Report: 2020 natural disasters create $210B in losses

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Jan. 7 (UPI) — A record hurricane season and wildfires generated by climate change led to $210 billion in losses from natural disasters globally, a new report released Thursday said.

The Atlantic Ocean saw more hurricanes than ever during the past season and the western United States experienced historic wildfires, fueled by the second-warmest year on record, the report by global insurer Munich Re said.

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The losses were more than $166 billion in 2019, including $57 billion in insurance losses.

“Global losses from natural disasters in 2020 came to $210 billion, of which some $82 billion was insured,” the report said. “Both overall losses and insured losses were significantly higher than in the previous year.”

Category 4 Hurricane Laura was the most expensive storm to hit the United States, leaving $13 billion in damages. Fires in the western United States — hitting California, Colorado and Oregon the hardest — totaled another $16 billion in damages.

Summer flooding in China and other similar events in Asia caused $67 billion in damage.

“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 are influencing risks,” Ernst Rauch, chief climate and Geoscientist at Munich Re, said in a statement.

“An increasing number of heatwaves and droughts are fueling wildfires, and severe tropical cyclones and thunderstorms are becoming more frequent. Research shows that events such as this year’s heatwaves in northern Siberia are 600 times more likely to occur than previously,” Rauch said.

Munich Re is one of the globe’s top providers of reinsurance, primary insurance, and insurance-related risk solutions.

Donald L. Griffin, a vice president at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, said homeowners and governments in the United States need to do a better job of making buildings and communities more resilient to natural disasters.