New Science Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the CSIRO to revive climate science, following widespread community and international backlash to the planned slashing of climate staff and programs.
Mr Hunt, the former Environment Minister, told Fairfax Media he has instructed CSIRO’s executives and board to “put the focus back on climate science”, adding: “This is not an optional component, it’s critical”.
The new strategy will create 15 long-term jobs in climate analysis and forecasting.
So is this news worth celebrating?
It’s a positive step, but there’s much more to be done.
It’s clear that Greg Hunt has taken on board the resounding message from both the Australian public and international science community that we need a strong and robust CSIRO.
2016 has underscored why we need to be increasing our climate science capacity, not slashing it. This year will almost certainly be the hottest on record globally for the third year in a row, with Australia experiencing unprecedented impacts including the worst coral bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef’s history, and World Heritage forest bushfires in Tasmania.
Is it a case of too little, too late?
The government’s failure to intervene from the outset, when the cuts were announced in February, has already set back Australia’s climate science enterprise – including the loss of some world class scientists from CSIRO.
Nothing less than the full restoration of Australia’s climate science capabilities will be an acceptable outcome from the perspective of the science community.
In fact, to meet our Paris commitments, Australia is required to grow its climate science capacity.
For more information about the importance of CSIRO’s climate science research check out our report: Flying Blind: Navigating Climate Change without the CSIRO.