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Global Warming Costs Mount

This September was the hottest September worldwide since accurate recordkeeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The spike in temperature coincided with the release of a study by the World Health Organization and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) that concludes approximately 160,000 people die every year from the side effects of global warming, and the numbers could almost double by 2025.

The majority of global warming victims come from the Third World, where the proliferation of tropical diseases such as malaria and the rise in malnutrition due to crop losses claim thousands of lives every year. And, as Professor Andrew Haines of LSHTM explained, “These diseases mainly affect younger age groups, so that the total burden of disease due to climate change appears to be borne mainly by children in developing countries.” The 15,000 heat-related deaths this past summer in France demonstrate that the First World is not immune from the deadly effects of climate change.

As the intensity and frequency of droughts, floods, hurricanes, and windstorms increase with global warming, so do insurance losses. Forty years ago, an average of 16 large weather-related disasters occurred annually around the world. Today, the average is 72. The cost to insurers for weather-related events has risen from $7 billion to $90 billion. In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Allstate Insurance dispensed $500 million more in claims than it had ever collected from all types of insurance in the state of Florida. Andrew drove seven other insurance companies to bankruptcy. As mega-catastrophies begin occurring every 25 years instead of every 100 years, insured losses will grow by another 900 percent, according to the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Faced with the prospect of losses on this scale, the insurance industry has been among the loudest voices urging political leaders to take the issue of climate change seriously.


—Krista Camenzind

Indicators are short news stories about big trends.

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