Global Environmental Challenges

Global Environmental Challenges

Big Science for Big Challenges

The ocean is fundamental to the planet’s big environmental challenges, and these can only be tackled by science conducted over decades and across the entire world’s ocean basins. The work we undertake at the NOC seeks to advance the knowledge required to address these big challenges facing people and planet.

Logo for CHALLENGE 1 - Securing and protecting ocean resources and ecosystems

Securing and protecting ocean resources and ecosystems

  • Ocean resources include food, minerals and clean energy (offshore wind, tidal and wave power generation).
     
  • It is estimated that by 2020 five per cent of the world’s minerals, including those vital for low-carbon technologies, could come from the ocean floor.
     
  • The ocean is a major food resource, and for over a billion people it is their primary source of animal protein, therefore understanding how fisheries will be impacted by global environmental change is vital for human life.
     
  • Biodiversity is decreasing across the planet, including in the oceans, due to habitat loss, pollution, and over-exploitation of resources.
     
  • Ensuring these ecosystems are protected is vital for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 – conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
     
  • The ocean, in particular the deep ocean, holds great potential for the development of medicines.
     
Logo for CHALLENGE 2 - Protecting people and property from natural disasters and climate change

Protecting people and property from natural disasters and climate change

  • As sea level rises, low lying coastal regions all over the world will be subject to ever more frequent extreme coastal flooding.
     
  • Coastal flooding from storm surges is UK’s single biggest natural disaster risk, impacting over four million people.
     
  • Extreme weather systems, including hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones draw their energy from the warm surface layer of the ocean.
     
Logo for CHALLENGE 3 - understanding climate change and variability

Understanding climate change and variability

  • The ocean has taken up 93% of all excess heat in the earth’s system due to the radiation imbalance at the top of the atmosphere.
     
  • The ocean strongly controls large scale areas of variability including El Niño and the North Atlantic Oscillation.
     
  • The ocean is absorbing 25% of all CO2 being emitted by fossil fuel burning and land use changes, mitigating global warming, but causing the oceans to become more acidic, especially in cold high latitudes.