Australia climate science to be gutted as CSIRO swings jobs axe – ‘It’s a catastrophic reduction in our capacity to assess present and future climate change’Posted by Jim at Friday, February 05, 2016
[This is a disaster. CSIRO is a world-class research organization for climate science, on par with the UK’s Hadley Centre for Climate Research, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Germany’s Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research. Crippling Australia’s climate science capability deals a significant blow to humanity’s struggle to survive our greatest existential threat: abrupt climate change. –Des]
By Peter Hannam
4 February 2016
(Sydney Morning Herald) – Fears that some of Australia's most important climate research institutions will be gutted under a Turnbull government have been realised with deep job cuts for scientists.
Fairfax Media has learnt that as many as 110 positions in the Oceans and Atmosphere division will go, with a similarly sharp reduction in the Land and Water division.
Total job cuts would be about 350 staff over two years, the CSIRO confirmed in an email to staff, with the Data61 and Manufacturing divisions also hit.
The cuts were flagged in November, just a week before the Paris climate summit began, with key divisions told to prepare lists of job cuts or to find new ways to raise revenue.
"Climate will be all gone, basically," one senior scientist said before the announcement. […]
It is understood just 30 staff will be left in the Oceans and Atmosphere unit and they will not be working on climate issues related to basic data gathering.
"This staggering attack on climate science is an act of political vandalism, pure and simple, and if the government doesn't back down on this it's ordinary Australians who will ultimately pay the price," Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, said. […]
Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of NSW, said the scale of the cuts was "jaw-droppingly shocking".
"It's a catastrophic reduction in our capacity to assess present and future climate change," Professor Pitman said. "It will leave us vulnerable to future climate change and unable to take advantage of any positives that result."
The impact will extend not just to the science being conducted in and around Australia but also to the ability of the country to retain and attract scientists, he said.
"They will focus on North American and European problems [when they go], not Australia's," Professor Pitman said. […]
The cuts had "the potential to devastate climate science in Australia", Todd Lane, president of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, said.
"Not only does CSIRO play a key role in climate monitoring, it underpins all of the climate modelling activity in Australia," Associate Professor Lane said.
"If that is cut significantly, it will set us back at least a decade and will undermine our ability to predict future climate risk." [more]
By Adam Morton, Peter Hannam, and Marcus Strom
5 February 2016
(Sydney Morning Herald) – Australia will break a commitment made at the Paris climate summit less than two months ago if CSIRO goes ahead with its plan to axe its research programs, one of the agency's leading scientists has warned.
John Church, a globally recognised expert on sea level rise and one of CSIRO's most decorated researchers, said organisation chief Larry Marshall had misled the public by claiming there was now less need for climate research because the problem had been "proven".
It came as US scientist James Hansen, sometimes described as the father of climate change awareness, suggested the decision to cut the jobs was wrong.
Dr Marshall announced via email on Thursday that 350 jobs would go over two years as the organisation moved away from observing and modelling climate change to working on solutions to the problem.
Details of the cuts have not been finalised, but it is understood one of the world's three major atmospheric greenhouse gas recording stations at Cape Grim, in Tasmania's north-west, is under threat. It is the only station of its type in the southern hemisphere.
The future of programs run by the $120 million RV Investigator research ship, launched amid fanfare in late 2014, are among those that are unclear.
CSIRO staff were forthright in their unhappiness at the cuts at briefings at midday on Friday, describing it as a flawed strategy.
About 100 jobs are planned to go from units dedicated to research in areas including greenhouse gas levels, sea level rise, ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and assessing what is required to keep global warming to two degrees. The jobs would be replaced by new positions in other areas.
Dr Church, who has worked at CSIRO since 1978 and expects to lose his job, said the cuts would make it difficult for Australia to uphold its part of the Paris deal, which agreed there should be greater investment in climate research, including improved observations and early warning systems.
He said the work of CSIRO was considered particularly important because of Australia's role as the major developed country in the southern hemisphere, with a focus on Antarctica and the Pacific.
"There is need for climate science – there are clauses in the Paris agreement that say that. There is a clear need for ongoing sustained and enhanced observations. The science community is actually struggling to address these issues already and so further cuts mean it will be very difficult."
"That's at variance with what the chief executive has been saying, that climate science is done. That's clearly not the case – it's inaccurate, misleading information." […]
Dozens of scientists issued statements in response to Dr Marshall's announcement. Many were incensed by the former venture capitalist's suggestion that climate change science was a narrow field that had been "proven" to be a problem, and therefore no longer needed to be a focus.
Dr Church said it was true climate change was proven, but more detail was needed if the world was going to adapt.
"To talk about it being a narrow science is completely inaccurate – it's a very broad area. It would be great if CSIRO could invest in mitigation. I don't see any signs it is doing that significantly."
James Hansen, a former NASA scientist known for his testimony to US Congress in 1988 that arguably put concern about climate change on the map, said he was stunned by the announcement.
"Holy shit! That is unbelievable," he said. "Is a conservative denier government in power?
"This seems to be a clear-cut case of shooting the messenger with the bad news. However, the messenger is needed to figure out what to do about the problem." [more]