In the last century or so, sea levels have risen up to 25 centimeters while mean temperatures have gone up about 1.5 degrees centigrade.
The only viable culprit for these changes is human activity.
Man’s guilty fingerprints can be found on any number of factors that have contributed to increasing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Whether it’s a car or a coal plant to blame, carbon dioxide content is up 30%, methane levels have doubled, and nitrous oxide has risen 12%.
Climate change has had only limited immediate effect on business but, indirectly, it can cause considerable losses through the increased risk of destruction from a major weather event.
As Dr Robert Watson, a senior spokesperson on climate change at the World Bank, said in a recent webcast: "Some parts of the world have become wetter and others have become drier."
The impact of events like more frequent typhoons, unpredictable floods and severe droughts can be enormous. Ironically, Chinese people and corporations tend to have little, if any, insurance. Which means that the entire cost of recovery falls on the individuals, or the government, and can have a serious impact on GDP growth.
In 1998, the most expensive year on record, natural disasters cost China US$38 billion. Swiss Re, a reinsurance and financial services group, estimates that today the cost could be much higher.
It puts potential losses from a serious typhoon at US$38 billion, compared to only US$2.5 billion in insured assets. A serious flood comes in at US$31 billion, with only about 6% is insured, while an earthquake could cost over US$120 billion and insured assets are less than 1%.
"Earthquake risk is very much present here," said Paul Wilkins, China head for insurance and risk consultancy Marsh.
An earthquake hitting Beijing sits up there with a severe typhoon wreaking havoc in Hong Kong and widespread flooding in Shanghai as one of China’s worst possible disasters.
"We’re talking about a shock, something that could happen in a very short time and have a long lasting effect," said Tai Hui, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank. "There is an urgency lacking in preparing for things like global warming, sea levels rising, that kind of thing."
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