"Put the focus back on climate science" PM tells the CSIRO
Aug 06, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
The Coalition has made a dramatic backflip in its approach to climate science, instructing the CSIRO to refocus attention on an area earmarked for large-scale cutbacks this year.
New science and innovation minister Greg Hunt issued a ministerial directive to the CSIRO's executives and board this week to "put the focus back on climate science".
The ensuing strategy, to be developed over the next three months in consultation with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, will include 15 new climate science jobs and research investment worth $37 million over ten years.
While 35 climate scientists will still lose their jobs, the 15 new positions mean an overall loss of just 20 climate science roles from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, down from an initial 96 touted earlier this year.
The national science agency attracted a storm of criticism when it announced the axing of 275 staff across its organisation in February - most in the ‘ocean and atmosphere’ climate science arena in which Australia is a world leader.
Brent Holben, head of NASA’s Aerosol Robotic Network, was among those who lobbied against the cuts, which were swiftly reduced by the CSIRO to 70 and then 35.
While the science agency operates independently of the Government, the job losses were in part prompted by Abbott Government-scheduled cuts to environmental research funding which were inherited by Malcolm Turnbull.
Greg Hunt, who moved from the environment portfolio just weeks ago, said the renewed focus on climate science came both from himself and the PM.
“It’s a decision that the prime minister and myself have taken. It’s a new Government and we’re laying out a direction that climate science matters,” he said.
While questions have been raised about ministerial interference in an organisation defined by its independence, the scientific community has broadly welcomed the news.
Professor Will Steffen of the Climate Council said in The Guardian newspaper: “I think there are cases where some really drastically bad decisions are made, where Government I think, on behalf of the public and the public good, does have the authority and the right to intervene.”