United Nations proclaims 2008 ‘International Year of Planet Earth’

January 5, 2006

The United Nations General Assembly, meeting in New York, has proclaimed the year 2008 to be the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth. The Year's activities will span the three years 2007-2009.

The International Year of Planet Earth was approved (Note 1) by general acclamation of the General Assembly, and no vote was taken.

The Year's purpose, encapsulated in it strapline Earth sciences for society, is to:

Reduce risks for society caused by natural and human-induced hazards
Reduce health problems by improving understanding of the medical aspects of Earth science
Discover new natural resources and make them available in a sustainable manner
Build safer structures and expand urban areas, utilizing natural subsurface conditions
Determine the non-human factor in climatic change
Enhance understanding of the occurrence of natural resources so as to contribute to efforts to reduce political tension
Detect deep and poorly accessible groundwater resources
Improve understanding of the evolution of life
Increase interest in the Earth sciences in society at large
Encourage more young people to study Earth science in university

The Year aims to raise $20 million from industry and governments and will spend half on co-funding research, and half on Outreach activities. It will be the biggest ever international effort to promote the Earth sciences.

Apart from researchers, who are expected to benefit under the Science Programme, the principal target groups for the Year's broader messages are:

    Decision makers and politicians who need to be better informed about the how Earth scientific knowledge can be used for sustainable development
    The voting public, which needs to know how Earth scientific knowledge can contribute to a better society
    Fellow geoscientists, who are very knowledgeable about various aspects of the Earth but who need help in using their knowledge for the benefit of the world’s population.

    The research themes of the year, set out in 10 science prospectuses (Note 2) were chosen for their societal relevance, multidisciplinarity and outreach potential. The Year has 12 Founding Partners (Note 3), 23 Associate Partners (Note 4), and is backed politically by 97 countries representing 87% of the world’s population (Note 5). The Year was promoted politically at UNESCO and at the United Nations in New York by the People’s Republic of Tanzania.

    The Year is now open to Expressions of Interest from researchers within each of its 10 themes. The Outreach programme of the year is also now open to expressions of interest, and will work in a similar way by receiving and responding to bids for support from individuals and organisations worldwide.

    The Year's Project Leader, former IUGS President Professor Eduardo F J de Mulder, said:

    “Around the shores of the Indian Ocean, some 230,000 people are dead because the world’s governments have not yet grasped the need to use geoscientists’ knowledge and understanding of the Earth more effectively”.

    “Yet that knowledge is readily available in the practical experience and publications of some half a million Earth scientists all over the world, a professional community that is ready and willing to contribute to a safer, healthier and wealthier society if called upon by politicians and decision makers”.

    “The International Year of Planet Earth (2007-2009) aims to contribute to the improvement of everyday life, especially in the less developed countries, by promoting the societal potential of the world’s Earth scientists”.

    The International Year of Planet Earth has been in planning since 2001. The Year's Science Committee is chaired by Prof. Edward Derbyshire (Royal Holloway) and its Outreach Committee by Dr Ted Nield (Geological Society of London).


    1.   The International Year of Planet Earth project was initiated jointly by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The UN press release reads: "By a draft on the International Year of Planet Earth, 2008, which the Committee approved without a vote on 11 November, the Assembly would declare 2008 the International Year of Planet Earth. It would also designate the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to organize activities to be undertaken during the Year, in collaboration with UNEP and other relevant United Nations bodies, the International Union of Geological Sciences and other Earth sciences societies and groups throughout the world. Also by that draft, the Assembly would encourage Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to use the Year to increase awareness of the importance of Earth sciences in achieving sustainable development and promoting local, national, regional and international action" .
    2. The Year’s research themes are: Groundwater: reservoir for a thirsty planet?; Hazards: minimizing risk, maximizing awareness; Earth and Health: building a safer environment; Climate change: the ‘stone tape’; Resources: sustainable power for sustainable development; Megacities: going deeper, building safer; Deep Earth: from crust to core; Ocean: abyss of time; Soil: Earth’s living skin; Earth and Life: origins of diversity. Each is described within an accessibly-written prospectus available on the Web site. In addition, Planet Earth in our Hands, states the rationale for the Year, and Outreach: bringing Earth sciences to everyone, describes how the Outreach programme will work.
    3. The Project is backed by the following Founding Partners: International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG); the International Geographical Union (IGU); the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS); the International Lithosphere Programme (ILP); the National Geological Survey of the Netherlands (TNO); The Geological Society of London (GSL); the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC); A consortium of the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment (IAEG), the International Society of Rock Mechanics (ISRM) and the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE); the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA); the American Geological Institute (AGI); the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG); the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG).
    4. The Year enjoys the support of 23 Associate Partners, including all major international geoscientific and other relevant organisations: ICSU International Council for Science; IOC Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO; IPA International Permafrost Association; IAGOD International Association on the Genesis of Ore Deposits; SEG Society of Economic Geologists; SGA Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits; IAH International Association of Hydrogeologists; IGCP International Geoscience Programme; EFG European Federation of Geoscientists; AARSE African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment; SCA Science Council of Asia; ProGEO European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage; SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology; CCOP Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia; GSAf Geological Society of Africa; UNU United Nations University; AGID Association of Geoscientists for International Development; UN/ISDR United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction; NESF North-eastern Science Foundation (USA); AASG Association of American State Geologists; ISPRS International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing; GSA Geological Society of America; NACSN North American Committee for Stratigraphic Nomenclature.
    5. As of 23 November 2005.