wherewithal to contribute so heavily to political campaigns and presently control policy. Minus the corporate welfare for fossil fuels, on such a level playing field the non-burning energy sources could hog market share.
Fundamentally, once we all receive “rent shares” or a Citizens Dividend from the recovered natural values, then we free ourselves from an economy predicated upon infinite growth. And we strengthen our ties to Mother Earth. More of us will have the time to tinker with new ideas for saving energy and more of us will have the money to invest in ideas that reduce our impact on the rest of the world.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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