2004 sets records for heat and natural disasters

2004 may be the fourth warmest year on record and the most expensive to date for insurance companies stuck with the tab for cleaning up after natural disasters, according to new data released this week. Extreme weather conditions in many parts of the world, including a record 10 typhoons in Japan and the first-ever hurricane in South America, are being blamed on global warming. Flooding, drought, hurricanes, and other weather events cost insurance companies $35 billion in the first 10 months of the year — $26 billion of that in the U.S. Following the release of the data, climate experts and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged representatives at an international climate conference in Buenos Aires to stop dilly-dallying and take some action to combat climate change. U.S. reps weren’t warm to the notion. “There’s no scientific direct evidence connecting storms to climate change,” said Conrad Lautenbacher, U.S. commerce undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere.