Under its inaugural Director, Professor Tim Lenton, the cross-disciplinary team is seeking to predict global changes through understanding the interactions between the climate, natural ecosystems, human social and economic systems, and the built environment. Rather than study these systems just to understand the problems we face, scientists apply that understanding and modelling capability to identify transformative solutions to humanity’s global challenges, providing societies with an evaluation of the options to create a better future together.

Although the GSI is a recent innovation, the study of environmental sciences at Exeter has a distinguished record; it is one of the UK’s leading centres for research and teaching in this area, with the largest number of climate scientists in the UK adn influential partnerships with the Met Office.


Prof Lenton has working on the ‘climate niche’ which human beings have benefitted from for millennia and has demonstrated, on current projections, one third of humanity will be out of this niche in 50 years. Three billion humans would be exposed to temperatures that are currently typical of the central Sahara. In addition, most estimates do not yet account for rising sea levels, which are also predicted to displace large numbers of people. The team are currently researching and generating active climate mitigation processes and policies for corporations and governments.


All life on earth depends on the oceans for survival but they are under increasing threat from plastic pollution, overfishing, and climate change. A recent UN report highlighted the devastating impact of human activity on the natural world, with one million animal and plant species now threatened with extinction.

Scientists know that light, litter and noise are all major stressors on marine life but we don’t yet have a full understanding of their combined and comparative effects on the environment. 

This is set to change thanks to two Exeter alumni. Theresa (Spanish, 1983) and Mike Laflin (Economics and Geography, 1981), have funded the ‘T&M Laflin Global Sports PhD Studentship’ which aims to enhance our knowledge of the combined effects of these stressors.

The research will gather data from sporting events in or on the water, as well as leisure boating, tourism and beach activities. Using both lab and field studies, the project will look at the impact of these activities on the environment and attempt to create best practice guidance across aquatic sports events and beyond.