The financial toll from natural catastrophes worldwide could top $70 billion by the end of this year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.Releasing findings of a study conducted by a re-insurance company called Munich Re which is part of the agency’s Finance Initiative, UNEP told delegates attending a climate change meeting in New Delhi that disasters have already cost countries about $56 billion during the first three quarters of this year.The bill comes as a result of record-breaking rains, devastating floods in Europe, the destruction of homes across the Caribbean and life-threatening mudslides in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, according to the agency.UNEP’s report to the Eight Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change says there have been over 500 major natural disasters already this year, killing thousands of people, rendering hundreds of thousands homeless and affecting millions of others. “Climate change, linked with human-made emissions, is already under way,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. He warned that globally, there will be a rise in extreme weather events impacting “every facet of life,” including agriculture, health, water supplies and the natural environment.“It will be the poorer parts of the world, the poorer people, who will suffer most because they have neither the financial or other resources to cope,” Mr. Toepfer said, calling on industrialized nations to ratify the Convention’s Kyoto Protocol, which contains binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.The UNEP chief also urged broader efforts “to help the poorer parts of the world adapt, to help them cope with the more unstable and more extreme environments likely in the coming decades.”

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