Extreme poverty has been halved in the last two decades, with consequent benefits for emerging and maturing insurance markets, but climate change could negate some of this progress if governments and industry do not act, experts have warned.
Antoine Flahaut, director of the Institute of Global Health, University of Geneva, spoke about how climate change will hit health levels as well as economic prospects, at the Scor Foundation Seminar on Climate Risks, yesterday.
"Global warming will increase the population of insects and rodents causing more infectious diseases," Flahaut told the seminar in Paris.
"It is really unfair is that the countries that emitted more in the past century are not the ones where the impact on health is happening today," he said.
In Zimbabwe, for example, much of population is located in the mountains, which are cooler and have less mosquitoes, noted Flahaut.
"With climate change these highlands will become warmer which could jeopardize the control of malaria," explained Flahaut.
Increased flooding, aside from its emerging catastrophe risk exposures, will also increase waterborne diseases, he warned.
"Increased rainfall is often linked to increased diarrhoea," said Flahaut.
"Diarrhoea is one of the most deadly diseases for children in these countries," he noted.
Global warming is also expected to affect crop growth, a crucial business line for emerging microinsurance products, potentially creating drought and famine.
Consequentially, millions of children are expected to have stunted growth by 2050, Flahaut warned.
"People often say mankind can adapt, but there are surely limitations. When the land is flooded you cannot adapt; you have to move," said Flahaut.
"Even when people are aware of hurricanes in developed countries such as the US, they still do not adapt or move," he said.
However, Flahaut used steps taken in the UK as an example of successful risk mitigation in a developed economy.
Making households more energy efficient has avoided more than 5,000 deaths a year in the UK, he argued, as the lower pollution has cut deaths from respiratory diseases.
Reactions' senior reporter Victoria Beckett is reporting live from the Scor climate change event in Paris, and can be found tweeting at @Reactions_Vicky.