Insurers will have to pay out the largest amount of compensation in 10 years to cover the damage caused by natural disasters in the first half of 2021, including extreme freezing temperatures in the US, according to an industry report.
Global natural disaster insured losses, the amount insurers are forecast to pay out, will be as high as $42bn (£31bn) for the six-month period, according to preliminary estimates by Aon, an insurer headquartered in London.
Climate scientists have long predicted that the global climate crisis will contribute to more frequent extreme weather events, such as storms, floods and heatwaves, across the world.
Twenty-one weather events caused losses to the broader economy of more than $1bn, as well as an earthquake. The rise in insured losses was mainly caused by extreme weather events in the US, including the freezing conditions that caused chaos and electricity blackouts in southern states including Texas in February.
The event – caused by a “polar vortex” that swept Arctic air southwards – resulted in insured losses of $15bn, making it the costliest instance of extreme winter weather on record.
Overall economic losses came in below their 10-year median, at $93bn, Aon said. The deaths of 3,000 people were associated with natural disasters, which was also lower than the 10-year average. Natural disasters tend to be more costly for insurers in richer countries where businesses and citizens are more likely to be insured.
The Aon report highlighted multiple instances of climate records being broken. On 29 June Canada experienced its highest temperature on record, 49.6C (121F), in Lytton, British Columbia. At least 800 deaths were directly linked to the heatwave in Canada and the US north-west. At the other end of the scale, Spain recorded its coldest ever temperature, -35.8C (-32F), in Léon on 7 January.
Africa recorded its warmest January and June on record, Aon said.
“The juxtaposition of observed record heat and cold around the globe highlighted the humanitarian and structural stresses from temperature extremes,” said Steve Bowen, head of catastrophe insight on Aon’s impact forecasting team.
Insured losses for the first half of 2021 were higher than any equivalent since 2011, when the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
In Europe, extreme storms at the end of June caused insured losses of $4.5bn. Data for the second half of 2021 will include the costs of severe flooding in Germany.