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The Global Carbon Project is a Global Research Project of Future Earth and a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme. It was formed to work with the international science community to establish a common and mutually agreed knowledge base to support policy debate and action to slow down and ultimately stop the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The overwhelming realization that anthropogenic climate change is a reality has focused the attention of the scientific community, policymakers and the general public on the rising atmospheric concentrations of the main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). The GCP has approached this challenge by focusing comprehensively on the global biogeochemical cycles which govern these three greenhouse gases, including their natural and human drivers, and opportunities for low carbon pathways.

Attempts through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, first with its Kyoto Protocol and now with the Paris Agreement, are underway to stabilize the climate system which requires achieving a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.

The Global Carbon Project was established in 2001 by a shared partnership between the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and Diversitas. This partnership constituted the Earth Systems Science Partnership (ESSP) which subsequently evolved into Future Earth.



The scientific goal of the Global Carbon Project is to develop a complete picture of the global carbon cycle, including both its biophysical and human dimensions together with the interactions and feedbacks between them. This will be:

  • Patterns and Variability: What are the current geographical and temporal distributions of the major pools and fluxes in the global carbon cycle?
  • Processes and Interactions: What are the control and feedback mechanisms - both anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic - that determine the dynamics of the carbon cycle?
  • Carbon Management: What are the dynamics of the carbon-climate-human system into the future, and what points of intervention and windows of opportunity exist for human societies to manage this system?

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  1. To develop a research framework for integration of the biogeochemical, biophysical and human components of the global carbon cycle, including the development of data-model fusion schemes, and design of cost effective observational and research networks.
  2. To synthesize current understanding of the global C cycle and provide rapid feedback to the research and policy communities, and general public.
  3. To develop tools and conceptual frameworks to couple the biophysical and human dimensions of the carbon cycle.
  4. To provide a global coordinating platform for regional/national carbon programs to improve observation network design, data standards, information and tools transfer, and timing of campaigns and process-based experiments.
  5. To strengthen the broad carbon research programs of nations and regions, and those of more disciplinary projects in IGBP, IHDP, WCRP, and IGCO through better coordination, articulation of goals, and development of conceptual frameworks.
  6. To develop a small number of new research initiatives that are feasible within a 3-5 year time framework on difficult and highly interdisciplinary problems of the carbon cycle.
  7. To foster new carbon research in regions (e.g., tropical Asia) that will provide better constrains of continental and global carbon budgets through promoting partnerships between institutions and exchange visits.


10 Years of Activity

The Global Carbon Project (GCP) was established in 2001 in recognition of the scientific challenge and critical importance of the carbon cycle for Earth's sustainability. Ten years on, the GCP continues to work with the international community to lead and promote a coordinated research effort. The brochure "10 Years of Advancing Knowledge on the Global Carbon Cycle and its Management" summarises some of the achievements of these first ten years.

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