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| Climate Change

The primary cause of anthropogenic climate change is the gases and aerosols that humankind’s activities release into the atmosphere. These gases and aerosols influence the energy balance of our planet, directly by trapping heat, and indirectly by changing, for example, the way clouds reflect sunlight.

To fight the adverse effects of climate change we must understand what drives it – and what are the consequences. Understanding climate change is important to making the right choices, and to preparing ourselves for changes that may already be inevitable. Only in this perspective can we start hoping for truly sustainable development.

A subject needing explanation

Climate change is a subject of enormous complexity that links large numbers of physical, chemical and biological factors in a planet-wide system. Furthermore, greenhouse gases are released because of the lifestyle Europeans, and the much of the Western world, have become accustomed to, including driving our private car(s) to work, our increasing domestic electricity consumption, holidays by plane to exotic places – all features of our modern society which are strikingly different than how we lived even one or two generations ago. So research is needed not only to understand climate change and for finding less polluting technologies, but also to find more sustainable ways for us, as individuals and as societies.

History of research support

The European Union has supported climate change investigations since the very early research programmes were devised in the 1980s, and this support has strengthened over time as EU policies moved towards placing sustainability at the centre of policy initiatives. Important advances were made, for example, in quantifying the carbon cycle, understanding the causes of ozone depletion and advancing climate modelling – all contributing to our knowledge of the fundamental processes of the ‘Earth system’.

Current support under FP6

Under FP6, the research programme running from 2002-2006, the Union is supporting a wide spectrum of projects on the prediction of climate change and its impacts, and on mitigation and adaptation (see Framework Programmes on this site). Operational forecasting, modelling and climate observation systems are included to improve our capacity for documenting ongoing changes. Past climate changes are studied in order to better understand how the various parts of the Earth system interact and to establish a baseline of natural climate variation. Sources and sinks for carbon and nitrogen are studied to understand how carbon sequestration can be promoted.

Using the new funding mechanisms in FP6, such as the integrated projects instrument, this research is bringing together leading research teams, as well as ensuring exactly the kind of multidisciplinary approach that is necessary to tackle a subject as complex as climate change.

Latest News on Climate Change


graphic element

Sequestration is a process that removes carbon from the atmosphere and stores it elsewhere – for example in the terrestrial biosphere (in trees), or the marine biosphere (in phytoplankton), or directly into soils or the ocean waters. There are many natural sequestration processes, such as the normal growth of vegetation, the direct uptake of carbon dioxide into (cold) parts of the ocean, the growth of plankton in the upper ocean, and the trapping of carbon by the weathering of minerals in, for example, agricultural soils.


The European Commission funds a large number of projects supporting polar research. Short descriptions of projects funded under FP5 and FP6, including links to their web pages, are listed below. Directly or indirectly, these projects are making important contributions to the International Polar Year.

Cover "Polar Research"