“Saving the planet is better economics than burning it up.”
Munich Re is one of the top two reinsurers in the world. (“Reinsurance” is what insurance companies purchase for their own risk management. Munich Re is the insurance company’s insurance company.) You may not have heard of Munich Re before, but the company’s origins date back to 1880. One of their major claims to fame is that after the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake, they were the only company to remain solvent after every last claim was payed out.
Because of the nature of their business, they know precisely what is happening with world-wide disasters. A recent analysis they conducted reveals some interesting facts. It turns out that climate change has noticeably driven up the number of meteorological and climatological disasters over the last thirty years, about triple what it used to be. This is in stark contrast to geophysical disasters which aren’t related to climate such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis; those have remained steady or increased only slightly during the same time period.
Professor Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit, had the following to say about it:
“In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate-change footprint in our US loss data from the last four decades. Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence. If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing.”
The study reveals the part of the planet being hit hardest with extreme weather phenomena is North America. For example, last year was a record-breaker with the US contending with a dozen disasters costing over one billion dollars.
As the report points out: “The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America.
Some people don’t believe in global warming and climate change. Some others believe it but believe it has very little to do with us. And some others still believe it and also believe that we’re the cause, but also believe we shouldn’t fight it because it will have its own benefits—not just the harm people like me caution against—and that we’ll be able to adapt to it given how gradually it’s all changing.
That description of people covers the basic spectrum of attitudes we hear from those who don’t think we need to do anything about climate change, from the least informed regarding the science of global warming, to those who are informed but who have misplaced values regarding its implications.
I’ve never been one to consider that big oil companies and their profits are more important than the environment, or more important than future generations who are going to have to live in this world we’ve been working so hard to ruin in the name of economics and free enterprise.
Most of the free-market arguments that claim we should stick with business-as-usual are economic ones, plain and simple. Proponents say things like “fossil fuels are the backbone of the global economy, and to move away from them will cause economic ruin for the planet.”
But it’s not hard to see the economic ruin that climate change is already causing, let alone what we can expect in coming years.
- Food prices climb because of crop failures putting the world’s poor at greater risk of starvation (e.g. the Food and Agriculture Organization Food Price Index rose 1.4 percent in September over August)
- Disasters in offshore drilling operations cost in clean-up (e.g. Deepwater Horizon tally so far: $38 billion)
- Hurricanes and other meteorological phenomena cost in recovery (e.g. Hurricane Katrina cost between $96 and $125 billion)