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Lloyd's head warns on effects of climate change


WASHINGTON--The oceanic windstorm season will lengthen and its impact will be felt over a wider geographic area than ever before because of climate change, the chairman of Lloyd's of London warned Friday.

"Weather-related catastrophes are costing the global insurance industry more than ever before," Lord Peter Levene said during a speech on global warming sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Washington D.C. He said that the number of natural catastrophes doubled between the 1960s and 1990s, but insured losses--the majority weather-related--increased almost sevenfold.

In 2005--"the worst year ever"--global insurance claims reached $83 billion, with U.S. hurricanes accounting for more than 80% of the total, he said.

The trend is likely to continue, and "we can only expect it to accelerate as climate change takes hold," Lord Levene said. Warmer sea-surface temperatures will mean more frequent landfalls and longer storm seasons, he said.

Lloyd's believes a $100 billion catastrophe could occur anywhere on the U.S. Atlantic coast, Lord Levene said. He called for "greater willingness to consider radical land use policies for affected areas." He also called for an examination of "government aid and unsound building and location decisions."

He added that Lloyd's is already talking with U.S. industry leaders "to form a high-level task force to examine the risk implications of climate change."