Insurance companies, acutely aware of the dramatic increase in losses caused by natural disasters in recent decades, have been convinced that global warming is partly to blame. Now their data seem to be persuading scientists, too. At a recent meeting of climate and insurance experts, delegates reached a cautious consensus: climate change is helping to drive the upward trend in catastrophes.
The meeting, held near Munich on 25–26 May, was jointly organized by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, and the University of Colorado in Boulder. It brought together climate, atmosphere and weather researchers with economists and insurance experts to discuss what could be behind recent disaster losses, both economic and human….
Delegates seem to have found the record persuasive. Their consensus statement, to be released on 8 June, says there is “evidence that changing patterns of extreme events are drivers for recent increases in global losses”….
“Dissent over the issue is clearly waning,” says Peter H¶ppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks department, who co-chaired the workshop with Roger Pielke Jr, director of the University of Colorado’s Center of Science and Technology Policy Research. “Climate change may not be the dominant factor, but it has become clear that a relevant portion of damages can be attributed to global warming.”
Previously sceptical, Pielke says that he is now convinced that at least some of the increased losses can be blamed on climate: “Clearly, since 1970 climate change has shaped the disaster loss record.”
I am posting this mainly to show that many serious people have weighed in on this issue and many articles — including peer-reviewed articles (see below) — have made a strong case for a link between the trend in extreme weather disasters and climate change.
Remember, Nobel Prize winner Al Gore has been accused of being “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements,” in the New York Times for suggesting there is such a link (see “Unstaining Al Gore’s good name, Part 2.” And Roger Pielke, Jr. said that the 3000 scientists listening to Gore at the AAAS meeting were “willing silent collaborators” to “the misrepresentation of climate science” because they did nothing while Al Gore made the link, albeit with very careful wordchoice (see “Unstaining Al Gore’s good name, Part 1“).
Now, in fairness (!) to Pielke, he has an incredibly elaborate explanation of what he was really trying to say (in this 2006 blog post). In my headline, I included an ellipsis because here is Pielke’s full quote:
Clearly since 1970 climate change (i.e., defined as by the IPCC to include all sources of change) has shaped the disaster loss record.
Pielke further notes:
The terms “climate change” and “global warming” are not interchangeable.
Hope that cleared things up for you. And Pielke says that I am overly focused on semantics!!!
Apparently you are allowed to say what Pielke said with various asterisks and elaborate after-the-fact blog posts that don’t really change the meaning to anybody but him, but if you say what Gore said, “This is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented,” you can’t explain at all what you were trying to say and can be accused of in-your-face untruths, the misrepresentation of climate science, inaccuracies and overstatements.
Of course, I guess you can say “it has become clear that a relevant portion of damages can be attributed to global warming.” As long as you’re not Al Gore.
And for the record, while Pielke claims (see here), that
There are no peer-reviewed papers documenting a link between GHG emissions and the long-term trend in disasters.
You might want to read this 2005 Science paper by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Evan Mills, “Insurance in a Climate of Change,” which states (PDF here with figures and citations):
Socioeconomic and demographic trends clearly play important–and likely dominant–roles in the observed upward loss trends (18). As recognized by insurers and others, migration of populations to flood- and fire-prone areas, increasing reliance on vulnerable electric power grids, and rising material wealth are among the many drivers. Changes in the incidence and impacts of extreme weather events and sea-level rise can also be observed (19–22).
Global weather-related losses in recent years have been trending upward much faster than population, inflation, or insurance penetration, and faster than non–weather-related events (Fig. 2D). By some estimates, losses have increased by a factor of 2, after accounting for these factors plus increased density of insured values (23, 24). The Association of British Insurers states that changes in weather could already be driving UK property losses up 2 to 4% per year (7) owing to increasing extreme weather events. Specific event types
have increased far more quickly than the averages. For example, damages from U.S. storms grew 60-fold to US$6 billion/year between the 1950s and the 1990s (21).
According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment, climate change has played a role in the rising costs of natural disasters (1). As an illustration of the linkages, the distribution and frequency of lightning strikes is expected to shift under climate change (25), and insurers indeed observe a notable increase in losses during periods of elevated temperatures (Fig. 4) (6).
You can disagree with the analysis if you like, but there it is in Science.
Anybody out there still think Pielke doesn’t owe an apology to the 3,000 AAAS scientists or that he is a credible source for the media?
Do any of my readers think at this point Gore doesn’t deserve an apology by the New York Times? If not, please tell me what he said that justifies what was written about him.