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As Environment Minister Greg Hunt prepares to return home from the World Government Summit in Dubai with the title “Best Minister in the World”, you’d think that global media would have nothing but praise for how we handle our climate science.

But since the government-funded CSIRO announced on Wednesday that it would cut a total of 350 jobs over two years to change its focus from measuring and monitoring climate change to focusing on how to adapt to it, the global media has labelled the plans “illogical” and said Australia has put its “head in the sand”. What are the world’s media organisations saying about Australia’s commitment to climate science?

CSIRO climate cuts will cost Australia dear, world scientists warn government”, The Guardian UK

“Jean Palutikof, who is director of national climate change adaptation research facility at Griffith University, said the CSIRO strategy of focusing on how Australia should adapt to and mitigate climate change, without studying what those changes were, was illogical.

“‘Headless chickens comes to mind,’ said Palutikof, who has worked with the UN on climate change adaptation. ‘How can you understand what you have to do if you don’t understand what you’re adapting to?'”

Australia to sack hundreds of climate change scientists because it has learnt everything it needs to about basic global warming science”, Independent UK

“The CSIRO is effectively saying ‘climate science is done and we’re moving on to adaptation and mitigation’, John Church, a sea-level expert who has been employed by the organisation for 38 years, told Nature News. ‘My view is that there is inaccurate and misleading science in that statement — climate science is not done.'”

Australia Cuts 110 Climate Scientist Jobs: Because the science is settled there is no need for more basic research, the government says”, Scientific American

“’It doesn’t help the perception that the government isn’t serious about climate change,’ [CSIRO boss Larry Marshall] said. ‘If we want a good policy outcome that protects people, communities and our economy, then we need to be revaluating and ensuring that we have the capacity to understand and manage climate change risks.’

“Marshall has said that no one would be fired and the staff would be redistributed. Parallels could be drawn to the shutdown of CSIRO’s sustainable ecosystems division in 2009. About 50 social scientists were moved into an unrelated division headed by an insect expert. The economist, Clive Spash, is now at the Vienna University of Economics and Business.

“’Climate science becomes secondary to business; business comes first,’ Spash said. ‘The interests of the corporate sector, of the mining and resource extraction industry, are primary in Australia.’”

“The Science Is Settled, So Australia Will Fire 100 Climate Scientists”, The Daily Caller

“It’s the sad irony of the debate surrounding global warming. Politicians, activist and some scientists have long argued there was nothing more to debate in climate science — a talking point often used to disparage skeptics.

“Though now, that line is coming to bite the very people it was meant to aggrandize — climate scientists.”

“Australia Cutting Basic Climate Science Research Is ‘Head in the Sand’ 101”, Forbes 

“The premise behind the CSIRO actions is that climate change has been proven to be real so resources should shift to adapting to the changes or mitigating further warming or impacts. Many Australian scientists find this argument laughable, and I agree. The logic is flawed. Basic science is the driver of new knowledge in all facets of our society. Smartphones, GPS systems, new medical procedures, and other technological advances do not just materialize out of thin air. There is no ‘magic wand.’ They come from years of ‘sustained’ basic research and development. Climate science is no different. Yes, we have enough ‘signal in the noise’ to offer guidance on adaptation, mitigation, and other policy decisions. However there is still enough uncertainty and complexity that to abandon basic science is short-sighted.”

Peter Fray

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