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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Environmental Change and Society
Board on Environmental Change and Society
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
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Science to Manage Environmental and Societal Transitions
  • The mission of the Board on Environmental Change and Society is to increase problem-focused understanding of coupled human-environment systems, and to inform transitions to improved human well-being in the face of environmental change.


  •  The goals of the Board are to

    • foster, synthesize, and assess research to advance the scientific basis for understanding coupled human-environment systems, and to
    • enhance the dissemination and use of this knowledge.
Major transitions in the human-environment system are on the near horizon. Human societies themselves are being transformed through demographic changes, new technologies, economic growth and shifting trade patterns, revolutions in governance and institutions, evolving perceptions and preferences, and other social processes. These transformations are interacting with and in some cases accelerating observed and documented changes in climate, land cover, biodiversity, sea level, and the quality and scarcity of natural resources such as water, soils, and ecosystems. Concern about increasing human pressure on the environment is leading to proposed transitions in socio-economic systems and to activities to reduce impacts on environmental systems and promote sustainability.
Scientific research can provide insights into ways to improve human well-being in the face of global environmental change. It can anticipate vulnerabilities and damaging exposures, inform efforts to engineer transitions with an understanding of their likely intended and unintended consequences, and provide options for coping with impacts and dislocations have become unavoidable.
The Board’s work supports three connected societal and scientific objectives, and interactions among them:
  • Advancement of the science of human-environment interactions requires building capacity for research and applications; developing observations, databases, and models; and advancing research methods, especially integration across multiple fields of the natural and social sciences.
  • Limitation of environmental degradation -- Reducing detrimental impacts on human well-being from environmental degradation will require transitions to sustainable technologies and practices. Scientific research is needed to assess the consequences of available options, to examine incentives to accelerate invention, innovation, and diffusion of promising technologies, and to adaptively manage environmental resources while protecting and advancing human well-being.
  • Adaptation to environmental changes -- Informed adaptation to environmental change will depend on advances in methods to assess vulnerabilities and to evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation measures and resilience building, as well as on improving the interaction between decision-making and research processes. 
The Board is engaging with individuals in government, the private sector, NGOs, foundations, other relevant NRC Boards, and the research community at large to identify and implement projects focused on societal problems that would benefit from NRC advice. The following criteria inform project development:  
  • Societal importance
  • Interest and support from users and sponsors
  • Potential to advance the science of human-environment interactions




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