Professor Richard Betts
Chair in Climate Impacts


Research interests

  • Climate change impacts on water resources and the role of vegetation in modifying this impact.
  • Climate change impacts on large-scale ecosystems and interactions with deforestation (with a particular interest in Amazonia).
  • Effects of land use/land cover change on climate.

Research projects

HELIX (High-End cLimate Impacts and eXtremes)

Richard is leading the HELIX project, which is an international collaboration consisting of 16 partners. HELIX is an EU FP7 project and will be running for 4 years starting on the 1st November 2013.

With the target of limiting global warming to 2ºC increasingly difficult to achieve, policymakers, businesses and other decision-makers need to plan to adapt to changes in climate under higher levels of global warming. This requires coherent information on the future climate conditions, and the consequences of different adaptation actions.

International negotiations on limiting global warming also require clear information on the consequences of different levels of climate change. While a vast array of projections, scenarios and estimates of future climate change and its impacts already exists, much is conflicting, unclear, of unknown levels of certainty and difficult to use to inform decisions.

HELIX addresses this by providing a clear, coherent, internally-consistent view of a manageable number of “future worlds” under higher levels of global warming reached under a range of circumstances, supported by advice on which aspects are more certain and which less certain. This will be delivered through ground breaking scientific research across a range of physical, natural and social science disciplines, in close engagement with experienced users of climate change information in order to ensure appropriate focus, clarity and utility.
Since international climate policy often frames climate change in terms of levels of global warming relative to pre-industrial state, our research will focus on addressing the questions:

  • “What do 4ºC and 6ºC worlds look like compared to 2ºC?”
  • “What are the consequences of different adaptation choices?”

The core product will be a set of eight coherent global scenarios of the natural and human world at these levels of warming achieved at different rates and with different pathways of adaptation by society.

A second product will provide more detailed information in three focus regions; Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa in the Northern Hemisphere and the South Asia. This will all be supported by a comprehensive analysis of confidence and uncertainty.

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