Political leaders around the world have pledged to limit global warming at most to 2°C above preindustrial temperatures. This will require a fundamental restructuring of energy production, and the management of other human and natural systems that influence the concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses (GHGs) in the atmosphere. Scientists can assist this process by providing new knowledge and by supporting the implementation of actions. However, the involvement of experts is required in the long term, which is difficult to sustain in current research institutions. The research environment needs to be revised to ensure that the drivers of carbon research are aligned with the interests of society.