Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

CSIRO Cools on Climate Science

The science of climate change might now be accepted by world governments, but it’s short-sighted of CSIRO to short-change its research capabilities in this area.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The scientific community was shocked by the February announcement that hundreds of CSIRO positions will be axed. The cuts follow a steady erosion of the public science body, with more than 200 redundancies per year in recent times.

The new CEO, Larry Marshall, justified the attack on CSIRO’s climate science capacity by saying that the UN conference on climate change in Paris last December meant that the science was settled. Of course, the basic science has been settled for a long time, largely because of the work done by CSIRO scientists over the 30 years since the Villach conference. But we still have a great deal of uncertainty about the scale and rate of changes that are resulting from the human impact on the atmosphere.

It’s always disappointing when science is cut back, especially when we need to be more innovative to overcome the economic problem of falling commodity prices. It’s particularly bad when the cuts are in such areas as Oceans & Atmosphere, Land & Water and Manufacturing, as these are all critical to our chances of a sustainable future.

More worrying than the cuts is the language used by the new CEO: there won’t be scientists sacked, there will be “reductions in headcount”! And these aren’t research areas, they are “business units” headed not by top scientists but “business leaders”. The cuts are “something that we must do to...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.