Earth System Science Partnership
Increasingly, scientists recognize
the Earth as a complex and sensitive system regulated by physical,
chemical and biological processes—and influenced, as never
before, by human factors.
The Earth System Science Partnership
(ESSP) brings together researchers from diverse fields,
and from across the globe, to undertake an integrated
study of the Earth System: its structure and functioning;
the changes occurring to the System; and the implications
of those changes for global sustainability.
The interactions and feedbacks between the component parts of the
Earth System exhibit multi-scale temporal and spatial variability.
Understanding of the System’s natural dynamics has advanced
greatly in recent years, and now provides a sound basis for evaluating
the effects and consequences of human-driven changes. ESSP contributes
to this endeavour in four ways:
ESSP Joint Projects focus on aspects of global change that are
critical to human well-being. At present, these initiatives cover
four areas: carbon/energy systems, food, water, and human health.
In each instance, the goal is to identify the challenges caused
by global change, understand the implications of human-driven change,
and build a research agenda of direct relevance for societies. In
short, ESSP Joint Projects are designed to span the interface between
global change and global sustainability issues, while also gathering
new knowledge about how specific processes function within the larger
- The Global Carbon Project
(GCP) investigates carbon cycles and energy systems with the
aim of developing policy-relevant knowledge that encompasses natural
and human dimensions, as well as their interactions.
- Global Environmental
Change and Food Systems (GECAFS) develops strategies to address
food security concerns that arise from global environmental change,
while also analyzing the environmental and socioeconomic consequences
- The Global Water System
Project (GWSP) examines how humans are changing the global
water cycle, the associated biogeochemical cycles, and the biological
components of the global water system. It also seeks to understand
the human responses to these changes and the implications of these
responses for societies and for the Earth System.
- A fourth project on Global Environmental Change and Human Health is in the early development phase.
The objective of this project is to better understand the multi-faceted
and complex linkages between global change (e.g. changes in climate,
use of land and sea, loss of biodiversity, and socio-economic
fluctuations) and human health.
System Analysis and Modelling
The core of ESSP activities lies in in-depth analysis and advanced
modelling of the Earth System as a whole, incorporating data and
information from the diverse fields represented by the four global
change programmes. The first such effort on Earth System modelling
is already underway, built on collaboration between IGBP's Global
Analysis, Integration and Modelling (GAIM) Task Force and WCRP's
Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM). The majority of this
work is carried out by IGBP, IHDP and WCRP.
The next step is to integrate human dimensions into Earth System
analysis and modelling, as is being done by two initiatives. The
Oslo Group (TOG) is an IGBP-IHDP network exploring theoretical and
methodological aspects of natural-social science integration. Another
initiative being carried out by the Global Carbon Project (GCP)
aims to develop fully integrated carbon cycle models that couple
biophysical processes with the dynamics of energy systems, land-use
change, and institutional/political change.
The implications of changes in biodiversity for Earth System functioning
will be integrated into such efforts in due course.
Regional activities are important
to ESSP’s mandate on
several levels. Current knowledge demonstrates that, at the regional
level, aspects of global change manifest significantly different—yet
surprisingly coherent and teleconnected—Earth System dynamics.
These are often broadly associated with socio-economic and geopolitical
ESSP Regional Activities also seek to directly
address the differences in scientific capabilities in various
regions of the world. Each
of the four global change programmes organizes research activities
and capacity-building initiatives, and helps establish scientific
networks. ESSP Partners also collaborate closely with the Inter-American
Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and the Asia-Pacific
Network for Global Change Research (APN).
At present, ESSP sponsors two types of regional
global change SysTem for
Analysis, Research and Training (START) carries out regional research
projects and promotes networking, often in collaboration
with its sponsoring programmes (IGBP, IHDP and WCRP), as well
with IAI and APN. START also undertakes specific capacity-building
activities, including training workshops and institutes,
scheme, and guest lectureships.
- ESSP is currently developing a
small set of Integrated Regional Studies (IRS), designed
to contribute sound scientific
understanding in support of sustainable development at the
local level. These studies will also improve overall knowledge
linkages in the context of Earth System dynamics. The first study is in Monsoon Asia (MAIRS). The
Joint Projects, START and
MAIRS all have a strong suite of capacity
building and networking elements to their activities. ESSP Partners also collaborate
closely with the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) and
the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI).
Change Open Science Conferences
ESSP recognizes the importance of broad interaction amongst the many
scientists that contribute to its activities. As such,
the Partnership is committed to hosting major international
science meetings every five years. The first ESSP Open
Science Conference, Challenges of a Changing Earth,
was held in Amsterdam in July 2001.
ESSP is organizing the second Open Science Conference Global
Environmental Change: Regional Challenges in Beijing,
China; 9-12 November 2006, to present progress in our
understanding of the natural and social systems of global
environmental change and to highlight the ESSP approach
to the study of the Earth System.
• advances in our understanding of the physical,
biogeochemical, biodiversity and human dimensions aspects
of global environmental change.
• science in support of sustainability with emphasis
on global environmental change as it relates to food,
water, carbon and human health.
• dynamics, impacts and consequences of the interactions
between natural and social systems at regional scales,
including extreme events, and how they connect to global-scale
• global environmental change in monsoon Asia.
We invite scientists, policy makers, practitioners, scholars,
members of the private sector and journalists to participate
in this Conference and to submit proposals for sessions
Please visit the conference website http://www.essp.org/essp/ESSP2006
for more information. Click here
to download the 1st Circular (July 2005)
Click here to download the second circular (May 2006)
Prior to the main Conference, the 2nd International Young
Scientists’ Global Change Conference (7-8 November
2006), organised by START
will provide an opportunity for selected young scientists
to present and discuss their work.
Click here for more
Download the press release in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.
Click here for the conference statement of the ESSP Open Science Conference and here for the
Commitment to Science Communication
ESSP's scientific activities
are supported by active science communication efforts, which
are an essential aspect of the Partnership's
overarching goals of generating, disseminating, and applying
new knowledge. Current activities include publication of a
report series and development of tools to raise awareness of
the science community (website, brochure, poster, and PowerPoint