Insurance expert, Dr Peter Hoeppe, has told the ABC’s Lateline Business programme that weather-related insurance payouts in Australia have quadrupled since the early 1980’s.

Dr Hoeppe is the head of risk research at Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers. He also chairs the German Government’s Climate Protection Strategy Forum.

Dr Hoeppe explained that "we unfortunately see quite some trends in weather-related disasters, increasing trends worldwide, also in Australia, for example, the weather related events have quadrupled. We have four times the number of loss relevant event in Australia nowadays compared to the early 1980s for example."

He added that the trend only applies to weather-related events – not to other catastrophies such as earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanoes. "We think something in the atmosphere has changed and this change is contributing to these increasing trends, definitely," he said.

Dr Hoeppe said that the biggest risks in Austalia are increased heatwaves, drought and bushfires, flooding in Queensland and hail storms in the Sydney region.

Asked if cutting emissions was likely to reverse the trend, Dr Hoeppe explained that it takes a long time to effect global warming. Whatever we do now may not produce results for 20 or 30 years.

Dr Hoeppe concluded that "climate change doesn’t wait for us until we have coped with the economic crisis. We need to act now and this would be really a chance, the economic crisis could be a chance, because never before so much fiscal money has been spent and this fiscal money can be directed into directions which pay back very soon in sustainable ways. To generate electricity, for example, to generate power, and I think we should take this chance right now."