Global consumption of materials and energy is accelerating. The rate of plant and animal species extinction is accelerating. On a finite Earth with a growing population, current consumption cannot continue sustainably. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) tell us an important part of this story. The Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, managed by scientists at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, is the largest greenhouse gas analysis network in the world. It has been shaped by scientific questions, stagnant funding despite rises in research costs, and the task of understanding how the Earth system will respond to a changing climate. The Network began by researching the Earth’s natural carbon cycle and has evolved into a group that maintains a quality-driven historical GHG record which:

- Describes impacts of human activities on the Earth system

- Is the cornerstone of the global GHG research community

- Provides evidence to guide political and industrial decision-making

Based on the synthesis of eight interviews with researchers involved in the Network, the Network’s ability to gather and spread accurate data about the state of Earth’s atmosphere is threatened by public misunderstanding of climate science, the politicization of climate change, changing global relations, and a societal perception that science should focus on short-term needs. This project aims to tell stories rarely told about GHGs, climate science, and the largest GHG science organization in the world.


Environmental Engineering | Environmental Studies | Politics and Social Change | Science and Technology Studies


Pieter Tans

Lab site

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Earth Systems Research Laboratory (NOAA ESRL)

Funding Acknowledgement

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program under Grant # 1340110. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The research was also made possible by the California State University STEM Teacher and Researcher Program, in partnership with Chevron (www.chevron.com), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (www.marinesanctuary.org), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory.



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/star/478


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