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UN says environmental disasters cost world $70 bln

UN says environmental disasters cost world $70 bln
NEW DELHI - Crippling droughts, torrential floods and other environmental disasters will cost the world more than $70 billion in 2002, the United Nations Environment Programe said.
Devastating floods - just some of 526 \"significant\" natural disasters in the first nine months of the year - ripped through parts of Europe, China, India, Nepal and Bangladesh this year, killing thousands of people and leaving millions more homeless. \"The final bill for this year\'s natural disasters could be over $70 billion,\" the UNEP said in a statement, quoting a preliminary report by experts at Munich Reinsurance Co. \"Natural catastrophes, a vast majority of which have been weather-related, have cost countries and communities an estimated $56 billion during the period January to September 2002,\" said the statement, released at a major U.N. climate change convention. More than 3,000 delegates from 185 states have gathered in New Delhi for the 10-day conference on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and coping with the impact of climate change. Of the estimated 526 natural disasters in the first nine months, 195 were in Asia - home to almost half the world\'s people - 149 in the Americas, 99 in Europe, 45 in Australasia and 38 in Africa, the U.N. said. Floods were a third of the total but killed more people and cost far more than windstorms, earthquakes or other catastrophes. \"We have, once more, strong indications that global warming is increasing and will thus have serious affects on societies and economies alike,\" Thomas Loster, one of the team that prepared the report, Annual Review: Natural Catastrophes 2002, said. The report said more than 9,400 people died in these natural disasters - more than 8,000 in Asia. In contrast, costs were higher in Europe - almost $33 billion - followed by Asia at $14.8 billion and North America at $7.7 billion. Some environmentalists say recent climate disasters around the world - from droughts in India, Australia and the United States to floods in Europe - are graphic harbingers of some of the expected consequences of global warming. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that by 2100 average global surface temperatures will be 1.4 degrees to 5.8 degrees Celsius higher than in 1990. UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer urged industrialised nations to act quickly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide, from the developed world to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. But the United States, the world\'s biggest air polluter, has refused to ratify the protocol, arguing that it will hit its economy and does not apply to developing countries. Story by Sugita Katyal REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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