There are more than seven billion people alive today sharing the resources of the planet earth. The UN estimates that the population will be between three billion and 25 billion people in the year 2150, which equates to a population growth rate of between -0.5% and +1.0% a year over the next century or more. This huge range partly reflects uncertain predictions of how large a population could be sustained by the planet. Energy and food resources are strained today - how will they fare in future? This issue also reflects a fundamental uncertainty about the type of economy that will exist to develop and allocate resources between people.
This highlights just one of a series of challenges facing actuaries as they try to understand the financial environment in which their clients will operate in future. These require actuaries to expand their horizons to incorporate new data and challenge the core models we have developed over a number of years.
The Resource and Environment Board was established in January 2014 to address these issues on the behalf of the IFoA. This is a historic development: we are the first actuarial body in the world to incorporate resource and environmental issues into actuarial work in this way. Nevertheless, we see this as a completely logical and natural development, responding to the challenges posed by the 21st century.
As one of its first actions, the board agreed three high-level objectives.
1. To support actuaries in existing practice areas with resource and environment issues.
2. To develop the actuarial profession, enabling actuaries to work in the resource and environment area.
3. To serve the public interest.
We expect the majority of actuarial work to be affected by these issues in some way over time, so our main focus in the short term is on supporting existing practice areas and giving actuaries the tools to work with these problems.
Actuaries' core skills are in translating real-world data into the models used to generate advice over the long term, basing their decisions on the best available information rather than on preconceived ideas. While we think that models may need to be adjusted to allow for resource and environmental factors, we certainly think the actuarial skill set is the right one to bring to these problems.
Actuaries are a group of professionals who could be outstanding in this field, and others outside the actuarial profession are starting to notice this as well.
This is just the beginning of a long journey for actuaries working in this field, but we're looking forward to building up experience and influence in a variety of key areas in the next few years.