Natural disasters took a deadly toll in 2008, killing more than 220,000 people and causing a total of $200 billion in damages–a 50 percent increase in costs over 2007. A new report sums up the damages wrought this year by weather and geology; the deadliest disaster was the cyclone that battered Myanmar in May, killing an estimated 130,000 people and causing losses of $4 billion, and the costliest was the earthquake that struck China’s Sichuan province, killing an estimated 70,000 and causing losses of $85 billion.
The new figures come from an annual assessment of global damages by the reinsurance giant Munich Re, which offers backup policies to companies writing primary insurance policies. Reinsurance helps spread risk so that the system can handle large losses from natural disasters [AP]. Munich Re has a financial interest in understanding global weather patterns, and board member Torsten Jeworrek says the uptick in losses from natural disasters is another indication that global warming is already having widespread effects. “Climate change has already started and is very probably contributing to increasingly frequent weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes,” he said [BBC News].