New science centre welcomed but climate research gaps remain

26.04.16 By
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The Climate Council has welcomed the announcement of a new climate science centre in response to widespread community outrage over CSIRO cuts.

But the Council has warned that the new centre will still represent a decrease in climate science capacity.

Chief councillor Professor Tim Flannery said he hoped the structure of the new centre would mean Australia’s climate science capacity would be protected from political whims and short-term events.

“This is a sensible move in response to widespread concern from right across the community,” he said.

“However, it’s important to note that we pledged in Paris to increase support for climate research. While today’s announcement reduces the magnitude of the cuts earlier announced, overall it still represents a decrease in scientific research capacity.

“Over the last few months, as we’ve seen ancient forests destroyed in Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef undergo the worst coral bleaching event in history, the need for a strong climate science capacity in Australia has been highlighted more than ever.”

The Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen said the concerted campaign from all corners of the community had undoubtedly had an influence on the decision.

“Governments and business rely on climate science to make billion-dollar decisions. 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,” he said.

“This is a step forward in plugging the hole that would have been left in the international science community’s ability to understand climate change in the Southern Hemisphere following the cuts. But it still represents a cut to our climate science capacity, which undermines the commitments we made in Paris.

“It is also unclear as to who will sustain research focussed on the response side of CSIRO’s climate work, particularly in areas such as urban development and landscape management. These are crucial for both adaptation and mitigation and are key applications of the knowledge that the new Centre is intended to deliver.

“Scientists will be watching the budget keenly to see whether there will be any additional money for any more climate research capacity to be housed at the Bureau of Meteorology or elsewhere.”

Environment Minister Greg Hunt also today announced $50 million in new projects tackling water quality on the reef, in response to worldwide concern about coral bleaching.

“The worst coral bleaching is on the pristine northern section of the reef, where water quality is not an issue,” Prof Steffen said.

“Climate change is the culprit when it comes to coral bleaching and unless we acknowledge this and the need to take long-term action on climate change, this money is a short-term fix that won’t address the real problem that threatens the reef.”

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