• China’s emissions glimpsing the peak


    China recently announced its intention to peak its carbon-dioxide emissions. How soon could the emissions peak and at what absolute value? Libo Wu explores.
  • The greening of the Southern Hemisphere


    The 2010-2011 La Niña weather event brought lush vegetation to vast semi-arid regions in the Southern Hemisphere and altered the delicate balance of the global carbon sinks. Owen Gaffney explores how La Niña might change in the future and what that might imply.

Global change

and the Earth system

Humans have dramatically changed planet Earth and are altering some of Earth's main cycles, the water, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles.

This section contains brief outlines and graphs summarising Earth-system science, and key developments in the last few decades. Much of the content of this section is derived from IGBP's first synthesis, Global Change and the Earth System (Executive Summary).

Earth system definitions


Earth as a complex system

Earth behaves as a complex system. Complex systems can respond abruptly to changes within the system - these abrupts changes can be highly non-linear. There is strong evidence that the Earth system is prone to such abrupt changes. More information.

See also the 2001 "Amsterdam Declaration". The declaration was signed by the four chairs of the international global-change programmes.


A changing Earth system

The Earth system has always changed. But right now it has an additional pressure forcing change: human activites. This force is now global and dominant. The response of the Earth system to this pressure is an important area of science. More information.

  • Oceans
  • Land
  • Cryosphere
  • Life


The Great Acceleration

The industrial revolution led to a significant acceleration in human activity, but the real acceleration at a global level began in the 1950s. The period since then has become known as the "Great Acceleration". More information.


The Anthropocene

Some scientists suggest we have entered a new geological period dominated by human influence. Here are some. But what is the case for the Anthropocene and what is the origin of the phrase. More information.


IGBP Climate-Change Index

The Climate-change index provides an instant snapshot of how fast the climate is changing and in which direction. Find out more about the index and how it is calculated. More information.


Feedbacks, thresholds and boundaries

Earth is a complex system. In the last two decades we have rapidly increased knowledge of how the Earth system responds to change, including feedback mechanisms and boundaries. More information.

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  • Jun 24 - Jul 2, 2015

    8th World Environmental Education Congress: Planet and People - How can they develop together


    Who should come? The congress is an international meeting point for everyone working with education for environment and sustainable development or which have an interest in the field. WEEC 2015 is as such an opportunity to learn more about the latest in environmental and sustainability education, to discuss with people from all over the world, to share your own work and to learn from others. We are expecting participants from a wide range of countries. Are you maybe a researcher, educator, student, decision-maker, NGO or media working with or having an interest in education for environment and sustainable development, or are you just curious? Welcome!Are you interested in sharing your research or sharing good examples regarding education for environment and sustainable development? Perhaps you work with an interesting education model which you would like to share through for example a workshop? In that case we recommend you to submit an abstract by the 19 of December, 2014. The registration for the congress opens on the 15 of November, 2014.Examples of participants:
    • Researchers and educators at universities
    • Teachers teaching all ages
    • Students
    • Folk high-schools
    • Local, regional and national government agencies, municipalities
    • Officials from international organizations
    • NGOs
    • Managers of parks and protected areas
    • Private companies who are interested in environmental and sustainability issues and in education
    • Media/press
    The congress will discuss the role and importance of education for environment and sustainability at all levels ; both in higher education and for lower ages .Two main categories of abstracts can be submitted: academic abstracts and practitioner abstracts. As such, practitioner abstracts could be a description for example of a teaching model regarding environment and sustainability.
  • Aug 23 - Aug 28, 2015

    14th International Swiss Climate Summer School



  • 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...

  • Global Change Magazine No. 82


    This issue features a full-spread infographic on deltas at risk, accompanied by a Q&A with IGBP Chair James Syvitski. You can also read about coastal megacities, the progress in crystallising the Sust...
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