International Cooperation

Understanding the fundamental nature of global change research requires world- wide cooperation. For this reason, and in order to make the best use of available resources, the USGCRP cooperates extensively with other nations in a broad range of formal and informal global change research efforts.


International scientific institutions have organized three cooperative global change research programs: (1) the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), which is part of the World Climate Programme; (2) the International Geosphere- Biosphere Programme (IGBP); and, (3) the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme (HDP)(see figure). These and other international programs are coordinated at several levels, including scientist-to-scientist, agency- to-agency, and government-to-government, through a broad range of multilateral and bilateral organizations and arrangements. The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) provides strong leadership for scientific planning for many of the key international programs. The U.S. shares in funding ICSU's coordination of these activities, and U.S. scientists and agencies participate in and interact regularly with ICSU and related committees. U.S. agencies also work with their counterparts through informal international coordination groups, such as the International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research (IGFA). IGFA recently completed a survey of international funding for global change research, which confirmed the leadership role of the U.S. in supporting this research.


International assessments document the current state of scientific understanding on global environmental issues through the involvement of thousands of scientists from more than 150 countries in reviews and analyses of recently published scientific literature. Recent assessments include the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) science assessments and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)/United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment of Stratospheric Ozone Depletion and Associated Environmental Impacts, Technology Development, and Economic Considerations.

In mid-1994, the IPCC released a Second Supplementary Report to the 1990 IPCC Scientific Assessment, focusing on radiative forcing of the climate system. The IPCC expects to complete a second comprehensive assessment of climate change in late 1995. This assessment has been undertaken by three working groups. Working Group I, co-chaired by the United Kingdom and Brazil, is charged with assessing the state of science with respect to the climate system, including possible changes as a result of human activity. Working Group II, co-chaired by the United States and Zimbabwe, assesses potential impacts of, adaptation to, and mitigation measures for global change. Working Group III, co-chaired by Canada and South Korea, addresses cross-cutting issues, including the economic implications of climate change and of selected emissions scenarios. Many U.S. scientists have served as lead and contributing authors for chapters prepared by the three working groups.

The USGCRP has established a small secretariat for IPCC-related activities. This secretariat staffs U.S. participation in IPCC activities and, in particular, supports the U.S. co-chairman of Working Group II. The USGCRP also assists in supporting U.S. authors and organizes the U.S. government review process for the 1995 IPCC assessments. This review process involves agencies, scientists, industry, business, and other interested stakeholders and groups, all of whom are invited to review and comment on the work of the IPCC and its working groups.


The USGCRP supports U.S. participation in the development of regional institutes that facilitate the conduct of collaborative global change research within regions and supports the augmentation of scientific and technological capacity in other parts of the world. Several emerging regional networks have been developed throughout the world, including ones in the Asia-Pacific region (APN), in Europe-Africa (ENRICH), and in the Americas.

Sixteen countries, including the U.S., have signed an agreement to establish the Inter-American Institute (IAI) for Global Change Research (see figure). Following the entry into force of the agreement in 1994, the IAI Conference of the Parties selected a Scientific Advisory Committee, an Executive Council, a site for the IAI Directorate (National Space Research Institute of Brazil), and an IAI Director. Regional cooperation fostered by the IAI is expected to promote optimal use of available resources for global change research and to augment the scientific capacity of the region. Scientific data and information provided by IAI researchers will be managed as a common resource for the region and should provide baseline information for use in regional planning.

The international commitment to build capacities for global change research in the developing world is further reflected in the SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training (START), a joint effort of the HDP, IGBP, and WCRP. The START regional research networks promote focused research and training on regional issues of global importance, integrate and synthesize research results, and provide input to decision makers at national and regional levels.


Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) - In order to coordinate global change observation programs undertaken by the U.S. and other nations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has led efforts to organize a Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). The overall GCOS Plan and several related plans focusing on data and information management and on space-based observations are currently near completion. Because GCOS relies on national programs, both for planning and implementation, mechanisms to increase the flow of information about GCOS to participating countries have been initiated. The GCOS data and information system will be a comprehensive, distributed system that specifies procedures for collection, quality control, comparison of observations from different sources, dissemination, and utilization of all relevant data. Plans for observations concerned with the atmosphere, ocean, and land also are being coordinated with the WMO World Weather Watch and the Global Atmospheric Watch, the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS). Discussions are underway to develop plans for more complete integration of these different observing systems.

Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) - The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), an informal international organization, is undertaking an analysis of all satellites, sensors, and data products in operation or planned over the next ten to fifteen years and the requirements of the major international scientific and intergovernmental user organizations. This study will establish priorities and provide an opportunity for CEOS members to voluntarily fill gaps and reduce overlaps. CEOS has prepared a future strategy document that calls for all CEOS participants to establish fully functioning interoperable user services and data systems with common functionalities over the next five years. CEOS also has adopted principles that promote increased access to and availability of satellite data for global change research.

For comments, please contact the GCRIO Web Team at:
Last updated 04/10/96