During the 1980s it became clear that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were increasing globally. It was also becoming clear that the temperature of the planet was rising.

Although the relationship between increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and rising temperatures was uncertain at this time, the need to improve our understanding of the climate system was widely recognised. It was also clear that the combined issues of rising greenhouse gas concentrations and increasing temperatures could have far-reaching implications beyond the atmospheric sciences.

In response to this major environmental challenge, CSIRO joined forces with the Commission for the Future to organise a multidisciplinary conference to draw attention to the matter. GREENHOUSE 87 spawned a seminal publication, Greenhouse: Planning for Climate Change, which contained dozens of papers examining the science and conceivable impacts of the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’. Two years later, the Commonwealth Government granted CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology funds to undertake research into the phenomenon, and the Climate Change Research Programme was established.

Although its name changed over the years (from the Climate Change Research Programme to the National Greenhouse Science Programme to the Australian Greenhouse Science Programme to the Australian Climate Change Science Programme), the ACCSP never wavered from identifying and focusing scientific activity on issues that are of the highest priority to inform policy and that advance our understanding of the climate system, in Australia, in the southern hemisphere and globally.