The international political commitment to limit global warming to 2 °C urgently requires the stabilisation of radiative forcing from carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. This can be achieved only with information on the full balance of GHG, including both the natural and the anthropogenic emissions and sinks. The public’s support of political efforts to limit global warming hinges on robust and transparent information from the scientific community. Here we argue that the existing institutions that support the science of climate change are not adequate to support the policy needs, particularly for the monitoring and assessment of the earth’s biogeochemical cycles. To assist in the stabilisation of GHG, an International Carbon Office (ICO) needs to be created to provide full GHG balance at a regional and global level, and to respond quickly to other needs for information as they emerge. An ICO with a specific mandate would guarantee sustained scientific engagement in the long-term.