The Earth System
The earth, the planet on which we live, is highly sensitive. It is being constantly subjected to changes which interact in a complex system. What fundamental processes influence the climate and what role does mankind play in all of this? Answers to these and other questions can only be provided when the "earth system" has been studied and understood. BMBF funding programmes are supporting this research.
The sensitivity of the planet on which we live is revealed in many examples. At times the migration of the continents led to a worldwide and dramatic extinction of species while at the same time other species could adapt to the new living conditions by developing new life forms.
Understanding global cycles and the interaction of the geosphere (the solid Earth), the cryosphere (the ice masses), the hydrosphere (fluid water) and the biosphere (the entire flora and fauna) enables us to develop strategies against desertification, food crises and migration pressure, improve disaster relief and prevention and find new ways of crisis prevention as well as peace and conflict research.
Ever since industrial development began, humankind has actively influenced the Earth system. The mutual influencing will in turn change our habitat. We need knowledge of whether the Earth system can readily cope with the effects of the industrial societies and of internationally growing consumption. The burden on the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect, climate-relevant ocean currents and the ice masses at the Poles provide important indicators for a sustainable management of our planet as do the destruction of rain forests and the resulting changes.
"Klimazwei" - Research on Climate Change
The secretaries of the environment of the European Union agreed on 20th February 2007 that the EU will lower its CO2-Emissions around 20% of the levels of 1990 up to the year 2020.
The development of practice-oriented strategies for a course of action is at the center of the new BMBF supporting measure "klimazwei - research for climate protection and the protection from climate change effects" of the master program "research for sustainability" (Forschung für Nachhaltigkeit - FONA). The past basic research on the climate system will be supplemented with application orientated aspects from climatic protection and grappling with a changing climate. In "klimazwei", research projects on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will be supported as well as projects on the adaption to climate change.
These issues were already addressed by the former funding priorities in the area of atmospheric and climate research:
- In the Atmospheric Research Programme AFO2000 (concluded 2004), cross-cutting issues on "Interaction between the Earth Surface and the Atmosphere", "Chemistry, Dynamics, Radiation and their Interaction", "Multi-phase Processes" and "Atmosphere System Analysis: Models and Data" are being studied. New results will contribute to assessing the necessity and effectiveness of measures for clean air or climate protection or for more precise and reliable forecasts of weather and climate.
- The German Climate Research Programme DEKLIM (concluded 2005) was oriented to improving our understanding of the climate system and to identifying human influence on it, to reducing uncertainties in the analysis and forecast of the climate as well as to deriving strategies for actions for how to deal with climate change. A new quality in the interpretation of data on the past climate of the Earth in connection with a corresponding further development of climate modelling is therefore also the basis for a more precise forecast of the climate and climate effects at regional level.
Greenhouse gases released by humans are causing the earth's temperature to rise. As a consequence, we will almost certainly see an increase in extreme weather incidents such as severe storms, floods and periods of draught - this according to the report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. With the research aircraft HALO, we can now enter a new dimension of environment and climate research in Germany. So too is Zeppelin NT (new technology) underway in the name of climate research.
The Federal Government has adopted the commitment on international level to considerably reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in Germany by 2020 as a contribution to global climate protection. The use of subterranean space as a storage medium for carbon dioxide is a possible option to achieve the planned objectives. Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports research on geologic carbon dioxide storage.
Geoscientists study the processes and interactions in the overall Earth system in order to understand the natural balance and cycles and better assess the influence of humans. These issues are topics of research funding in the area of marine and polar research as well as the geosciences.
Flora and fauna are under constant scientific monitoring. Cycles between geosphere and biosphere, the interaction between the Earth and its inhabitants from unicellular organisms to humankind, the rainforests and their influence on our climate - all this must be studied in order to understand how complex but also how vulnerable the Earth system is. In the area of biodiversity research, the international Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) which was founded in 2001 and is supported by the BMBF, collects data on biodiversity which is available in research collections worldwide and makes it freely accessible via Internet.
The polar regions are the climatic chambers of the Earth. Exchanges between ocean, ice and atmosphere provide important information on climate changes. Mathematical models for a reliable interpretation of the data are still lacking. Research in the Arctic and Antarctic is therefore of major importance for our understanding of the climate.
Climate Change, a changing demography, global value chains, pollution and over exploitation as well as a growing world population pose significant challenges to a sustainable management of natural water resources. With the funding priority Sustainable "Water Management NaWaM", the the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funds the development of innovative technologies, processes and system solutions for sustainable management of the resource water. NaWaM pools the activities of the BMBF in the field of water research within the BMBF-Framework Programme for Sustainable Developments FONA.