NERC's risk research saves both lives and money

9 October 2015

NERC's research is saving lives, money, and reducing property damage by helping government and business manage environmental risks more effectively.

Environmental hazards such as extreme temperatures, floods and volcanic eruptions can threaten human life, infrastructure and wildlife. These events are unavoidable, but better scientific understanding can help minimise their harmful effects.

NERC-commissioned analysis by Deloitte estimates that NERC-funded research into environmental hazards has saved the UK millions of pounds per year, reduced flood damage by up to 10% and helped prevent the loss of 23 lives a year.

This week, as part of NERC's 50th anniversary, our Royal Research Ship Discovery will be moored off HMS Belfast. While she is in London, scientists from NERC centres, including the British Antarctic Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and British Geological Survey, will be showing off their NERC-funded research into climate change, weather phenomenon and flooding.

Over the last five years NERC has invested an average of £12·8 million per year in research on environmental hazards. The NERC-commissioned Deloitte analysis shows the enormous benefits of this investment.

The chief executive of NERC, Professor Duncan Wingham, said:

I am extremely pleased with our achievements. NERC is proud to be a funder of research that saves lives, reduces damage to homes and business, and contributes to economic savings. This analysis demonstrates that investment in environmental risk research can deliver high returns.

Although environmental hazards are unavoidable, NERC science helps governments, business and the public sector better understand them and reduce their harmful effects.

NERC research into seasonal weather extremes has improved forecasts which are fed into the Met Office's Severe Weather Warning Service. This saves an estimated 23 lives a year, cuts emergency services costs by £51 million a year and improves aircraft routing, reducing delays.

A new model developed by NERC's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) has increased early flood warnings from two to five days. Estimates suggest that this has reduced flood damage by up to 10% and saved up to £127 million a year.

NERC research was essential in the flexible staged lifting of the flight ban after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption, avoiding unnecessary disruption that was costing the global airline industry up to £300 million a day in lost revenues.

Improved risk assessment practices cut the number of flight cancellations after the 2011 Grimsvötn eruption by 98% - 900 disrupted flights around Grimsvötn versus 42,600 around Eyjafjallajökull. This saved the global airline industry up to £290 million a day.

Further information

Karen Christian
NERC media office
01793 411568
07827 872454


1. NERC - the Natural Environment Research Council - is the leading funder of independent research, training and innovation in environmental science in the UK. This year marks NERC's 50th anniversary.