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[BEIJING] Scientists and humanities researchers in China have launched a new coordinating body intended to increase Chinese involvement in international discussions on the impact of global climate change.

The body, to be known as the China National Council of International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (CNC-IHDP), will be run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Our aim is to coordinate the efforts of natural scientists with researchers in the humanities and social sciences to promote China's research on global climate and environmental changes,'' says academy official Zhang Xueqin, who will administer the council.

In addition to its coordination efforts, CNC-IHDP will produce regular reports on the relationship between global environmental change and sustainable development, globalization and human safety and global land change and urbanization.

According to Zhang, the council will also organise international academic meetings and sponsor Chinese scholars to attend international events elsewhere. Funding will come from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the China Association of Science and Technology.

Speaking at a meeting held to launch the new council, Liu Yanhua, China's Vice Minister of Science and Technology, and the president of the council, pointed out that China had in recent years become a large consumer of both energy and mineral resources, as well as industrial products.

As a result, the country now faced the combined pressures of a lack of natural resources, and the need to meet international commitments on areas such as reducing exhaust emissions and protecting the environment.

"Under such circumstances, research on global environmental and climate changes is of crucial importance to the country,'' said Liu, admitting that, at present, China's research in these areas was insufficient.

According to Zhang, a major factor contributing to China's relative lack of research on the impact of factors such as climate change and other environmental problems is poor communication between scientists and social scientists.

He points out, for example, that in carrying out research on urbanisation, social scientists in China seldom consider the impact of cities on the natural environment. Conversely, climate change researchers frequently ignore relevant social or historical factors.

Another reason for China's muted voice in international debates on global environmental change and climate change, he suggests, is that Chinese scientists and researchers lack both the incentive and the opportunity to exchange ideas with their counterparts in other countries. Zhang believes that the creation of CNC-IHDP can help solve the problem.

IHDP is one of the four major international organizations focused on global climate and environmental changes grouped under the Earth System Science Partnership. The other three are the World Climate Research Programme, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and the international programme of biodiversity science (Diversitas).

Sixty-nine experts from 16 research institutes, 12 universities and two non-governmental organizations will make up the council's commissioners.

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