Outrage as Australia’s CSIRO cuts climate science jobs

Climate question ‘has been answered’ says chief executive of top science agency, expressing high hopes for coal-to-diesel technology

Australia is vulnerable to global warming impacts like bush fires (Flickr/bertknot)

Australia is vulnerable to global warming impacts like bush fires (Flickr/bertknot)

By Megan Darby

Climate scientists around the world reacted with shock and anger to job cuts announced at Australia’s national research agency.

Up to 350 staff at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) are up for the chop, with many losses falling on climate research.

Justifying the decision in an all-staff email, chief executive Larry Marshall said the climate question “has been answered”.

Pioneering research at the centre had helped “to prove climate change” and the new question was: “What do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?”

The agency’s strategy was to transform Australian businesses – notably the extractive industries – to cope with “a new and uncertain future”.

Marshall, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, expressed “high hopes” for technology to convert coal into diesel.

On twitter, the response was scathing.

A federal funding cut to CSIRO of AUD$111 million (US$80m) over four years announced in 2014 made some job losses likely.

But greens questioned the organisation’s priorities. The main areas to be cut are manufacturing, land and water, oceans and atmosphere, and “data innovation hub” Data61 – covering most of the climate-linked research.

Green senator Larissa Waters said: “While so many communities across the country are suffering devastating droughts and the horrific aftermath of intense bushfires, the government is firing the climate scientists who can help us prevent and adapt to the extreme weather of global warming.”

It is the latest government blow to climate research, following a 2013 decision to axe funding for the independent Climate Commission.

Climate watchers had hoped prime minister Malcolm Turnbull would prove more sympathetic to climate concerns than predecessor Tony Abbott.

Since winning the top job last September, however, Turnbull has defended coal mine expansion and starved the country’s main climate policy of funds.

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