• 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 .

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.

Human-induced global change has pushed the Earth system into a no-analogue state — where climatic and other environmental conditions are outside of the range of the last half million years (at least), increasing the likelihood of unpredictable changes with potentially harmful consequences.
Exploring and quantifying Earth system interactions is therefore extremely important.
The Earth system perspective demands a new scientific approach and innovative conceptual and technical tools. Separate Earth system components, properties and processes — such as the composition and circulation pattern of the atmosphere — still need to be investigated, but should be studied as integral parts of a system, so as to understand their interactions and feedbacks.
Furthermore, in the era of global change, humanity must also be considered a part of the Earth system. Indeed, IGBP includes the human social, cultural and economic systems as within the Earth system.

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 This website is no longer updated.

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