Greg Hunt with Dr Peter Czabotar at the launch of the Turnbull government's $500 million Biomedical Translation Fund at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research on Wednesday. 'I've issued a ministerial directive … that we will make climate science a core activity, that we will strengthen and build capacity,' said Mr. Hunt on 4 August 2016. Photo: Eddie Jim

[cf. 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’, CSIRO cuts to climate science are against the public good, and An open letter to the Australian Government from more than 2800 climate scientists.]

By Andrew P Street
5 August 2016

(Sydney Morning Herald) – It's so very, very, very easy to be cynical about the Coalition's commitment to addressing climate change, since every policy since 2009 has been strongly informed by a fierce and outspoken commitment to pretending it doesn't exist.

From Tony Abbott's stirring description of global warming as "bullshit" in 2009 to everything he did when in power: removing the carbon and mining taxes, axing the Climate Commission, slashing the Renewable Energy Target and crippling the renewable energy sector, and trying (and failing, twice) to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation but settling for preventing it from investing in wind or solar energy, you might get the impression that maybe they're not that serious about the subject.

So what are we to make of the news that new Science and Innovation Minister Greg Hunt has just performed something of an about-face on cuts to the CSIRO's climate change research divisions?

It's very tempting to see this as being a positive move towards rational policy, since everyone is aware that the Prime Minister is genuinely concerned about climate change and has long called for significant action on the matter. So much so that it's why he got kicked out as leader of the Liberals in 2009, replaced by well known science-respecter and reality-fan Tony Abbott.

Given Abbott is but one of the party members who wear their climate change denialism like a particularly ignorant tie, Turnbull is obviously not going to do anything silly like advocate for an emissions trading scheme - you know, like he used to do. So progress on these things have to be done in such a way as to not look like dangerous … well, progress.

Making the former Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, the new Environment Minister was a strong way for the Turnbull government to indicate that it still strongly believes that the environment is for jerks. […]

Given Hunt's credentials, one would have thought he'd make a hell of a job of the Environment portfolio. Except that he didn't, instead releasing embarrassing climate data two days before Christmas when the least amount of people would notice, overseeing the mighty boondoggle that is Direct Action, using political pressure to scare the World Heritage Committee into not listing  the Great Barrier Reef as "in danger" despite the unprecedented scope and seriousness of coral bleaching, and rubber-stamping mining approvals with such vigour as to overlook the failure of the applicants to carry out environmental impact studies. He must be very proud.

Hunt's about-face hasn't done anything to improve Australia's climate science so much as not ruin it as much: instead of more than 100 people losing their jobs from the CSIRO's climate division, 15 new jobs will be created (with about 35 still axed). He's also restored about $37 million in funding over the next 10 years, and has announced that plans for new programs and projects will emerge in the coming months. [more]

The CSIRO about-face is the least the government could do



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