Launch of the AXA – Imperial College London Chair in Biosphere and Climate impacts

The AXA Research Fund, a world-wide initiative of scientific philanthropy supported by the global insurance group AXA, has awarded €1 Million to Imperial College London (UK) to create a Chair in Biosphere and Climate impacts, held by Professor Colin Prentice. He will build comprehensive climate change scenarios including robust, observationally based modelling of biological processes and will thus be able to forecast worldwide consequences, notably for primary production in agriculture, bio-energy and natural ecosystems.

24 June 2013

Posted in Financial results

by Miranda Bellord (see media contact)

The AXA Research Fund was created in 2007 to encourage scientific research that would contribute to understanding and preventing of environmental, life, and socio-economic risks. It has already committed €99m to funding research projects and AXA announced on 20 June 2013 it will allocate a further €100m over the next 6 years. The AXA Research Fund aims to help academics share their discoveries to better inform public debate, as well as inform AXA's own risk modelling.

Beside the academic excellence of the institution and the Chair holder, the AXA Research Fund has chosen to support this research into climate change because current climate models focus on the chemical and physical processes, while biological processes are either neglected or treated simplistically. Current models for these impacts (and possible feedbacks on climate change itself) give very inconsistent results. Yet biological processes are key to many of the expected impacts of climate change. Knowledge and observations of plant and ecosystem function are growing rapidly, so there is an opportunity to test large-scale biosphere modelling. The Chair's objective is therefore to synthesize and apply robust, quantitative knowledge about the impact and risks of climate variability and change on terrestrial ecosystems - including the use of land for food, fibre and (increasingly) energy production - considering their function, biodiversity, and interactions with climate.

Jean Drouffe, Group Finance, Risk and Strategy Director at AXA UK, sponsor of this chair said
"I am very proud to be the sponsor of this chair, and I look forward to a fruitful and long-term intellectual partnership with Imperial College. As insurers, better understanding of the impacts of climate change on our society is crucial to help us better cover our clients and thus protect them. It is our job to help them anticipate risks and mitigate their consequences, and such research will allow us to better model for all eventualities In return, AXA and its risk management experts will contribute to Prof Prentice's research by sharing our insurance expertise."
The program's methods will be applied with contemporary climate data and state-of-the-art climate projections to develop new models. These will be able to describe and forecast consequences for land ecosystems, risks and opportunities for forestry, arable crops and bioenergy production, changes in carbon, water and nutrient cycles. The model applications will be focused on quantifying risks and identifying opportunities to sustainable adaptation.

Prof. Colin Prentice, the Chair Holder, is an internationally-renowned researcher of land-biosphere studies in relation to climate change. He will be hosted by the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, in partnership with the Grantham Institute for Climate Change. In 2002, Prof. Prentice was awarded the Milankovitch medal from the European Geophysical Society for his outstanding contributions in modelling the terrestrial biosphere as an interactive component of our Earth system. A major contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he was responsible for informing governments on the relationship between CO2 emissions and concentrations and the processes of CO2 uptake by the oceans and land.