China's Largest Global Change Research Effort Is Break From the Past

BEIJING—At a conference here today, Chinese science leaders bemoaned critical gaps in knowledge about climate change—while unveiling a major new research initiative.

Compared with developed nations, "China's understanding of global change is much more limited," science minister Wan Gang said here at a conference to launch the government's "national major science plans" for global change research. As an antidote, the science ministry today announced that it will fund 19 major projects to develop China's earth system models, with a total funding of roughly $82 million.

The largess is the latest sign of the government's increasing support for climate change research. Last January, Tsinghua University in Beijing launched the Institute for Global Change Studies.

Chinese government research efforts have tended to reward a handful of scientists with good connections to the funding bodies. In a break from the past, the global change research program will emphasize multidisciplinary research and international cooperation, says former science minister Xu Guanhua, a remote-sensing specialist who chairs the new Tsinghua institute's scientific committee. The new approach "gives my heart great pleasure," Xu says. "The time has come to tackle global change as a world community."