• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .
photo: NASA-Visible Earth


IGBP was launched in 1987 to coordinate international research on global-scale and regional-scale interactions between Earth's biological, chemical and physical processes and their interactions with human systems.  IGBP views the Earth system as the Earth's natural physical, chemical and biological cycles and processes and the social and economic dimensions.


IGBP is a world-class provider of

  • Earth system expertise
  • Communication
  • Coordination
  • IGBP's vision supports ICSU's vision for Earth system science

IGBP VisionPDF (pdf, 207.4 kB)
IGBP ConstitutionPDF (pdf, 96.1 kB)
IGBP Science PlanPDF (pdf, 6.9 MB)


IGBP's vision is to provide essential scientific leadership and knowledge of the Earth system to help guide society onto a sustainable pathway during rapid global change.

The vision has three key elements:

  • the planet
  • the planet under pressure
  • transformation in an era of rapid global change.

The full visionPDF (pdf, 207.4 kB) is available here.

Vision summary


In the next ten years, IGBP, working with our partners, will provide the knowledge, expertise and coordination to identify and assess risks posed to society and ecosystems by major changes in the Earth's biological, chemical and physical cycles and processes, and communicate this to society.

IGBP will seek deeper understanding of the links and feedbacks between Earth system processes, with a focus on socio‐economic forcings. IGBP will actively promote a new era of inter‐ and trans‐disciplinary research and will work with relevant partners to support solutions to societal transformation.

IGBP will work with international partners and funding agencies to develop research priorities and co‐design projects and initiatives.

IGBP will help coordinate and deliver the Earth‐system observation systems required for greater understanding. IGBP will work to ensure Earth‐system data is stored effectively and that data is freely available.

IGBP aims to be a world-class provider of Earth System:

  • Expertise
  • Coordination
  • Communication

The new IGBP vision was published in 2010 following a consultation process with all IGBP stakeholders and in light of the International Council for Science Earth System Visioning Process.  

Share this page
Tell a friend (opens in new window)
Follow us

Please note!

IGBP closed at the end of 2015. This website is no longer updated.

No events available

  • Global Change Magazine No. 84

    This final issue of the magazine takes stock of IGBP’s scientific and institutional accomplishments as well as its contributions to policy and capacity building. It features interviews of several past...

  • Global Change Magazine No. 83

    This issue features a special section on carbon. You can read about peak greenhouse-gas emissions in China, the mitigation of black carbon emissions and the effect of the 2010-2011 La Niña event on gl...