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Year of Carbon Logo

2019 at the Geological Society is the themed Year of Carbon!

Following on from our 2018 themed Year of Resources, in 2019 we are looking at carbon, one of the most important elements on our planet.

Carbon is of critical importance in:

  • The oceans and atmosphere where it has important consequences for the global climate system.
  • Complex organic molecules that led to life on Earth.
  • Carbon-based energy resources which remain of critical importance as both a source of energy but also in planning for a future carbon-neutral society.
  • Understanding the carbon budget of our planet over long timescales, which requires quantification of the cycling of carbon between surface reservoirs and Earth’s deep interior.

Carbon is also at the heart of a number of important societal challenges. The rapid increase in atmospheric CO2, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time, and will occupy generations to come. Carbon-based fuels, however, remain essential for our economy, transport, communications and everyday life and petroleum geoscience develops innovation in exploration, in extraction and in mitigating emissions. 

In the future, however, a move to carbon-neutral fuels and energy sources is unavoidable, and is the focus of much research, including studies in the field of carbon sequestration.

Throughout 2019 the Society will explore the geoscience of carbon through research conferences, lectures, our education programme and other activities.

Conferences and Meeting Programme

We are running a number of carbon-themed conferences through 2019 on a wide variety of research focussed topics as well as more applied and societal challenge-led areas.

The Lyell Meeting: Carbon Geochemical and palaeobiological perspectives

28 June 2019

The fundamental building block of life as we know it, carbon, is critical to the Earth system. Traditionally biological and chemical approaches to understanding carbon dynamics in the geological past have been considered in relative isolation. 

For the 2019 Lyell Meeting we will bring together a broad spectrum of scientists that address the big picture of carbon in the Earth system, drawing on expertise in palaeontology, geochemistry, palaeobotany, atmospheric processes, deep-Earth processes, and anthropogenic impacts.

Register now to attend

Library Events and Resources

Carbon on Carbon

Carbon drawing class at Geological Society Library

In spring 2019 we were delighted to hold two fossil drawing classes, led by artist and geologist Emma Jude. Participants were invited to travel back in time to the Carboniferous Period and learn about life on Earth over 300 million years ago, before drawing carboniferous fossils using charcoal. 

See pictures from the event

Carbon Reading List

We've created a reading list from the library catalogue:

Access the reading list 

Courtyard Lates at Burlington House

Date: Friday 19 July 2019

As part of the annual Burlington House Courtyard Lates evening, join us for a free behind-the-scenes tour of the Geological Society's Library.

Archivist and visitors viewing a map in Burlington House

This is a chance to see rooms of the Society not usually open to the public and some treasures from our collections. The tour includes a visit to our Map Room with its collection of 40,000 geological maps from around the world.

To mark the Geological Society's Year of Carbon and the courtyard theme of ELEMENTS, we will look at a few items from our archive that throw light on the importance of the coal industry to the development of the science of geology in the 19th Century.

This event is free, but pre-booking is essential. Tours start at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm and last approximately 45 minutes. Please register on Eventbrite.

Past Conferences

Bryan Lovell 2019 Meeting report

Bryan Lovell Meeting 

This year's Bryan Lovell Meeting focused on the role of the geoscience in the decarbonisation of power production, heat, transport and industry. Chiming with the Year of Carbon, and with a focus on decarbonising the energy sector, the Society have produced a report which summarises the key aspects of the meeting. 

Janet Watson Meeting

The Janet Watson Meeting in February focused on Deep Carbon. The programme included the origins, storage and transport of deep carbon, deep carbon through time and the future of deep carbon research.

Upcoming Events

Our calendar lists upcoming events taking place in the Year of Carbon.

GSL Publications

2019 Year of Carbon 

View peer-reviewed carbon related content in the Lyell Collection.


We welcome suggestions for events and activities.

To find out more please email:

Related Links

Public Lectures

Public Lectures banner 2019

The annual Public Lecture programme will feature a number of themed year related talks.

Speakers include:

Carrie Lear, Cardiff University - The Big Antarctic Freeze

Ros Rickaby, University of Oxford – Biogeochemistry, joint with the Royal Society of Chemistry

Tamsin Mather, University of Oxford - Volcanoes and past climate: adventures with deep carbon

Simon Mitton, University of Cambridge - Carbon's fundamental role on Earth

Outreach & Education

Click on the links below to explore our outreach and education materials relating to the Year of Carbon.

poster on carbon reservoirs

poster on hydrocarbon formation

A series of posters and infographics about carbon and the geosciences.

Take a look at our Year of Carbon rock set. One rock set is on display at Burlington House year round, and there is another available for loan. Contact Amy Ball to find out more. 

Energy factsheets

Download our factsheets about renewable and non-renewable energy resources.