1 December 2021

My Climate Journey Podcast - Iggy Bassi shares where Cervest began and where we’re going


By Cervest

My Climate Journey Podcast - Iggy Bassi shares where Cervest began and where we’re going

My Climate Journey was started by Jason in 2018 as a way to bring together experts in the field of climate change, and senior employees within top organisations to share the work they are doing to combat climate change. With the ultimate purpose of educating the wider community on the issues we are facing and how we can help, this podcast explores the experiences and learnings industry experts have discovered throughout their own climate journey.

In this edition, our Founder and CEO, Iggy Bassi, explains to Jason his own climate journey, the events that led to the founding of Cervest, and the current and rising need for Climate Intelligence. You can read our excerpt below, or listen to the full podcast here.

Jason Jacobs: So let’s take it from the top, what is Cervest?

Cervest is what we call a Climate Intelligence company. What that really means is we help governments, companies, and NGOs to better manage, mitigate, and find opportunities within climate risk. Not only do we help you manage your risk, but we also help you think about how to adapt to new types of risk. Built over a five-year period, our groundbreaking Earth Science AI™ technology combines our earth science expertise, data modeling, and machine learning - translating the world’s peer-reviewed climate science into decision-useful insights.

In many ways, society is asking people to address the incredible problem of climate change when they don’t really have decision-ready tools. In most of the world, climate science doesn’t come in a decision-ready format for people like you and me to make everyday business decisions. That’s what Cervest is really about – helping you decipher, translate and make actionable choices to protect your assets, understand where the risks are coming from, and then think about adaptation.

We believe Climate Intelligence will be the new superpower to help navigate the complexities of climate risk for the 21st Century. Open, democratized intelligence is core to the offering at Cervest, and it's actually one of our guiding principles as a mission-driven company as well.

Jason Jacobs: And how did all this come about, Iggy? What does your journey look like, and what led you down the path of starting Cervest in the first place?

I was in investment banking and management consulting and I actually dabbled in software many years ago. I think I got to a point in my career to say, well, how can I use my professional skills in ways that can actually benefit mankind as well? So about 12-13 years ago I set up a farming business in Ghana that was looking at sustainable agriculture. It was a complex business, but it was really during that time that we saw things that weren't picked up by climate models or weather systems. We thought there has to be a better way, and we looked at how to mathematically encode this risk so we can all benefit from it.

In 2015, when I sold that business, I moved back to London and began to think more about the issue of climate risk. I realized that the world's climate scientists work in silos and that no one takes into consideration what's happening to a specific asset. So we asked, can we use science in a way to personalize the climate risk down to an individual’s asset? Therefore, they can understand what's going to happen to their asset and what they need to do with their assets over time?

This is a problem for everybody, whether you're in the banking sector, insurance sector, industrial sector, or tax sector... Whether you're a farmer in Ghana, you're my neighbor in Brazil, or you're a billion-dollar company, we all need to become climate intelligent over time. If we want to stay within a Paris-aligned world we have to make this intelligence open. I need to be able to see your assets and you need to be able to see mine.

At the very heart of Cervest we’ve also built a super-interesting mathematical framework that allows us to take different spatial-temporal resolutions, different approaches, different time periods, and fuse it all together, synthesize all the various aspects of risk like fire, drought, extreme precipitation but in ways that can unify it mathematically to give an overall rating of an asset.

Jason Jacobs: Iggy, do you feel like there's a standard definition of climate risk? Or does it vary greatly across the different stakeholders?

I think to some people climate risk is all about carbon, and for others, it's about the physical risk. We say you need to look at both sides of the coin because in many ways emission reductions are absolutely necessary, but they're insufficient by themselves. So you have this broad spectrum of people who believe we just need to reach Net Zero for everything to be fine, all the way through to companies who understand the physical risk to their assets that will still occur, even if they reach Net Zero.

We don’t have any universal standards and this, again, is incumbent upon the policymakers to start determining this. Or at least give us better guidance than they have to date. They need to say what risk means, so that consumers, retail investors, and institutional investors can start comparing apples to apples.

Jason Jacobs: And when it comes to getting the data, which it sounds like is fundamental to your success, are you encountering any resistance from companies to give the data to you? Or more importantly, to give the data to you knowing that it will be made available to everybody else?

We only take assets of public companies and governments, and I think that's important for us because that's where the bulk of the emissions and climate risk is, and where the bulk of the GDP really resides. We take the view that the power of open intelligence is what's going to help drive the rapid change that we need over the next decade.

Jason Jacobs: So, we’ve seen some other companies that are focused on the same broader market and some of them might focus on specific verticals. How do you see this landscape evolving and will there be many successful companies? Is it winner takes all?

I think today, the landscape is fairly nascent. What’s really converged over the last couple of years is computing power, machine learning, and exponential power to look at risk. We can make every asset observable from a climate point of view for the first time. If it's observable, and we have digital technology and infrastructure - we can share that risk data now for the first time, at speed.

We welcome everybody trying to solve the climate problem, and I think over time there’ll be greater collaboration. We work with scientific partners and universities. We, as a single company, cannot see all the best science – it’s not feasible. So we take an open science approach in the sense that we want to work and collaborate with people who build the best models and data sets.

When it comes to the question of ‘does the winner take all?', I’m just glad to see so much talent working to solve the climate problem.

Jason Jacobs: Iggy, who do you want to hear from in terms of listeners? Where do you need help?

I think policymakers and regulators need to understand why Climate Intelligence needs to be encoded into their thinking, resilience plans, health plans, and national infrastructure. Policymakers would be my number one choice because we need to think about smarter approaches to carbon and carbon pricing regulation disclosure, for instance. We want tools that allow people to understand what's happening, and start encoding that into their everyday decisions.

I think 1-in-3 Americans have suffered from, or been subject to, some extreme event that they haven’t seen before...we’ve had flooding in Germany in the summertime… events are popping up all over the world and it’s forcing the conversation, but [people] need better tools. They don’t really understand climate and climate science and statistical tables – we want tools where they can understand simply what’s happening, directionally, and start encoding that into their everyday decisions.

Jason Jacobs: Well that seems like a great point to end on Iggy. Anything that I didn’t ask that I should have? Or any additional parting words for listeners?

Get climate-literate! That’s my basic advice to folks. Think about Climate Intelligence as something that everybody needs, will need, and will be useful for people to help them protect their assets. And think about how we build collective security for the 21st Century.

Listen to the full podcast here!

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