The North American Carbon Program Plan (NACP)
A Report of the Committee of the
U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Steering Group

  About the North American Carbon Program Plan (NACP)

It is currently very difficult to develop policies for global climate change because of unresolved scientific uncertainties, especially about the sources and sinks of the two most important greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane. These gases are the major causes of changes in atmospheric composition that may force climate change. Policy and decision makers would like to know with a high level of confidence what would be the likely outcomes of actions affecting the carbon cycle, and these gases in particular. They want to avoid surprises and unintended consequences. This is not yet possible in considering climate change.

The North American Carbon Program (NACP) will provide scientific information critical to reducing uncertainties, helping to pave the way for effective, efficient policies. The program focuses on North America and its adjacent oceans for the following reasons:

  • The large uncertainty surrounding the magnitude of North America’s contribution to an overall Northern Hemisphere carbon sink.
  • It is a region of significant fossil fuel emissions.
  • Partial infrastructure is in place to begin characterizing the mechanisms controlling North American sources and sinks.
  • The continental scale is the smallest scale of integration that will allow the information to be analyzed in a global context.

The knowledge that will be gained in the NACP program will provide a strong scientific underpinning to inform future policy decisions involving the carbon cycle, such as managing carbon sources and sinks by efficient and effective options that reduce emissions or enhance carbon sinks. The NACP addresses infrastructure and scientific and policy issues by focusing on a number of goals:

  • Maintaining and enhancing U.S. leadership in climate change science and technology development.
  • Strengthening basic and applied research on short and long-range products useful for technology and policy development.
  • Enhancing coordination across federal agencies, and among the federal government, universities, and the private sector
  • Providing public-private partnership opportunities.
  • Promoting international cooperation.
  • Developing improved technologies for measuring and monitoring gross and net greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Determining the nature and causes of natural variations in the carbon cycle, including feedbacks, thus providing climate change forecasting capabilities.
  • Providing the scientific understanding to account for, predict, and manage the carbon cycle for North America.

The program plan is offered as a guide to responsible federal agencies for implementing priority carbon cycle research, in which close coordination among agencies, and between the scientific community and the agencies, is essential.

It was prepared by the undersigned at the request of the Carbon Cycle Science Steering Group. A draft of the plan was circulated to the scientific community and interested federal agencies in August 2001, and extensively debated and revised at the Workshop on the North American Carbon Program, in Boulder, Colorado, 5-7 September 2001, prior to formal presentation to the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group. The members of these groups and their email addresses are listed below.

Authors of the North American Carbon Program Plan


    Steven C. Wofsy ( Robert C. Harriss (


    Arlyn Andrews (
    Peter Bakwin (
    Richard Birdsey (
    Jim Collatz (
    Patrick Crill (
    Scott Denning (
    Richard Feely (
    Chris Field (
    Christoph Gerbig (
    Manuel Gloor (
    Niki Gruber (
David Hollinger (
Daniel Jacob (
John Lin (
Eldor Paul (
Steven Pawson (
Steven Running (
Chris Sabine (
Jorge Sarmiento (
David Schimel (
Eric Sundquist (
Pieter Tans (

Membership of the Carbon Cycle Science Steering Group


    Chris Field (


    Kenneth Caldeira (
    Scott Denning (
    Hugh Ducklow (
    Paul Falkowski (
    Jonathan Foley (
    Inez Fung (
    Dave Hollinger (
    Emilio Moran (
Eldor Paul (
Rich Richels (
Steven Running (
Jorge Sarmiento (
Eric Sundquist (
Pieter Tans (
Rik Wanninkhof (
Steven C. Wofsy (

Membership of the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group


    Lisa Dilling ( Diane Wickland (


    Krisa Arzayus (
    Enriquetta Barrera (
    Jeri Berc (
    Marilyn Buford (
    Mary Cleave (
    Jim Collatz (
    Roger Dahlman (
    Hari Eswaran (
    Wanda Ferrell (
    Garik Gutman (
    Mike Jawson (
Cliff Hickman (
Carol Jones (
John Marra (
Elvia Niebla (
Jim Reaves (
Don Rice (
Anne-Marie Schmoltner (
Steven Shafer (
Dave Shultz (
Bryce Stokes (

Preparation of this report was sponsored by the following agencies of the United States Global Change Research Program: the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the United States Geological Survey of the Department of Interior.

Copies of the report may be obtained from:

U.S. Global Change Research Program
400 Virginia Avenue, SW
Suite 750
Washington, DC 20024 USA
Tel: 202-488-8650
Fax: 202-488-8681

Please cite this document as follows:

Wofsy, S.C. and R.C. Harriss, 2002: The North American Carbon Program (NACP). Report of the NACP Committee of the U.S. Interagency Carbon Cycle Science Program. Washington, DC: US Global Change Research Program.

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