• 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 .
Published: July 19, 2012

Global Change and the Earth System

now available to download

Steffen W et al. (2004). Global Change and the Earth System: a Planet under Pressure. The IGBP book series. Springer (Berlin, Germany), 336 p.
News |
For those scouring Earth for evidence we have entered a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – look no further than between the covers of IGBP’s iconic first synthesis, Global Change and the Earth System: a Planet under Pressure (Steffen et al. 2004). For the first time, this meticulous and detailed tome is available to download freely.
Global Change and the Earth System’s 336 pages capture the state of the planet and the pressure it is now under.

Now, as IGBP embarks on synthesising its second phase, the contract with the book’s publisher, Springer, has expired allowing IGBP to make it freely available.

The publication, a culmination of 15 years work by thousands of scientists worldwide, was the pinnacle of IGBP’s first phase.

The synthesis led to the emergence of five landmark concepts in Earth-system research.

First, the notion that Earth is an interconnected system with humans as an integral part.

Second, the unprecedented spurt in human activity beginning around the middle of the last century – the “Great Acceleration” – accompanied by significant changes in the biophysical Earth system.

Third, the Anthropocene: humans have become the prime driver of change on the planet, pushing it into what might be a new geological epoch.

Fourth, the possibility of crossing irreversible thresholds in the Earth system. The combined impact of human societies risks major long-term global change with potentially deleterious consequences for humanity.

And finally, the need for and possibility of planetary stewardship in a rapidly changing world. The final chapter argues that “global sustainability” is for the benefit of all societies, a sentiment echoed in the close of the preface, which ends, “A truly global system of science is needed for coping with the challenges that lie ahead.”

A PDF of the book can be downloaded here. Individual chapters will be uploaded shortly.

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 This website is no longer updated.

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