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Logo: Global Carbon ProjectESSP Joint Projects
Global Carbon Project (GCP)

The Carbon Challenge

Scientists, policy makers, and the general public are increasingly concerned about climate change—particularly change that can be attributed to human activity. More and more attention is being focused on issues such as the rising concentration of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), in the atmosphere and on the carbon cycle in general.

Several programmes, such as the UN Framework on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, have been launched in an effort to slow the growth rate of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But in order for these initiatives to be effective, two things are required: a) a better scientific understanding of the carbon cycle itself, and b) a common, mutually accepted knowledge base to support policy debate and action.

Prof. Robert Dickinson, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
Prof. Mike Raupach, CSIRO Earth Observation Centre, Australia
Co-Chairs, Global Carbon Project

Photo: Ocean   Photo: Industry   Photo: Forest fire

ESSP’s Response

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The Global Carbon Project, established in 2001, specifically address these needs. Its scientific goals are to develop a complete picture of the global carbon cycle, including both its biophysical and human dimensions together with the interactions and feedbacks between them. Aspects of this study are divided into three categories:

  • Patterns and Variability: The current geographical and temporal distributions of the major stores and fluxes in the global carbon cycle.
  • Processes and Interactions: The underlying mechanisms and feedbacks that control the dynamics of the global carbon cycle, including interactions with human activities.
  • Carbon Management: The range of plausible trajectories for the dynamics of the global carbon cycle into the future and the identification of points of intervention.

Next Steps

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After three years of community consultation throughout six workshops and hundreds of reviews, the GCP published its Science Plan and Implementation Strategy in October 2003. Translations of the document to Russian, Chinese and Spanish will be published during 2004. The English version can be downloaded from:

Implementation of the GCP research agenda began in 2003, one year previous to the publication of Science Plan, with a number of workshops both on research development and capacity building. A major effort is still ongoing to establish affiliated offices around the world to link national and regional programmes to the global efforts of the GCP. Further information on workshop activities can be obtained at:


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The GCP has selected a number of topics from its science plan to support a rapid development of the science over the next three to five years. Some of the topics selected are:

  • coordination of carbon ocean measurements
  • vulnerable pools in the carbon cycle
  • urban development and low carbon intensive pathways
  • model-data fusion approaches in carbon cycle sciences
  • methodologies to couple the carbon-climate-human system

For further information visit:


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Josep Canadell (Pep)

Executive Director
Tel: 61-2-6256-5631
Fax: 61-2-6246-5988

Rowena Foster

Office Manager
Tel: 61-2-6246-5630
Fax: 61-2-6246-5988

Global Carbon Project

CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research
GPO Box 3023
Canberra ACT 2601


Last updated: 6 August 2004

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