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Chinese Academy in Climate Change Uproar

17 June 2013 11:35 am
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BEIJING—Every year, the National Science Library here, affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), coordinates the translation, rights, and publication of thousands of papers and books from other languages into Chinese. Usually this activity doesn't cause a stir. Last week was the exception, when CAS released a Chinese-language edition of Climate Change Reconsidered, published by the Heartland Institute, which is a libertarian think tank in Chicago, Illinois, that disseminates research arguing that human activity is not driving climate change.

Jim Lakely, Heartland's director of communications, told the conservative online news site Breitbart News: "Translating and publishing nearly 1,300 pages of peer-reviewed scientific literature from English to Chinese is no small task, and indicative of how important CAS considers Climate Change Reconsidered to the global climate change debate." (The Brietbart.com article featured a picture of a wincing Al Gore.)

CAS sees things differently. Heartland's characterization of the academy's decision to translate Climate Change Reconsidered was "strongly misleading … implying that the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) supports their views." A CAS official points out that the decision to translate Climate Change Reconsidered was made by the National Science Library. In his preface to the translated edition, Zhang Zhiqiang, the library's deputy director, stated that the project was undertaken "to help Chinese researchers understand different points, opinions and positions in debates on climate change."

Heartland's spin has forced CAS to be more assertive. Before a release ceremony for the translation at the science library on 15 June, the CAS official says, the academy's headquarters told Zhang to make explicit in his remarks at the ceremony that CAS does not endorse Climate Change Reconsidered's findings. Heartland has since issued a statement acknowledging that the translation does not amount to an endorsement.

*Clarification, 2:20 p.m., 18 June: The decision to translate Climate Change Reconsidered was made by the National Science Library, not by Zhang Zhiqiang, the library's deputy director.

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