Economic losses from natural disasters rise in 2020

Economic losses from hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters were significantly higher in 2020 than they were the previous year, research from Munich Re has revealed.


The findings show that natural disasters resulted in $210bn (£154bn) of global losses last year, up from the $166bn in 2019.

Just $82bn of these losses were covered by insurance companies, compared with $57bn the previous year, with only a small portion of losses insured in Asia's growing economies.

Munich Re said that insurance solutions, either from the private sector, or in the form of public-private partnerships, must help to improve resilience to natural disasters.

“Record numbers for many relevant hazards are a cause for concern, whether we are talking about the severe hurricane season, major wildfires or the series of thunderstorms in the US,” said Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek. “Climate change will play an increasing role in all of these hazards.”

The findings also show that the US accounted for $95bn of overall losses losses last year, up from $51bn in 2019, and $67bn of insured losses, up from $26bn.

However, last year’s costliest natural disaster was the severe flooding in China during the summer monsoon rains. 

Overall losses from the floods amounted to approximately $17bn, only around 2% of which was insured. 

Munich Re highlighted how the global mean temperature from January to November in 2020 was around 1.2°C higher than pre-industrial levels, and just 0.01°C shy of temperatures for 2016 – the warmest year on record.

“Five years ago in Paris, the global community set itself the target of keeping global warming well below 2°C,” Jeworrek continued. “It is time to act.”


Image credit: Shutterstock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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