Societal challenges

NERC research plays a critical role in meeting the 21st century's great challenge - to improve our quality of life and grow economies whilst living within the Earth's limits. We meet this challenge by addressing three broad societal needs.

Benefiting from natural resources

Natural resources sustain life, wellbeing and economic activity. Yet growing UK and world populations make ever greater demands on food, water, energy, minerals and other essential services we get from nature. All natural resources are derived from physical, chemical and biological processes that interact in land, water and air.

NERC science tells us how these environmental processes control resource availability, and how we can use resources responsibly. This knowledge will help us use and recycle resources safely and efficiently, live within the Earth's limits, and steward natural resources for future generations.

Resilience to environmental hazards

Extreme weather, volcanoes, earthquakes, space weather, pollution, novel diseases and invasive species all have serious impacts on people, supply chains and essential infrastructure in the UK and internationally. Many such hazards are becoming more frequent and severe as our environment changes and as populations and cities grow.

NERC scientists are rapidly advancing our understanding of the processes that create natural and man-made hazards, so that we are better equipped to manage vulnerability, risk, response and recovery. We will help partners use NERC science to make people, business and infrastructure more resilient to environmental hazards and emergencies.

Managing environmental change

Some environmental variability is natural, but human activities are directly causing additional physical, chemical and biological changes - often at scales and speeds never before encountered. These changes provide huge opportunities and challenges for our economy and way of life.

NERC science tells us how the processes of natural variability and man-made change work - as a whole Earth system, from global to local scale, from millions of years past to the present and into the future. We will help our partners use this whole-system knowledge to inform responsible management of the environment for multiple benefits - for example to produce renewable energy and food while conserving wildlife, or to understand the consequences of engineering our environment and climate.