Insurers Link Global Warming with Higher Cost of Storms

TOKYO, Japan, July 25, 2005 (ENS) - A powerful typhoon in the Pacific is heading straight towards eastern Japan, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Typhoon Banyan is expected to close in on the Pacific coast of eastern Japan late Monday or early Tuesday, the agency said.

Typhoon Banyan will make landfall somewhere between the Kii Peninsula and the eastern Kanto area, the agency predicts.

For Japan, the typhoon season usually extends from June to October, and last year's typhoon season was the worst on record.

This season there have been seven typhoons in the Northwest Pacific region, about average, but the season began early, with the first storm blowing through in April.


Typhoon Banyan is blowing northwards heading for Japan's East coast. (Photo courtesy Digital Typhoon)
The Tropical Storm Risk June forecast update for typhoon activity in the region continues to anticipate a slightly above average season. This forecast, based on a sea surface temperature warmer than normal by up to .33 degree Celsius (.6 degree F), is issued by scientists at the Benfield Hazard Research Centre, University College London.

Last year, experts were wary of linking the unusual number and severity of storms to long range trends such as global warming, but this year the connection is being made by the people who pay the bills for storm damages.

New calculations from the Association of British Insurers based on international scientific research shows that due to global warming, the costs of Japanese typhoons could increase by around two-thirds over the next 75 years.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) calculates that Japan could sustain damage of up to about 3.8 trillion yen (US$34 billion) annually by 2080 if global warming continues at its current pace.

The increase would be double the cost of typhoon damage in 2004, which was the costliest year in the last 100 years.

The good news is that the ABI’s report, "Financial Risks of Climate Change," shows that these costs can be reduced if governments take action now to reduce carbon emissions.

"This could save up to 80 percent of the predicted extra costs," the report says.

The ABI report also recommends that governments continue to improve coastal defenses and flood protection inland; and change building codes to ensure more weather resilient buildings.


Tracking Typhoon Banyan. The red circle shows where winds are 50 knots or more, the yellow circle where they are 30 knots, and the black circles show the path the typhoon will take over the next four days across central and northern Japan. (Map courtesy Japan Meteorological Agency)
Speaking at an ABI international conference June 29, Nick Starling, ABI’s director of general insurance said, “Managing the effects of climate change is a key issue for the 21st Century.

"Insurance is a messenger of change for future risks, as well as a provider of financial protection against the unforeseen," Starling said. "Governments now have a chance to make rational choices for the future, before it is too late. Making the right decisions based on first class assessment of the financial costs of climate change will ensure lower costs for the public in future.”

The ABI report warns that insurance markets could become more volatile. The capital needed by insurers to cover severe storms could rise by 8.7 trillion yen (US$78 billion), with increases of 80 percent for Japanese typhoons.

The insurers used the climate change scenarios modeled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of thousands of scientists from around the world established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.

UK and Japanese scientists are working together to advance the science of predicting climate change for the 21st century. A five year partnership launched in January is to combine the brainpower of top UK and Japanese climate science experts with cutting-edge supercomputing technology in Japan. The UK is investing £1.4M in this initiative.

Six scientists from the UK's Global Atmospheric Modelling Centre and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre will be based in Tokyo where they are being given access to the Japanese Earth Simulator supercomputer, one of the world's most powerful machines.

Here, they are running the UK’s state-of-the-art climate models with the most complex science incorporated to date and at the highest resolution ever.

Opened in March 2002, the Earth Simulator is dedicated to solving Grand Challenge problems facing the Earth in the coming decades. Funded by the Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, the Earth Simulator is 10 times more powerful than anything currently available to scientists in the UK and is housed in a custom made building with a floor space equivalent to four tennis courts.

Not only are the physical effects of the atmosphere, ocean and land on the Earth’s climate under consideration, but the interactions of plants and marine life with the climate are also being studied.