Planned cuts to CSIRO’s climate science division would breach Australia’s commitments under the Paris agreement and leave a gaping hole in the world’s understanding of climate change in the Southern Hemisphere, a new Climate Council report has found.
Flying Blind: Navigating Climate Change without the CSIRO examines the local and international ramifications of the recent decision to cut over a hundred jobs from the agency’s climate science staff.
The report found the cuts would damage Australia’s ability to understand, plan for and respond to climate change and leave governments and business ill-prepared to make the right decisions in the face of a rapidly changing climate.
The report also found:
- Governments and business rely on climate change science to make billion-dollar decisions. Without it, they will be relying on guesswork. For example, the design of Brisbane Airport’s new runway, built on a low-lying coastal fringe, was informed by the latest sea-level science from the CSIRO.
- Farmers and firefighters will be particularly exposed if Australia’s climate science capabilities are reduced. CSIRO research is assisting farmers with tools and technologies to manage during more frequent and severe droughts. It is also used in a variety of ways in fighting bushfires, including providing high fire danger weather warnings and fire behaviour predictions.
- Australia, along with the rest of the world’s nations, agreed to strengthen climate science as a fundamentally important component of meeting the climate change challenge. If the cuts proceed, Australia will have already reneged on a key promise of the agreement.
- Australia has the largest climate research capability in the Southern Hemisphere. Without it, the ability of the international scientific community to understand the increasing risks of climate change in the Southern Hemisphere, where many of the worst-impacted countries lie, will be vastly diminished.
The Climate Council’s Prof Will Steffen said the cuts would leave Australia dangerously vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
“Cutting climate science now, as the demand escalates for both adaptation and mitigation strategies, is like flying into a violent storm and ripping out the radar, navigation and communication instruments. It just doesn’t make sense,” Professor Will Steffen said.
“Dismantling CSIRO climate science not only brazenly breach the international agreement signed in Paris before the ink is dry, it blows a huge hole in Southern Hemisphere climate science capacity and turns Australia into a free-rider in the global climate science community.”
Almost 3000 scientists across 60 countries have written an open letter to highlight how these cuts will significantly limit CSIRO’s capacity and diminish the global climate change research effort.
“To protect our health, make wise investment decisions, and prepare for worsening extreme weather events, we need to know how our climate is changing, why it is changing, and the nature of the future climate,” Prof Lesley Hughes said.
“To meet these challenges, ongoing research is required to continually improve our knowledge base and ensure that we understand the evolving nature and extent of the challenge facing Australia.
“Over decades, Australia has built a world-class climate research capability and an enviable reputation as an important and reliable contributor to international science. It is vital for the wellbeing of Australia, now and into the future, that we keep the CSIRO’s climate science capabilities.
“If lost, it would take many years if not decades to recover.”
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