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Issue #1719      February 17, 2016

CSIRO Climate Research Cuts

Statement by scientists attending *AMOS conference in Melbourne (08/02/2016)

We strongly believe that the proposed cuts to CSIRO (announced 04/02/2016) will seriously undermine Australia’s capacity to respond to the challenges posed by climate change.

Some 100 positions are to be cut in CSIRO’s Ocean and Atmosphere Flagship as part of 350 lost positions across the organisation. This will cripple CSIRO’s climate research.

Australia is a continent surrounded by rapidly changing weather patterns, connected to a rapidly changing global climate. We have already learnt a great deal about our region’s climate, but urgently need to improve our understanding in important areas.

Such knowledge is necessary if we are to accurately assess the choices, including costs and benefit, of mitigation actions. It is essential if we are to innovate and adapt effectively, and minimise the impacts of future extreme events. If large, extreme events occur, we need the ability to rapidly assess these to diagnose further potential risks. Without such research, Australians will be flying blind into an increasingly volatile future.

Generating this vital knowledge depends on continued research including long-term atmospheric and ocean monitoring, climate modelling, and development of climate projections and risk information for impact assessment.

This program is being pursued in Australia by CSIRO, in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology and university partners. CSIRO is the primary research agency for many critical elements.

Some examples of CSIRO research activities now at grave risk include:

  • Monitoring changes in the Southern Ocean and how this affects global and regional climate.
  • Monitoring the changing chemical composition of the atmosphere, including long-term trends based on ice core data, and air quality measurements at Cape Grim. This is vital for assessing global sources and sinks of CO2, ozone depletion, and verifying the effectiveness of mitigation.
  • The ongoing development of a world-class climate model. The ACCESS model is an essential tool for analysing how climate processes work and for predicting how our climate will respond to increasing greenhouse gases, and is an important member of the international ensemble of climate models.
  • Understanding what drives climate variability in Australia, and improving our ability to predict climatic anomalies.
  • Understanding and predicting global and Australian region sea level rise and extreme sea level events and providing this information to decision makers.
  • Assessing and synthesising the latest international and national research to provide detailed regional projections of climate change, which are expertly tailored for ease of use in a large range of applications. Such products are essential for innovate adaptation planning, as well as for resource management, community safety, and public education.

The cuts to CSIRO will leave Australia unable to meet certain international research commitments, including commitments stemming from the Paris climate conference. This research is an imperative resource for our Pacific and Asian neighbours.

We call on the federal government to support and strengthen these vital research areas, which are essential in the continual building of Australia’s climate research, adaptation and mitigation capability.

* Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

Next article – CSIRO cuts – International response – Statement, World Climate Research Program

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