Natural Catastrophe Watch

The Financial Times has an interesting chart based on data from the reinsurance company Munch Re (click for larger image):

Natural Catastrophes Worldwide jpg

Note: roughly speaking you could substitute ‘drought’ for the world ‘climatological’; ‘storms’ for the word ‘meteorological’; and ‘floods’ for ‘hydrological’. ‘Geophysical’ are mostly ‘earthquakes’.

In financial terms, Munich Re sees catastrophe losses coming to $160 billion in aggregate, led by Hurricane Sandy at $25 billion (here). Overall, the US accounted for 67% of overall losses, or $107 billion. To put this in context, US GDP was around $15.8 trillion in 2012, so such losses were 0.67% of GDP. We have to be a little careful here, however, since GDP is a flow concept (like earnings) and catastrophe losses are a stock concept (like wealth).

United States net wealth didn’t growth by $15.8 trillion since you need to take into account depreciation of household, corporate and public-sector assets. The best approach would be to find a figure for the annual change in net wealth and then compare this with projected catastrophe losses going forward (which will almost certainly follow an exponential curve upward). I will return to this theme in future posts.

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