WCRP was established in 1980 under the joint sponsorship of the International Science Council (ISC) (previously the International Council for Science (ICSU), until July 2018) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). In 1993 the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO also became a sponsor.

The main objectives of WCRP, defined at its inception and still valid today, are to determine the predictability of climate and to determine the effect of human activities on climate.

WCRP has made enormous contributions to advancing climate science over the past 30+ years (see the 25th Anniversary Brochure). As a result of WCRP efforts, it is now possible for climate scientists to monitor, simulate and project global climate with unprecedented accuracy, and provide climate information for use in governance, decision-making and in support of a wide range of practical end-user applications.