Adapting Climate Science for Business

Image by NASA, sourced from Unsplash.
Wednesday 19 June 2019, 6.00pm - 7.30pm

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Law Foyer, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney


Part Three of the Business Making of Climate Change series.

Climate science and the models it uses to project climatic changes over the 21st century were designed to answer big picture policy questions at the global scale. As a consequence, climate models don’t typically factor in the interactions between longer-term climatic trends and local scale events, such as weather systems, human populations or local government planning.

So just how can science be adapted to answer the questions businesses wants to know? For example, how can scientists advise a company whether a particular piece of infrastructure at a specific address is likely to be rendered useless because of a cyclone in 2030? The scientists in this final panel will take us through the ways in which they are assisting a variety of business sectors in answering such questions. They will explain where the science is at – what it is capable of and what it is not yet capable of – and discuss the opportunities and challenges they face in working with the business community.


Brendan Cullen, University of Melbourne
Andy Pitman, ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes
Kate Simmonds, Willis Towers Watson
Nick Wood, Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub

Dr Tanya Fiedler (Chair), University of Sydney Business School

About the Business Making of Climate Change series 

In contrast to our political elites, the last 3-5 years have seen a rapid acceleration in awareness of climate change as a business risk. This re-framing of the climate crisis, from an environmental to an economic concern, is in large part a product of announcements made – not by scientists or policy makers – but by representatives of the financial system. The Business Making of Climate Change series of public talks brings together investors, lawyers, insurers, corporates, consultants and scientists, as they collectively consider why climate change is increasingly relevant to the business community, as well as how businesses can make sense of climate change in a way that is relevant to them. The series is convened by Dr Tanya Fiedler and produced by Michelle St Anne.


Dr Brendan Cullen is a Senior Lecturer in grazing systems in the Faculty of Veterinary & Agricultural Sciences at The University of Melbourne.  Over the last 15 years, Brendan has worked on a series of research projects with the dairy and red meat industries to understand the impacts of projected climate changes on livestock production businesses across Australia.  The research aims to identify industry pathways that are adapted to a variable and changing climate.  Brendan has completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree and PhD on pasture plant ecophysiology from The University of Melbourne.

Andy Pitman is Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes and Professor in Climate Science, UNSW. Andy has broad interests extending across climate modelling, climate change, climate extremes and land cover change. He has worked extensively on how land cover change and increasing greenhouse gases change the probability of extremes. He has been a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and on the Copenhagen Diagnosis. He is a member of the advisory board of Risk Frontiers. He won the Priestley Medal in 2004, the AMOS Medal in 2009, the NSW Climate Scientist of the Year in 2010 and was elected Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in 2016 and is a Fellow of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. He has served on multiple federal government reviews. He was awarded an Order of Australia (AO) in 2019.

Kate Simmonds is a Catastrophe Analyst at Willis Towers Watson, and develops proprietary hazard models for different meteorological extremes, notably flood, severe thunderstorm, bushfire and cyclone. She focuses on the Willis Re Flood Hazard Model, as well as the National Flood Information Database (NFID). Kate is also working to further develop analytics solutions covering physical climate change risk, in line with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFDs), and is a member of the Insurance Council of Australia’s Climate Change Action Committee. Kate has a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) in Geophysics and Geography from the University of Sydney, and a First Class Honours degree in Climate Extremes from the Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW. Kate has also assisted on CSIRO’s research vessel, RV Investigator, in conducting bathymetric, sedimentary and biological surveys.

Nick Wood is Director of the consultancy Climate Policy Research and Chair of the Stakeholder Advisory Group of the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub – part of the Commonwealth National Environmental Science Program. Nick has over 20 years of experience providing pragmatic analysis of the complex risks that arise from the evolution of climate policy at a national and global level. His science background enables him to understand the most complex aspects of climate change. He combines this with extensive experience in non-financial audit and strong knowledge of corporate governance. He is able to provide clear, robust and concise advice to clients in matters relating to the disclosure of climate related risks. The principle at the core of Nick’s approach is that the challenge of climate change is a financial problem; one of resource allocation, valuation and risk transfer.

Tanya Fiedler is a lecturer in the Discipline of Accounting. Tanya’s current research interests lie in the ways in which the measurement methods and data of science are translated into accounting information. In this regard, Tanya has a particular interest in accounting for the climate.Tanya completed her PhD at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia in 2016. Tanya’s thesis examined the making of Australia’s first nation-wide carbon market, by means of a longitudinal analysis of archival documents spanning 15 years. Tanya is currently working with multiple partners in industry and the climate science community, to examine how climate models and data can be utilised by the financial services and investment sector to manage climate opportunities and risk. Prior to her academic career, Tanya worked as a consultant for Energetics, a specialist carbon and energy consultancy.