Science & Health

'This Is Deeply Disturbing News' Top Scientists Condemn CSIRO Job Cuts

The CSIRO today announced it will cut at least 300 jobs — mostly in the area of climate science, will will effectively cease to operate. — scientists have spoken out against the cuts, outlining what this will mean to the future of climate research in Australia.

Professor Penny Sackett is an Adjunct Professor at the Climate Change Institute, Australian National University and a former Australian Chief Scientist

“I am stunned by reports that CSIRO management no longer thinks measuring and understanding climate change is important, innovative or impactful. Paris did not determine whether or not climate change is happening, scientists who generate and study big data did. The big question now, which underlies all climate adaptation work, is ‘How is the climate changing?'”

“That answer will once again be determined by those scientists who gather climate data and model it. How can it be that our largest national research organisation chooses not to engage, indeed not to lead, the effort in finding the answer to that question?”

Associate Professor Todd Lane is President of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS)

“This is terrible news for climate science in Australia and threatens our ability to predict future climate and the inherent risks. Research at CSIRO is at the core of our climate modelling and monitoring efforts, and is essential for better future climate projections.”

“Climate science is not solved — out to the year 2030 most of the uncertainty in climate projections is due to uncertainty about the ways to represent some physical processes in climate models. We know that the risks associated with extreme weather and climate events increases disproportionately as the globe warms. Cutting funding in this area now doesn’t make any sense.”

Professor Will Steffen is an Emeritus Professor at ANU and a Climate Councillor at the Climate Council of Australia. Will was previously the executive director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP)

“This is deeply disturbing news. The impacts of climate change are already being felt around Australia at an increasing rate, and there is more to come. We absolutely need to know more about the basic operation of the climate system — how it is changing and how best can we respond to the climate change challenge.”

“The health, environmental and economic risks of climate change are just too large to sweep them under the carpet. CSIRO is Australia’s premier research organisation in terms of fundamental climate science, and has built a well-deserved international reputation for world-class science that has contributed much to global understanding of climate change. It takes decades of hard work by dedicated scientists to build up such a reputation. It can be destroyed overnight by senseless actions by those in power.”

“Very regrettably, this seems to be happening.”

Professor Steven Sherwood is co-Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales

“Larry Marshall surely has a point about rejuvenating organisations and solving new challenges, but I worry about his statement that there is no further need post-COP21 to understand climate change since we now know it is real.”

“Effective action requires detailed understanding. For example, Marshall speaks of contributing to the proposed agricultural development of the Northern Territory, but we don’t know for how much longer this region will still support agriculture or even human habitation as the Earth keeps warming, nor how much drying (if any) Australia’s existing agricultural regions will experience. The groups that would help provide answers are the ones he says we don’t need any more.”

Dr Paul Durack is a Research Scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US and is a former Visiting Scientist at CSIRO

“I worked at the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric laboratories both in Melbourne (Aspendale) and Hobart during the period 2003-2011. I’m now based in the US as opportunities to undertake world leading research at CSIRO have dwindled over the last decade.”

“This new round of proposed cuts makes a bad situation so much worse, and from the information currently being reported may lead to a key and proud Australian research capacity at CSIRO leaving Australian shores for good.”

Associate Professor Kevin Walsh is an Associate Professor and Reader in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne

“It is with dismay that I read the reports that climate research in the Ocean and Atmosphere section of CSIRO is effectively to cease, due to staff cuts.”

“It is incorrect to say, as CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall has stated, that the climate change science problem is solved, and now all we need to do is figure out what to do about it. No working climate scientist believes that. Also, it is very hard to believe that good decisions will be made on what to do about climate change if CSIRO has little remaining expertise in climate science.”

Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick is a DECRA Research Fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre at The University of New South Wales

“The latest round of job cuts from CSIRO is nothing short of appalling. The climate research work conducted by CSIRO has been pioneering and of global standard. While we know that the climate is changing because of human activity, we have not simply ‘answered’ that question after the Paris agreement — many more questions remain.”

“Like other scientific fields — such as biology, chemistry and medicine — continual research is required to continually improve our methods, understanding and knowledge. Research in any field does not, and cannot stop after an apparent question has been answered.”

“In terms of climate science, much more research needs to be done on furthering our understanding of these changes, monitoring the climate as it does change, and making our climate and weather models more efficient and improving their capabilities. Much of this work was undertaken by CSIRO, and so now a big hole will be left. If we want to properly safeguard our country from climate change, we require ongoing fundamental climate research – we cannot create innovative and effective solutions towards climate change without it.”

Professor Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation

“It is 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 is particularly bad when the cuts are in such areas as Oceans & Atmosphere, Land & Water and Manufacturing, as these are 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 renew our business’, according to the CEO. The language reveals that the government is trying to sabotage our public science body and turn it into a consulting business.”

Professor Clive Hamilton is Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University

“CSIRO climate scientists are world class and are researching the most decisive factor that will influence the future of the world. To slash their numbers at a time when the urgency of understanding and responding to climate change has never been greater suggests that the Government does not want to hear the facts.”

“At least Mr Abbott was upfront about his denial of climate science. This new phase is more insidious.”

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