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IHDP Global Carbon Cycle Research: International Carbon Research Framework

Description: The degree to which carbon flows balance each other - human activities leading to carbon emissions into the atmosphere, vegetation and oceans soaking it up - is the subject of vigorous debate. It is not yet possible to define quantitatively the global effects of human activities such as forestry and agriculture, and may never be so. However, studies to determine these effects have emerged as critical for understanding how the earth's climate will evolve in the future. Global concern about the potential implications of the behaviour of the carbon cycle under anthropogenic stress includes concepts of system instability and large scale change. To contribute to understanding this behaviour, and our potential responses to it, requires a thorough investigation of both biophysical and social systems. Until recently, most scientific assessments of such risks focused on the anatomy of conceivable environmental changes themselves, devoting little attention to either the human driving forces or the ecosystems and societies that might be endangered by the changes. Recently, however, questions about the linkage and interaction of social, ecological, and biogeochemical systems are emerging as a central focus of policy-driven assessments of global environmental risks. The approach used here is to accept humans as an integral part of the carbon cycle, not as an agent perturbing an otherwise natural system - indeed, this approach assumes there is no independence of the different components of the carbon cycle. The human dimensions research community sees this critical and necessary re-conceptualisation as the foundation of a new approach to studying the interaction between human and environmental systems.
Date: February 2001
Creator: Gupta, Joeeta; Lebel, Louis; Vellinga, Pier & Young, Oran
Partner: UNT Libraries