ER&D Market Trends

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Trends in Environmental Science

Some major trends in environmental science include the Development of salt-tolerant strains of rice, Cloud seeding, Green design and sustainable city concept, Emergence of new climate change champions, and Push for high seas regulation to curb harvesting of ocean's deeper regions. Below you will find a deep dive into our findings.


  • Rising sea level and irrigation in traditional rice-growing areas have increased the salinity of the land. It is leading to the development of salt-tolerant strains of rice that allows continuous production in saline regions like ocean coastlines and inland salt steppes.
  • Although the development of salt-tolerant rice reassures food security, it raises concern over the integrity of the ecosystem as it might be overplanted and expanded.
  • In addition, the new variant could raise the demand for freshwater, as it is needed to dilute saltwater to the appropriate concentrations.


  • To increase the summer runoff, which feeds the local water supplies, many entities including state and local government agencies, utilities and ski areas are increasingly showing interest in cloud seeding. More than 50 countries around the world are taking place in the cloud seeding process.
  • China is using silver iodide particles to seed cloud on the Tibetan Plateau to produce rain over 1.6 million square kilometers of land with an aim to enhance the region's water security.
  • Apart from creating rain or snow, atmospheric scientists use the cloud seeding technique to disperse fog at airports, boost the regular rainfall, and reduce hail.
  • As much as cloud seeding is beneficial, it can also greatly alter the area's weather. China's cloud seeding attempt at the Tibetian Plateau has the potential to cause a retrogression of the alpine cold steppe as well as the meadow ecosystems, eventually leading the loss of habitat of the local species.


  • Parties involved in the planning of cities are re-defining the "sustainable city" concept and are expanding the definition from just energy efficiency and carbon footprint to include functionality and livability of these places for the people inhabiting them.
  • This shift in focus to include functionality and livability will incorporate nature in the end goal to protect biodiversity, aesthetics, health, and infrastructure.


  • New countries are emerging as leaders in tackling climate change. It includes Hungary and Greece that has met its climate change targets early, and China has met one of its four main goals well ahead of the plan.
  • Political commitments by governments such as the Paris Climate Accord are now, therefore, presenting opportunities to invest in nature and to involve the private sector in climate change efforts.
  • The commitment to long-term de-carbonation by countries as they seek to be the leaders in the efforts and meet their goals will have a positive impact on the environment in general.


  • Due to the present new and advanced technologies, more countries like Norway are opting to harvest the deeper regions of the seas. This ambition adversely affects the significance of fish in the ocean's ecological zone, such as carbon capture and creating significant food webs that sustain all sea life.
  • Harvesting of ocean's deeper regions could therefore adversely affect the sustainability of an array of sea life and cause irreversible damage to the ocean's ecosystem and all life outside of it.
  • Currently, waters beyond the national boundaries are not regulated. However, in 2017, around 140 countries backed an unprecedented United Nations resolution to protect the high seas from deeper region harvesting.


In the pursuit of finding the information on the major trends in environmental science, we began our search by unearthing precompiled lists from notable sources including environmental organization platforms such as The Nature Conservancy, acclaimed science magazines such as Scientific American, global statistical organization such as World Economic Forum, and environmental management expert websites such as Essel and ECO Canada. Through this strategy, we were able to gather many trends in environmental science. We then filtered the list by selecting only the trends that appeared in two or more of the above sources.
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Environmental Science - Problems

The 5 biggest challenges that environmental science is seeking to solve are pollution, climate change, deforestation, species extinction, and soils degradation.


  • Pollution is one of the major environmental and public health concerns that has caught the attention of both the media and the major environmental report.
  • Dirty water is regarded as the world's biggest health risk according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
  • According to a World Health Organization report published in 2012, one in nine deaths were as a result of diseases caused by carcinogens and other poisons in polluted air.

climate change

  • Climate change is another environmental concern that has surfaced in the last couple of decades.
  • Climate change has mainly been attributed to pollution, among other factors.
  • It is one of the major environmental issues that the world is dealing with. In fact, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause.
  • Climate change has been blamed for increased cases of droughts, wildfires, heat waves and flooding.
  • In the long run, climate change is seen to cause melting of polar ice, change in seasons, new sicknesses, and change in general climate situation.


