BEIJING—China’s stance at the Copenhagen climate summit last month riled many critics, but the country is earning praise on the research front. In the latest sign of the government’s increasing support for climate change research, Tsinghua University this week has launched the Institute for Global Change Studies (IGCS).
China has a lot of catching up to do on global change research. Compared with other advanced nations, “we are still lagging behind,” says former science minister Xu Guanhua, a remote-sensing specialist. Part of the problem, he says, is that Chinese researchers have tended to focus on local rather than global problems. And in general, Xu says, Chinese scientists have exhibited a “lack of leadership” in international organizations' global change forums.
IGCS is a step in the right direction. “This is hugely important,” says Robert Dickinson, a climate researcher at the University of Texas, Austin. “We need to tackle climate change as a world community."
In a workshop at Tsinghua University that ended today, Xu, who co-chairs IGCS’s scientific committee, charted a course for the new institute and heard presentations from prospective faculty. IGCS is the latest move by Tsinghua to reestablish an earth sciences faculty, which was eliminated from the university during sweeping reforms of the education system a half-century ago. Tsinghua is now known primarily for its engineering and computer science faculties. “Having an earth science program at Tsinghua will add a new power of discovery and innovation to existing programs,” Xu says.