Senior scientists have warned that despite the creation of a new CSIRO climate research in Hobart, Australia is still facing a major reduction in its climate research efforts...
They say the 40 researchers allocated to the new centre may struggle "to do even the minimum of maintaining an Australian forecasting capability".
CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall told staff in an email that 275 jobs would be cut, following months of uncertainty, but the climate change centre with 40 scientists would be set up in Hobart.
Scientist Dave Griggs, former director of the Monash Sustainability Institute and IPCC, was highly critical of the plan.
"While the retention of some of CSIRO's climate science capabilities is welcome, the level announced is analogous to trying to put a sticking plaster over a gaping wound," he said.
Steven Sherwood from the University of NSW Climate Research Centre, said the changes would reduce the organisation's ability to produce climate modelling.
"We depend on [CSIRO] to develop these models that are used to do Australian forecasting," he said.
"The fewer people you have, the less you can do.
"The new CSIRO centre will have only 40 scientists, compared to roughly 200 at the equivalent Hadley Centre in the UK, and much less than the 140 scientists previously working in the broader area at CSIRO."
"[For example] there's a special land surface model that's been developed between UNSW and CSIRO that is running in the Australian climate modelling system and it recognises Australian soil and vegetation which are pretty unique," he said.
"That was done in partnership - but without CSIRO there there's no way that we could do that on our own.
"Don't expect us to take up the slack in any significant way."
Professor Sherwood welcomed the new centre's structure, which will allow for focused research with oversight - albeit limited by the number of scientists.
New centre an attempt to 'save face'
Respected CSIRO scientist Dr John Church said the centre and the reduction in job losses was an attempt to save face.
"I think 75 jobs have been saved because of pressure from stakeholders and the public through ... the media," he said.
He believed important climate change projects were under threat.
"Even prior to these cuts, we were stretched extremely thin," he said. "Now, we're creating a much bigger gap."
But Chief Scientist Alan Finkel - who worked closely with the CSIRO to try to create a solution to create a clear climate capability - said the centre would help Australia meet its global climate research expectations.
"This announcement recognises the importance of climate research, in particular modelling and observations, to our science and our community," he said.
"The new centre is a stable building block in this critical field, which will both inform national policy and meet our international obligations.
"Australia has a central role to play in understanding the climate of the Southern Hemisphere."
Climate scientist exodus predicted
Tasmanian Greens senator Nick McKim also believes the Government timed the research centre announcement to draw attention away from the job cuts and predicted scientists would leave.
"What we've had announced today is a reshuffling of the deck chairs, a re-badging of cuts, sleight of hand," he said.
"This is a hammer blow for all the important science that we are doing out of Hobart and around the country.
"There are already a tragic number of Hobart-based climate scientists applying for jobs in other parts of the country and in other parts around the world and I don't think they are going to change their minds because of the announcement today," Senator McKim said.
Independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie wants the job cuts reversed.
"It's time that the Federal Government understood that Hobart is a global centre of excellence in science and research and that is now genuinely at risk," Mr Wilkie said.
Dr Marshall will front a Senate inquiry into the cutbacks for the second time on Wednesday.
By national science reporter Jake Sturmer, staff
original story HERE.
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