  • There is a growing concern over the rate at which species-rich wild forests are being destroyed around the world.
  • These destructions, which are mostly done in the tropics, are done to clear the way for settlement, agricultural, and other income-gaining activities.
  • It is estimated that only 30% of the planet's land area is covered by forest. This is about half as much as before agriculture got started, around 11,000 years ago.
  • Every year, around 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) of forest are destroyed. Tropical forests used to cover about 15 percent of the planet's land area; they're now down to 6 or 7%, with much of the remainder degraded by logging or burning.
  • It is estimated that 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching.
  • Increased demand for food, homes, and materials is fueling the rate which forests are being cleared. (Source #2)

Species extinction

  • There is a growing concern over the rate at which animals are being hunted for ivory, bush meat, and medicinal" products.
  • In addition, huge industrial fishing boats equipped with bottom-trawling or purse-seine nets clean out entire fish populations at sea.
  • The growing carbon levels, both in water and the atmosphere, is putting the lives of endangered flora and fauna at even bigger risk.
  • The destruction and loss of habitat is also a factor contributing to the extinction of mainly endangered species.
  • In the long run, loss biodiversity is poised to cause food insecurity, health problems, and world instability.
  • Climate change is also cited as a major cause of loss of biodiversity as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures.
  • A report by the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Index shows that biodiversity has declined by 27% in the last 35 years.

Soil degradation

  • A UN report estimated that around 12 million hectares of farmland get seriously degraded every year.
  • Key contributors to soil degradation include overgrazing, monoculture planting, erosion, soil compaction, overexposure to pollutants, and land-use conversion.
  • Another report by the World Wildlife Fund says that half of the earth’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years.
  • Unsustainable industrial agriculture practices have exerted a lot of pressure on available arable land causing soil erosion and degradation that have in turn led to less, clogged and polluted waterways, increased flooding, and desertification.

Research Strategy

We found the information pre-compiled in various articles are reports mainly focusing on the environment. To determine the biggest problems that environmental science is seeking to solve, we selected those challenges that have featured in multiple reports. In addition, we selected those challenges that are seen as being of deep concerns to the entire world. These challenges have also been predominantly featured and discussed in both social and mainstream media.
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Ocean - Challenges

The six biggest challenges that people are working to solve in relation to the ocean are overfishing, plastic/garbage, coral bleaching, toxic waste/pollution, acidification, and offshore drilling.


  • According to the World Wildlife Fund, 29% of commercial fish stocks are overfished, and 61% of the global fish stocks are fully fished.
  • In the past 40 years, the number of recorded marine species has decreased by 39%.
  • The causes of overfishing are lack of regulation in the ocean, lack of overall knowledge in the ocean species, illegal fishing, and corruption or ignorance among officials.
  • Overfishing has created an imbalance in the ocean's ecosystem as species that are overfished can cause other fishes to lose their food.
  • Species that are in the brink of extinction include Bigeye tuna, Bluefin tuna, Skipjack tuna, Yellowfin tuna, Albacore tuna, Abalone (from Japan and China), Atlantic and Pacific cod, Atlantic Halibut, Spiny lobster (from the Caribbean), and others.
  • The rate of overfishing in the US is at an all-time low when compared to the rest of the world.
  • There are 35 fish stocks in the US that are overfished.
  • However, 87% of US marine fish stocks are not overfished.


  • There are about 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic or 269,000 tons of plastic in the ocean.
  • Plastics that have been broken down can still stay in the ocean in some form.
  • A plastic bottle could stay in the ocean for up to 450 years.
  • Marine wildlife could mistakenly take plastics as food and ingesting too much could lead to death.
  • About one in three fishes caught for human consumption contain plastics.
  • Chemicals in plastics are known to cause cancer.
  • According to Statista, the US contributes about 0.11 million metric tons of waterborne plastic garbage annually.
  • China has contributed 3.53 million metric tons of plastic waste in the ocean annually.


