After reading physics at Imperial College, Piers began researching climate change for his doctorate at the University of Reading in 1990, long before it was fashionable. He is currently Professor of Physical Climate Change in the School of Earth and Environment, where he has been since 2005.
In December 2011, Piers was appointed a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award for his outstanding research contribution to climate science. Prior to Leeds, he has spent time working as a Research Fellow at the University of Colorado and at the Cooperative Research Centre for Southern Hemisphere Meteorology in Melbourne, Australia. Piers was one of the principal authors of the 2007 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He was also a lead author for IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2013. He currently leads a large research team, researching various aspects of climate change, principally investigating the multiple causes of climate change and possible climate mitigation strategies.
Piers’ research has convinced him that rainforest protection should be the first priority of any successful mitigation strategy. Due to increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, rainforests around the world are actually growing more and more vigorously – this increasing growth rate actually removes around a quarter of the CO2 mankind emits every year. Yet we are still deforesting at an alarming rate. Research at Leeds has shown how this deforestation leads to both increased carbon dioxide emissions and widespread climate effects, such as a reduction of rainfall in tropical regions.
Between 1990 and 2005 the world has lost over 10 million hectares of rainforest (an 8% reduction of rainforest area). And this deforestation itself emits more than a billion tonnes of a carbon annually, accounting for around 12% or more of current global carbon dioxide emissions. If we succeeded in stopping all deforestation tomorrow we would instantly cut our global emissions and make sure rainforests can continue protect us from the worst of climate change going into the future.
Within UBoC, Piers manages an academic team at Leeds, led by Dr Dominick Spracklen. This team ensures the academic credibility to UBoC projects, making sure that UBoC projects are grounded in the best science, taking the latest academic understanding of climate change and rainforest sustainability into account. He also ensures UBoC is appropriately aware of the latest developments in international climate change and sustainability negotiations. The University of Leeds team also provide day-to-day support for UBoC, serving as the principal contact and maintaining our accounts and web-pages.