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With 6.6 billion people already living on Earth, and that number increasing every day, human influence on our planet is ever more apparent. Changes to the natural world combined with increasing human demands threaten our health and safety, our national security, our economy, and our quality of life. As a planet and a Nation, we face unprecedented challenges: loss of critical and unique ecosystems, the effects of climate change, increasing demand for limited energy and mineral resources, increasing vulnerability to natural hazards, the effects of emerging diseases on wildlife and human health, and growing needs for clean water. The time to respond to these challenges is now, but policymakers and decisionmakers face difficult choices. With competing priorities to balance, and potentially serious - perhaps irreversible - consequences at stake, our leaders need reliable scientific information to guide their decisions. As the Nation's earth and natural science agency, the USGS monitors and conducts scientific research on natural hazards and resources and how these elements and human activities influence our environment.
Because the challenges we face are complex, the science needed to better understand and deal with these challenges must reflect the complex interplay among natural and human systems. With world-class expertise in biology, geology, geography, hydrology, geospatial information, and remote sensing, the USGS is uniquely capable of conducting the comprehensive scientific research needed to better understand the interdependent interactions of Earth's systems. Every day, the USGS helps decisionmakers to minimize loss of life and property, manage our natural resources, and protect and enhance our quality of life. This brochure provides examples of the challenges we face and how USGS science helps decisionmakers to address these challenges.