  • Corals are home to marine life and support 25% of the world’s fish biodiversity.
  • Bleached coral reefs will lead to conditions that are unsuitable for marine life.
  • Although corals could recover from bleaching, bleaching over a long time could kill the entire coral reefs.
  • The proportion of coral being hit by bleaching annually has risen from “8% in the 1980s to 31% in 2016.”
  • The main cause of coral bleaching is global warming.
  • High sea temperatures cause corals to stress and expel zooxanthellae or tiny algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn white.
  • Coral reefs found in Hawaii, Florida, Guam, and parts of the Caribbean are facing severe coral bleaching.
  • 90% of coral reefs in Hawaii experienced bleaching, with 10% close to dying due to the problem.
  • It has been estimated that the current rate of bleaching will lead US coral reefs surviving for only 20 or 30 more years.


  • Some of the most toxic waste material being dumped into the ocean include dredged material, industrial waste, sewage sludge, and radioactive waste.
  • Dredged materials have accounted for about 80% of all toxic waste dumped in the ocean.
  • Around 10% of all dredged material contains heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and chromium, hydrocarbons, phosphorous and nitrogen, and organochlorines from pesticides.
  • Toxic wastes could clog up waterways and kill seagrass, kelp beds, and the entire ecosystems.
  • According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, over 55,000 containers of radioactive wastes have been dumped in the Pacific Ocean from 1946 to 1970.
  • The agency has also recorded that from 1951 to 1962, 34,000 containers of radioactive wastes were dumped at ocean sites off the East Coast.


  • Ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide being absorbed by the ocean.
  • Increase in acidity will decrease the buildup of calcium carbonate in the ocean.
  • Based on the current trajectory, the ocean pH in 2050 will be lower than any point in the past 20 million years.
  • The current acidification rate is at least 100 times faster when compared to the last hundred years.
  • Ocean acidification kills planktons, which are the main food source for the majority of marine life.
  • Ocean acidification has killed many oysters in the US Pacific Northwest and dissolved the shells of pteropods in the Southern Ocean.
  • Experiments are being conducted to prevent further acidification of the oceans in the US.


  • Oil spills from offshore drillers could cause environmental disasters for marine life around the station.
  • Ingested oil could damage the organs of marine life.
  • Contaminated fish are also unsafe for human consumption.
  • Companies use sonic waves to explore oil wells in the ocean.
  • This action could disrupt the lives of dolphins and other marine mammals that depend on sound waves to find food, communicate, and travel.
  • In 2010, a fire at an offshore oil rig in the US led to 210 million gallons of oil spilling into the ocean.
  • From 2007 to 2017, at least 6,500 oil spills have occurred in US waters.
  • Regulations are currently being implemented to prevent further oil spills in US waters.


The six challenges provided above were identified by examining the lists of challenges in the ocean published by environmental publications and organizations such as World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic Channel, Green Peace, Marine Insight, Marine Magazine, and others. The challenges focused for this research were determined to be the “biggest” as they have been mentioned 2-3 times on the lists examined. Additional articles were examined to provide more information on the six selected challenges.

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Climate - Challenges

The grand challenges in climate and weather are greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature increase, agriculture, freak weather, and diseases.








From Part 02
  • "Species-rich wild forests are being destroyed, especially in the tropics, often to make way for cattle ranching, soybean or palm oil plantations, or other agricultural monocultures. Today, about 30 percent of the planet's land area is covered by forests - which is about half as much as before agriculture got started around 11,000 years ago. About 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) of forest are destroyed each year, mostly in the tropics. Tropical forests used to cover about 15 percent of the planet's land area; they're now down to 6 or 7 percent. Much of this remainder has been degraded by logging or burning. Not only do natural forests act as biodiversity reserves, they are also carbon sinks, keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and oceans."
  • "While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, heat waves and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late."