The newfound optimism of the Paris Agreement has been tempered by the recent CSIRO cuts, with a new Climate Council report finding they would breach Australia’s commitment under the agreement and leave a gap in the world’s understanding of climate change in the southern hemisphere.
Titled Flying Blind: Navigating Climate Change Without the CSIRO, the report examines the local and international ramifications of the recent decision to cut more than 100 jobs from the agency’s climate science staff.
The report found the cuts would damage Australia’s ability to understand, plan for and respond to climate change and leave governments and businesses ill-prepared to make the right decisions in the face of a rapidly changing climate.
The report also made the following findings:
Governments and businesses rely on climate change science to make billion-dollar decisions and without it, they will be relying on guesswork. For instance, the design of Brisbane Airport’s new runway, built on a low-lying coastal fringe, was informed by the latest sea-level science from CSIRO.
Farmers and firefighters will be particularly exposed if Australia’s climate change capabilities are reduced because climate science is used in a variety of ways to fight bushfires – including providing high fire-danger weather warnings and fire behaviour predictions.
By proceeding with the cuts, Australia will renege on the Paris Agreement because it agreed to strengthen climate science as a fundamentally important component of meeting the climate change challenge.
By proceeding with the cuts, the ability of the international scientific community to understand the increasing the risks of climate change in the southern hemisphere, where many of the worst impacted countries lie, will be vastly diminished.
Almost 3,000 scientists across 60 countries have written an open letter to highlight how the cuts will significantly limit CSIRO’s capacity and diminish the global climate change research.
“Over decades, Australia has built a world-class climate research capability and an enviable reputation as an important and reliable contributor to international science. It is vital for the wellbeing of Australia, now and into the future, that we keep the CSIRO’s climate science capabilities,” said Professor Lesley Hughes, one of the climate scientists who contributed to the open letter.
“If lost, it would take many years if not decades to recover.”