Castrating the CSIRO: a climate crime

The CSIRO were world leaders in climate science for many years. From the 1975 Monash conference on climate change in which a number of the CSIRO’s scientists participated, through the 1987 GreenHouse conference and into the era of IPCC reports these scientists were prominent. I have blogged about them a number of times and two years ago I wrote “The real heroes of Australia are the climate scientists once found in the CSIRO’s division of Atmospheric Research. As well as Barrie (Pittock) and (Graeme) Pearman, they include Roger Francey, Tom Beer and Ian Enting amongst many others.” The advent of the climate change denying Liberal National Party (LNP) coalition government in 2013 changed all that.

A recent Climate Council report ‘The Lost Decade’ noted that science “is essential for the well-being of Australians, underpinning our economic and social success and informing our responses to profound societal challenges like COVID-19. Climate science is no exception, and over a number of decades Australia developed a world-class climate science capability. However, this capability has been seriously eroded by an almost decade-long Liberal-National Government attack on science. These attacks have been diverse and debilitating, ranging from funding cuts to the CSIRO, which seriously stunted its climate research capability…”

The attack on science included drastic budget cuts that “played a large part in the loss of almost one-third of CSIRO jobs (from 5,000 to 3,500 total staff) in the two years up to June 2015. This, combined with the CSIRO CEO’s decision in 2015 to significantly diminish the organisation’s climate research capacity, put in jeopardy Australia’s ability to understand, respond to and plan for the escalating climate crisis.” And then in 2016 “54 full time researchers were cut from the Oceans and Atmosphere Division, most of those from the Earth Assessment and Oceans and Climate Dynamics units”.

Recently ex-CSIRO scientist Dr Michael Borgas noted “CSIRO advice on climate science has famously been ignored in Canberra and many State capitals — repeatedly, year after year, it seems. For all of Australia, what we need is leadership from our elected representatives, leadership which relies on the best scientific advice. We also need responsibility from all citizens to assess, and to learn to assess, the scientific advice that impacts on how we are going to live our lives: from lockdowns, hygiene, energy use, climate adaptation, pollution mitigation; this advice is crucial to the future economy and the creation of jobs.”

A handy start to all this will be to remove the LNP from the portals of power. It is probably the worst punishment that they will receive for their crimes.