Earth System Science Partnership


Type of Structure: network / framework activity
Regional Scope: global
Parent Organisations: IGBP, WCRP, IHDP, DIVERSITAS
Child Organisations: GCP, GWSP, START
No more in operation: GECAFS, GECHH
Duration : 2001 to 2012 COMPLETED
Contact Address: Mr. Martin Rice
PhD Candidate
Department of Environment and Geography
Macquarie University

Phone: +61-2-9850-8389
e-Mail: martin.rice(at)

holding an official function in ESSP

General information and objectives

All existing ESSP projects will continue under the lead of the global environmental change programmes until they eventually transition into the new Future Earth initiative.:

These are:
GCP Global Carbon Project
GWSP Global Water Systems Project
GECHH Global Environmental Change and Human Health Project

Global change is not restricted to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, nor can it be understood in terms of a simple cause-effect paradigm. Recent studies of the Earth’s land surface, oceans, coasts and atmosphere, of the biological diversity, the water cycle and biogeochemical cycles make it clear that human activity is generating change that extends well beyond natural variability—in some cases, alarmingly so—and at rates that continue to accelerate. Earth System dynamics are characterized by critical thresholds and abrupt changes. Global change research over the last decade shows that the Earth System is currently operating well outside the normal state exhibited over the past 500,000 years.

ESSP is particularly interested in human-driven changes, which are multi-dimensional and have a cascading effect on the Earth System. These properties make them difficult to understand or predict. But integrated science approaches and the application of advanced modelling technologies are helping to develop a clearer picture of the past and project various scenarios for the future. We now have evidence to suggest that human activities could inadvertently trigger severe consequences for Earth’s environment and habitat, potentially switching the Earth System to alternative modes of operation that may prove irreversible and inhospitable to humans and other life.

ESSP’s activities recognize the need to build bridges across disciplines in order to truly understand our life support system and the impact humans are having on it. More to the point, they seek to advance beyond description of natural phenomena to a deeper understanding of processes and system-level behaviour. ESSP’s intention is to contribute to the knowledge base required to develop science-based solutions that support sustainable use of our resources.

The Earth System Science Partnership is a joint initiative of four international global environmental change research programmes:
  • DIVERSITAS - an integrated programme of biodiversity science
  • IHDP - International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change
  • IGBP - International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
  • WCRP - World Climate Research Programme

Joint Projects
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 Earth System.

  • 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 cope with the impacts of global environmental change on food systems and to assess the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of adaptive responses aimed at improving food security.
  • 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.
  • The objective of the Global Environmental Change and Human Health (GEC&HH) project is to better understand the multi-faceted and complex linkages between changes in the Earth System (e.g. changes in climate, use of land and sea, loss of biodiversity, and socio-economic fluctuations) and human health.

For further details, link to the ESSP Home Page

Last update: 11/19/14
Source of data: ProClim- Research InfoSystem (1993-2020)

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