Insurers and the government need to work together to deal with climate change, says Insurance Times editor Elliot Lane

Insurers have a responsibility to deal with climatic change but the industry must also tell the government what it needs to make this happen, according to former environment secretary, Michael Meacher. To say Meacher's keynote speech at the Forces of Nature conference hit delegates like a mini-tornado might be regarded as hyperbole but it left a lasting impression.

It left those who heard it in no doubt that climate change is a reality.

Not a day goes by without yet another report on a theory or disaster scenario telling us how we are destroying the environment.

However, the US and Australian governments' reticence to endorse the measures proposed in the Kyoto Protocol has allowed certain major conglomerates to ignore their full responsibilities.

Natural forces have always had an influence on climate. Scientists are aware that climate may become hotter, colder, drier or wetter because of natural forces that have nothing to do with human activity.

The world's climate cooled dramatically when, in 1815, a massive volcanic eruption in Indonesia from Mt Tambora injected so much dust into the upper atmosphere that it blocked sunlight across North America and Europe. This event led to widespread famines, and historians described 1816 as the "year without summer".

In 2004, the Tsunami and, on a smaller scale the Boscastle flooding disaster, were other examples of such freak events.

But what is also obvious is that carbon emission levels and ozone depletion is a man-made problem. Carbon emission trading targets have been set by leading industrial nations and they must be adhered to.

How would this affect business? Only a few weeks ago the Observer newspaper calculated that BP's record-breaking £11bn profit would be "instantly transformed into a near-£18bn loss" once the greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and use of its products were taken into account.

The insurance industry has suffered the brunt of the devastating hurricane losses of the past two years.

As Lloyd's worldwide director Julian James made it clear, Katrina and her little sisters helped to make 2005 the worst year for CAT losses ever, a staggering $83bn.

He added that Lloyd's was assessing the worst-case scenario of $100bn losses in a single year, which could be the crippling amount.

What we understand is today's climate is tomorrow's challenge.