Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Annex 4

Memorandum from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)


  1.  The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funds and carries out impartial scientific research in the sciences of the environment. NERC trains the next generation of independent environmental scientists. Its priority research areas are: Earth's life-support systems, climate change and sustainable economies.

  2.  NERC's research centres are: the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the British Geological Survey (BGS), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL). NERC also works with 15 collaborative centres[106].


  3.  The Committee will recall NERC's submission earlier this year to its inquiry into "Climate change and water security". On that occasion, NERC's evidence included input from BGS, CEH and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. On this occasion, the Tyndall Centre is submitting evidence separately, and the purpose of this Annex is mainly to highlight other relevant programmes supported by NERC.

  4.  NERC's strategy document "Science for a Sustainable Future 2002-07"[107] sets out three priority areas, one of which is "Climate change—predicting and mitigating the impacts". Earlier this year, NERC's Science and Innovation Strategy Board identified six priority themes for potential future investment[108], one of them again being "Climate Change" (focusing on solar variability and the role of aerosols), and others also being relevant, for example "Environment and Health" and "Sustainable Water Management". NERC continues to support the programmes referred to in our evidence to the earlier inquiry, including COAPEC (Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Processes and European Climate) and RAPID (Rapid Climate Change).

  5.  Other NERC programmes[109] which are contributing to our knowledge about the earth system and climate change include Core-Strategic Measurements for Atmospheric Science (COSMAS), Clouds, Water Vapour and Climate (CWVC), Quantifying and Understanding the Earth System (QUEST), the UK Surface-Ocean/Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS), and the Upper Troposphere—Lower Stratosphere Ozone Programme (UTLS OZONE). Many of them involve the NERC Centres for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), including the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC) mentioned in Annex 2 at paragraph 8. The work of NCAS is complemented by that of other Collaborative Centres such as the Centre of Observation of Air-Sea Interactions and Fluxes (CASIX) and the Centre for Terrestrial Carbon Dynamics (CTCD).

  6.  NERC also supports research into renewable energy through its coordinating involvement in the cross-Council Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy (TSEC) Programme[110], as part of which it has been instrumental in setting up the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC)[111]. It is also involved in EPSRC's SUPERGEN initiative. These programmes and initiatives are described in the introductory text.

  7.  All the NERC Research Centres have research programmes looking at issues relevant to climate change. The BGS programmes include: Coastal Geoscience and Global Change, and Sustainable Energy and Geophysical Surveys; the latter includes study of the potential of carbon sequestration. One of the BAS programmes examines past climatic changes to provide data which can be used to test the validity of climate-prediction models[112]. CEH's programmes include "Climate Change", "Water" and "Sustainable Economies"[113], and POL has particular expertise in the relationship between climate and sea levels[114].

8 October 2004

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