“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.”

Scientist Dave Griggs, former director of the Monash Sustainability Institute and IPCC, was not talking about Greg Hunt’s new plan to invest $37 million in the CSIRO to create 15 climate science jobs and “make climate science a core activity”. He was discussing the government’s decision in April this year to create a new CSIRO climate research centre in Hobart, staffed by 40 researchers, which he and other scientists said was not nearly enough.

And what is the “gaping wound” he’s talking about? That would be the 275 jobs and $115 million slashed from the scientific organisation just a few months ago. It’s welcome for an Environment Minister to admit the existence of, and the need to, address climate change, but 15 jobs and $37 million is a drop in the ocean compared to what has been lost. And, of course, all of that scientific knowledge has already left the building, and it’s impossible to get it back.

The “World’s Best Minister” declared his small addition to be “emphasising the importance of long-term climate science as a bedrock function of the CSIRO … This is setting the direction for CSIRO for the coming two decades.” But it’s not nearly enough, particularly since decades of scientific and institutional knowledge has already walked out the door. A sticking plaster is just not going to cut it.

Peter Fray

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