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Climate Change

The fight against climate change – the story so far

27.11.2015

  • Until the end of the 1980s, climate change was the realm of specialists and activists. Munich Re ranked among these specialists from as early as 1973.
  • Times were tough in the beginning, with battles being fought to convince others of the cause and very few scientists and researchers focusing on the topic.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarised the physical science basis in its reports, thereby laying down the essential principles. Sadly the resolutions passed in climate negotiations are a poor reflection of the knowledge accumulated.
  • Nevertheless, important steps have been taken, in particular the 1997 Kyoto Protocol with its framework convention on climate change, the consensus achieved in Copenhagen to limit global warming to two degrees, and the establishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in Cancún in 2010.
  • Politicians are now more aware of the acuteness of the problem than ever before, and commitments to reduce emissions have never been so significant. Yet it is unlikely that an agreement will be made in Paris to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. Progress is far too slow, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
  • It is important that the biggest polluters – in particular China, the USA, the EU, India and Russia, which are together responsible for approximately 70% of current emissions – assume responsibility for their share.
  • It also makes much more financial sense for states to decarbonise their economies than to fork out increasingly large sums for safety measures and damage caused by natural hazards, not to mention the human suffering involved.

"Until the end of the 1980s, climate change was the realm of specialists and activists. By this time, Munich Re was already one of those specialists. As early as 1973, Munich Re had addressed the topic of climate change as a potential future risk for weather-related damage in a publication about flooding. The Board of Management also had a gut feeling that natural catastrophe patterns had changed and that climate change could be partly responsible for this. With the aim of systematically analysing natural catastrophes and detecting the underlying processes, Munich Re established the Geo Risks Research department led by meteorologist Professor Gerhard Berz in 1974. Up to that point, no insurance companies had employed scientists in such roles. These days, 35 are employed by Munich Re alone."

Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cancún and Elmau

"Times were tough in the beginning, with battles being fought to convince others of the cause and very few scientists and researchers focusing on the topic. We are still a long way from knowing everything there is to know about it, but we are now a lot closer to understanding climate change and its effects. It is now sufficiently clear and generally accepted that climate change does indeed exist and that it is predominantly caused by human activity. The IPCC  summarised the physical science basis in its reports – most recently the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) 2013/2014 – thereby laying down the essential principles.

Sadly the resolutions passed in climate negotiations are a poor reflection of the knowledge accumulated, even after over 20 years. The executive secretaries of the UNFCCC have undertaken enormous efforts but have often been frustrated as a result of stand-offs between industrialised and developing countries and among members of the industrialised world.

Nevertheless, important steps have been taken, in particular the 1997 Kyoto Protocol with its framework convention on climate change, the consensus achieved in Copenhagen to limit global warming to two degrees, and the establishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in Cancún in 2010 which aims to provide non-industrialised countries with support for climate finance and adaptation to the effects of climate change . Climate insurance solutions can go a long way towards making developing countries more resilient to increasingly extreme weather events. The decision taken by the G7 in Elmau to set up a project about insuring climate risks is heading in exactly the right direction. Within the next five years, an additional 400 million people in developing countries are to receive basic insurance cover for weather extremes."

COP 21 – what will be the result?

"Politicians are now more aware of the acuteness of the problem than ever before, and commitments to reduce emissions have never been so significant. Yet it is unlikely that an agreement will be made in Paris to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. Progress is far too slow, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. It is important that the biggest polluters – in particular China, the USA, the EU, India and Russia, which are together responsible for approximately 70% of current emissions –  assume responsibility for their share. It also makes much more financial sense for states to decarbonise their economies than to fork out increasingly large sums for safety measures and damage caused by natural hazards, not to mention the human suffering involved. We have to be prepared for the increasingly inevitable and significant consequences of climate change."

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