Individual organisms on land and in the ocean sequester massive amounts of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere by humans. Yet the role of ecosystems as a whole in modulating this uptake of carbon is less clear. Here, we study several different mechanisms by which climate change and ecosystems could interact. We show that climate change could cause changes in ecosystems that reduce their capacity to take up carbon, further accelerating climate change. More research on – and better governance of – interactions between climate change and ecosystems is urgently required.