Global Warming Could Cost $300 Billion Annually

German reinsurer projects annual damage losses.

Published: 05-Feb-2001

NAIROBI (Reuters) - An increase in natural disasters as a result of global warming could cost the world over $300 billion annually by the year 2050, a new United Nations commissioned report says.

According to the report from leading German re-insurers Munich Re, the losses would result from more frequent tropical cyclones, loss of land as a result of rising sea levels and consequent damage to agriculture and fishing stock.

"Most countries can expect their losses to range from a few tenths of a percent to a few percent of their gross domestic product each year," Gerhard Berz, head of Munich Re's Geoscience Research group, wrote in the latest edition of the U.N. Environment Program's Our Planet magazine.

"And certain countries, especially small island states, could face losses far exceeding 10 percent."

Low-lying states most at risk included the Maldives, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Berz conceded in the article that the calculations may need refining but hoped the statistics will jolt governments and businesses into action in the fight against global warming.

U.N. climate talks called to plan ways of coordinating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions ended acrimoniously in the Hague in November and major economic powers blamed each other for the collapse of the negotiations.

The Hague conference had sought agreement on implementing a pact reached in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, which called for developed nations to cut their emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide by an average of five percent from 1990 levels by 2010.

Last month a U.N. report said average global temperatures could rise by up to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the 21st century, much higher than previously thought.

Berz's report said flood defense schemes to protect homes, factories and power stations from rising sea levels and storm surges could cost an average $1 billion dollars.

The losses of ecosystems such as coral reefs, coastal lagoons and mangrove swamps could cost over $70 billion by 2050.

Munich Re has been monitoring the cost of natural disasters since the 1960s.

Other disaster-related problems would bring the bill to $304.2 billion a year.

The extra costs from health-related measures and more intensive water management could cost the United States nearly $30 billion a year and Europe $21.9 billion annually by 2050, the report says.

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