Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

The MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change integrates natural and social sciences to produce analyses of the interactions among our global environment, economy, and human activities, and the potential impact of policies that affect these relationships. 

Global environmental change is a complex issue: a century-scale threat requiring long term analysis — but with no short-term solution or single targeted policy that can adequately address the risks threatening the entire planet. The challenge of addressing global change is compounded by uncertainty — in both our understanding of Earth’s physical and biological processes and in our projections of economic growth, resource availability, and future technologies.

For example, climate is intertwined with many elements of life, from traditional agriculture to the modern industrial economy, and with many current issues, from energy security to economic development. This tangle of environmental threats, uncertainties, and intersecting policy concerns poses political, economic, and communication challenges.

Balancing these risks and weighing costs and benefits is crucial to making policy decisions, and must be informed by comprehensive, relevant analyses.

The MIT Joint Program brings together both science and policy to provide a truly independent integrative assessment of the impacts of global environmental change and the expected values of responsive actions. As science advances and economic and political conditions change, effective long-term action requires a sustained research effort to address these challenges.

The research conducted at MIT is valuable to government agencies, who aim to formulate efficient and effective policies, to industries, who aim to create risk management strategies within national, regional, and global market realities, and to other decision makers, who value a systemic view of the broad interactions inherent in global change.

The MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change was formed by the CGCS and the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) in 1991. Through this shared endeavor the CGCS nutures significant cross-discipline cooperation to bring enhanced understanding of climate science into the realm of climate and energy policy.

The primary research tool used in the Joint Program is the MIT Integrated System Model framework (IGSM), which is a facility for simulating global change and for assessing the effects of policy proposals. The model framework is a linked set of computer models designed to help realize the Joint Program’s objective of integrated assessment. The IGSM combines models of the Earth system and models of human activities and the economy to produce a truly systemic approach to understanding global change issues. The modeling framework can be used to assess policy proposals and provide information on probabilities, uncertainties, risk, and costs and benefits to policymakers and the public. This integrated analysis tool allows researchers to simulate the global environmental changes that may arise as a result of human causes and the impact of these changes back on human activities and economies. It also provides a platform for studies of individual components of the globalchange issue.

More information is available at



Phone: 617-253-7492




Prof. Ronald G. Prinn
MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Dr. John M. Reilly
MIT Sloan School of Management