Reuters Investigates

Insight and investigations from our expert reporters

Japanese quake cost bad, but far from the worst

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By Ben Berkowitz

INSURANCE/JAPANThe March 11 Great Tohoku Earthquake in Japan was a tragic disaster of historic proportions — but from a purely financial standpoint it pales in comparison. (For a special report on insurers, click here.)

Estimates are still coming in but it seems likely the quake will end up ranking as the costliest of the last generation in insured losses, surpassing even the Northridge earthquake that struck southern California in 1994. (The one that collapsed a number of major freeways, by way of reference).

But looking back historically, it is dwarfed by two temblors in particular — the New Madrid quake of 1812 and the San Francisco quake of 1906. If those events happened today, they would each cause nearly $100 billion in *insured* losses, to say nothing of their total economic impact.

Great Tohoku comes in fourth on that all-time list, assuming the higher end of AIR Worldwide’s loss estimate.

Solar energy vs wildlife

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Sarah McBride reports on brewing battles between environmentalists in her special report: “With solar power, it’s Green vs. Green.”

It turns out the perfect place to build a big solar plant is often also the perfect place for a tortoise or a fox to live. This means developers of large-scale solar plants are running into legal challenges from people who one would expect to be natural allies of alternative energy providers.

Jerry Brown is back

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The new year brings a new set of politicians into office, including California Governor Jerry Brown. As Nichola Groom reports, he has his work cut out for him.

As this graphic shows, politicians are in low regard and pessimism is high in the Golden State.