Wednesday 24 February 2016

Australia flying blind into unchartered climatic conditions

The Australian Climate Council wrote a report explaining how the gutting of climate science at the main Australian research institute, CSIRO, will harm climate science in Australia: Flying Blind: Navigating Climate Change Without CSIRO. The Australian climate research program is the most important one in the Southern Hemisphere and seriously hurts humanities understanding of the climatic changes there, which are anyway already understudied because most research happens in the global north.

The report also shows that these planned cuts to CSIRO’s climate science division would breach Australia’s commitments under the Paris agreement.

While destroying research can be done quickly with such a decision, building up a research program takes decades. A next Australian government will not be able to get to the same level again by renewing funding. That will take a long, long time.

It is very ironic that this decision comes from a right wing government that does everything to increase the use of coal and thus make climate change worse. It comes from a group that often advocates an adaption-only strategy to climate change. If you want to adapt, you need to know what climatic changes you need to adapt to. For that you need to know what will happen at a local scale, often with respect to changes in extreme weather, often what will happen with precipitation and storms. It is cleat that climate change is real, that the global mean temperature will keep on increasing if humanity refuses to act, but all those "details" we need to adapt are far from clear. Australians needed that information, farmers, engineers, companies, governors and majors, will find that CSIRO will not be able to answer their telephone calls.


  1. The right-wing war on science continues. Shooting the messenger is the option they've chosen. Question: What should we do if we don't like climate research results? Answer: Stop researching!

    This shortsighted, bury your head in the sand attitude is not particularly new. Canada experienced it under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The US has been experiencing it at various levels for a couple of decades.

    Numerous stories like this one about the University of Alaska have taken place in the US: "[University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen] fielded questions about a proposal by Rep. Tammie Wilson that would cut the University budget from the $331 million dollars in the Governor’s budget down to $288 million.

    Wilson told the House Finance Subcommittee last week her budget plan only contains money for what the University considers “student instruction.” It would eliminate funds for research and for outreach programs like the Marine Advisory Program."

    Budget cuts have already led to the announced closing of Alaska'a only Soil Analysis Laboratory.

    These people will continue cutting off their noses to spite their face because they don't like the results of scientific research.

  2. I'm pleased to see that you've taken up the cudgel Victor - this cynical move by Marshall and his government string-pullers needs intense international scrutiny so that they realise that they've stepped into a real mess. In effect Marshall's plan in a more dictatorial nation would probably have achieved its purpose by lining the scientists against a wall and shooting them.

    I've made elsewhere many of the points that you've made, but something that few people have noted to date is that regional changes in the future are far more difficult to project than are global changes, and so the current corpus of global climatoogical understanding is insufficient to inform national policy in the coming decades. In this matter the presence of the CSIRO pursuing its mandate to conduct fundamental research to the country's benefit is exactly what a rational government should be expecting of such an agency, and a future Australian government will inevitable have to reconstruct the expertise and capacity that Marshall is going to axe.

    As we've all noted, this is going to cost Australia more in dollar terms over the long-term, than it would if the LNP simply maintained the (relatively cheap) capacity that we currently have. What may be incalculably expensive though is the loss of data and the ability of Australia and the world to respond to future eventuations of changes in the regional (and hence global) climate system.

    The LNP government may not have lined up the CSIRO climatologists against a wall and shot them, but its alternate strategy to disappear them in the way that Marshall proposes will have the proportionate effect in the near future of lining up against a metaphorical wall many hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people and species, and effectively subjecting them to an execution in slow motion...

  3. I am still a bit surprised by these actions. By demolishing your national climate research you are damaging your own communities and weakening your own country.

    That people on the extreme right part of the political spectrum have no trouble running over people from other groups and thus may not want to solve climate change if they think others would suffer more, makes sense in their world.

    That they go after their own is amazing. That is a very deep submission to corporate power.

  4. Kevin, I'm at ground zero for Tammie's cuts. We're talking up to 1000 jobs cut in the UA system, the president is looking at declaring bankruptcy and closing the University and not to mention what it would do the economy. For every dollar the state spends on the University $5.60 is generated in additional research income, most of that from institutions that have a choice about where they direct grants. Whats truly disheartening is that Tammie is probably going to be joined by other legislators trying to one-up each other on the cut the budget game. When I read that Australia is talking about closing down it's Argo program I wonder what goes through these peoples heads. Are they really that short sighted?


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