Humans have affected practically all ecosystems on earth. Over the past 200 years, mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere have changed its radiative properties and are causing a rise in global temperatures which is now modifying Earth system functions globally. As a result, the 21st-century is faced with environmental changes from local to global scales that require large efforts of mitigation and adaptation by societies and ecosystems. The causes and effects, problems and solutions of global change interlink biogeochemistry, Earth system functions and socio-economic conditions in increasingly complex ways. To guide efforts of mitigation and adaptation to global change and aid policy decisions, scientific knowledge now needs to be generated in broad transdisciplinary ways that address the needs of knowledge users and also provide profound understanding of complex socio-environmental systems.
To address these knowledge needs, 12 nations of the American continent came together in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1992 to establish the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI). The 12 governments, in the Declaration of Montevideo, called for the Institute to develop the best possible international coordination of scientific and economic research on the extent, causes, and consequences of global change in the Americas. The resulting Agreement Establishing the IAI laid the foundation for the IAI’s function as a regional intergovernmental institution that promotes scientific research and capacity building to inform decision-makers on the continent and beyond. Since 1992, 7 additional nations have acceded the treaty, and the IAI has now 19 member countries in the Americas, which come together once every year in the Conference of the Parties to monitor and direct the IAI’s activities.