Dr Larry Marshall, former venture capitalist and now head of the CSIRO, has a brief and a vision to turn the organisation into an innovation catalyst. Climate science simply no longer fits, according to him.
He told the ABC:
- The issue for us in all of our business units is we have to be aware of changes in global markets.
So if you look at the climate market, I think after Paris the argument for climate change is pretty much decided, I think that question has been answered.
So that begs the next question, what do we do about climate change? How do we adapt to it? How do we mitigate it?
And it’s inevitable that people who are gifted at you know measuring and modelling climate may not be the same people who are gifted at figuring out what to do about it, or how to mitigate it.
Problem is, as Roger Jones, Professorial Research Fellow at Victoria University, who used to work at CSIRO, says, the purpose of the measuring and modelling is
- to understand how the climate system works and then to use that knowledge to manage risk, make decisions and improve productivity.
Climate change will continue to throw up surprises which we will need to understand. Jones gives examples of how CSIRO has already created value in this regard.
- CSIRO has long been a global leader in projecting climate at the regional scale and presenting the information in a form that suits decision makers, and thus Australia has been very well served in this vital input into national adaptation and mitigation planning.
CSIRO recently provided a comprehensive set of projections of Australia’s future climate based on the latest climate modelling and related science, tailored for a broad range of uses.
If we eliminate the science this cannot continue. Understanding is a necessary precondition for appropriate adaptation. We run the risk of trying to adapt to climate change like headless chooks.
It appears that up to 350 jobs will be changed, cutting a deep swathe into CSIRO’s climate effort. At RenewEconomy Sophie Vorrath reports:
- Fairfax Media reports that, as part of deep job cuts to be announced later today, as many as 110 positions in CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere division will go, with a similar number affected in the Land and Water division.
It is believed that this will leave just 30 staff in the organisation’s Oceans and Atmosphere unit, and that they will not be working on climate issues.
“Climate will be all gone, basically,” one senior scientist told Fairfax before the announcement. “We understand both the Prime Minister [Malcolm Turnbull] and the [Science] Minister [Christopher Pyne] have signed off on the cuts.”
So it is not just a change from climate science to adaptation. From the ABC interview:
- LARRY MARSHALL: We launched a new strategy middle of last year for CSIRO to be Australia’s innovation catalyst.
So naturally, having launched that strategy, we started looking at what were the big projects, the moon shots, if you like, for each business unit that we have from agriculture all the way through to digital technology.
And once we decided where we’re going to really focus to deliver the best impact for the nation, we then had to ask the question, what people and resources do we need.
JAKE STURMER: The answer to that is a paring back of the ocean, atmosphere, land, water and manufacturing units.
The CSIRO is an independent body, but the question is raised as to whether the Turnbull government is at all serious about climate change. As Giles Parkinson said:
- The Turnbull government has begun 2016 in the same way that the Abbott government started 2014 and 2015; with legislation on the table that calls for the dismantling of the government’s key agencies – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Change Authority.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is being run by a bureaucrat, with board appointments lapsing. Emissions are climbing once again, projected now to peak after 2030. There is no funding for Direct Action emission-reduction auctions once the present allocations are used up.
On the CSIRO cuts, Andy Pitman says
- the cuts would diminish Australia’s understanding of its climate. “It will lead to Australia adapting to things that won’t happen, and not adapting to things that will happen, with a much higher probability,”
Among the experts, responses from Kevin Walsh and Nerilie Abram mention our special responsibility in Southern Hemisphere research.
As Jones says funds invested in climate research to date “…have been returned many times over in higher production, avoided costs and healthier people and environments.”
Why would we diminish the world’s effort shoot ourselves in the foot other than through rank stupidity?