Tuesday, February 9, 2016

(Update-8/4/16) Help Stop Larry Marshall from gutting Australia's CSIRO's climate science program.

Update August 3rd, 2016 Breaking News!
It's not great news, but it is pretty good.  CSIRO has been spared the most draconian cuts and their climate science mission appears to have enthusiastic backing from the newly elected Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Trunbull.

AUGUST 4 2016 - 10:58AM (their time)
By Nicole Hasham and Peter Hatcher  -  The Sydney Morning Herald 

New Science Minister Greg Hunt has ordered a major U-turn in the direction of the CSIRO,
reviving climate research as a bedrock function just months after the national science agency 
slashed climate staff and programs. ...

Only 20 climate science positions will be lost from the CSIRO, down from an initial 96, 
after the Turnbull government intervened, issuing a ministerial directive to the independent 
agency. ..

In an echo of Canada's Harper Administration's vicious war on science that destroyed science libraries, facilities, programs and scientists careers, Australia seems ready to follow suit.  

Venture capitalist Larry Marshall (one time cadet scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation). who's now in charge of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has announced intentions to gut its climate research programs because he believes they are no longer needed.  

I dare say, this is a direct result of Marshall and his backers having sequestered their minds within a fantasy that the gogo, consume everything you can grab, economic growth model that was so viable a hundred years ago and up to quite recently - remains viable today.  

This self-certain Faith of their's, when looked at from the perspective of what's been physically happening to our life sustaining planet these past couple centuries and in particular the past couple decades - is nothing less than insane.  

Yet, they are willing to defend their antiquated mindset with a ruthlessness decent people can't imagine.  When it comes to recognizing the physical realities of our planet, they just don't want to know.  Burn The Books!  

Now we find ourselves as witnesses to the start of crippling yet another one of the world's premiere climate science gathering and understanding organizations.  Make no mistake it is nothing less than dismantling humanity's best last-chance at understanding and confronting the brave new world barreling down upon us all.

Only a strong international backlash against this myopic self-destructive plan might mitigate the intended destruction.  Towards that end CSIRO's scientist have been putting together a letter and are looking for scientists from around the globe to support them and perhaps join them in signing the letter.  Please read the following for more information and a link to their draft letter.  

Following that, I share excerpts and links to a number of recent articles that provide more details regarding Marshall's actions:

Peter Hannam | February 4, 2016 | Sidney Morning Herald

February 5, 2016 |  The Conversation

February 8, 2016 | Sidney Morning Herald

Michael Slezak | February 8, 2016 | The Guardian

Peter Hannam | February 9, 2016 | Sidney Morning Herald

The recent announcement of devastating cuts to the Australian CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere research program has alarmed the global climate research community. CSIRO’s decision to decimate a vibrant and world-leading research program that is tackling Australia’s toughest climate problems shows a lack of insight into the depth and significance of Australian contributions to global and regional climate research. For the last 79 years, this research has demonstrated how vulnerable Australia is, and will continue to be, to climate change. 

The capacity of Australia to assess future risks and plan for climate change adaptation crucially depends on maintaining and augmenting this research capability.

A media report outlining this decision is available at (and elsewhere):
A radio interview with CSIRO's John Church can be found at:

A WORKING DRAFT open letter can be viewed at:
Please send this page link onto colleagues and collaborators - we hope to show that the bulk of the international climate research community strongly condemns the proposed cuts to Australian climate research.

Many thanks for the phenomenal response, we are beginning the process of finalising signatories - a final version of this draft letter will be sent to the Australian Government and the CSIRO board in the coming days.

We welcome the community to continue to complete this form, we hope this letter is the start of an extended and sustained conversation on the importance, role and value of climate science to the global community. It is a prompt (weekend) response to CSIRO’s decision and a first step that we hope initiates a broader and more sustained dialogue that reaches across climate science, stakeholders, policy and the global public.


Climate science to be gutted as CSIRO swings jobs axe
Peter Hannam | February 4, 2016 | Sydney Morning Herald

Fears that some of Australia's most important climate research institutions will be gutted under a Turnbull government have been realised with deep job cuts for scientists.
Fairfax Media has learnt that as many as 110 positions in the Oceans and Atmosphere division will go, with a similarly sharp reduction in the Land and Water division.

It's a catastrophic reduction in our capacity to assess present and future climate change 
Andy Pitman, UNSW

Total job cuts would be about 350 staff over two years, the CSIRO confirmed in an email to staff, with the Data61 and Manufacturing divisions also hit. ...


CSIRO boss’s failed logic over climate science could waste billions in taxes
February 5, 2016 |  The Conversation

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall offered the following justification for his decision to cut 110 jobs from the agency’s climate science staff:
We have spent probably a decade trying to answer the question “is the climate changing?” … After [December’s] Paris [climate summit] that question has been answered. The next question now is what do we do about it? The people that were so brilliant at measuring and modelling [climate change], they might not be the right people to figure out how to adapt to it.
That is among the most ill-informed statements I have ever heard from a senior executive. It will take a little to unpack it ... 

What he fails to realise is that to answer these new questions, you need the same climate scientists! The Paris climate deal has not made CSIRO’s climatologists redundant. In reality, the hard work that we need these scientists to do is now becoming clear, which is why most European countries are increasing investment in translating those global numbers into relevant, reliable and robust local information. ...

If these cuts go ahead, Australia will not develop that capability to assess climate risk, unless someone else is resourced to be the custodian and developer of the climate models we use in Australia. ...

... Want an example? Western Australia funded a group of climate scientists, including many from CSIRO, to assess why rainfall in Perth has declined since the 1970s, and whether or not it will bounce back. They concluded that the decline was here to stay, so the state government built desalination plants that are in near-continuous use. In contrast, in New South Wales a previous state government built a desalination plant that has not been needed and has since been mothballed. They hadn’t asked any climate scientists to find out why there was a drought.

Without the next generation of climate modeling capability, we will lack the tools to provide detailed information about threats like drought. ...


February 8, 2016 | Sidney Morning Herald

CSIRO head Larry Marshall has sought to defend deep cuts to climate science programs after days of sustained criticism, saying global warming research was "one piece of a much larger puzzle" in solving Australia's biggest challenges.

... Dr Marshall also claimed support for climate measurement, such as air pollution monitoring at the Cape Grim station in Tasmania and ocean research via the RV Investigator vessel, was not under threat. He said the Ocean and Atmosphere division of CSIRO would be reduced from 420 staff to 355.

However, those job numbers were immediately challenged by scientists. Penny Whetton, a former senior principal research scientist with CSIRO, said they were misleading "because Marshall is including non-climate areas that are not affected", such as marine resources and fisheries.

"From the climate-oriented parts of [Oceans and Atmosphere], they are currently expected to lose 100 staff," Dr Whetton said. "That's the change that matters."

One senior scientist also took issue with the comment that the RV Investigator and Cape Grim were not under threat. 

"Yes, the ship will still be there and used by a variety of people – but who will use it for measuring changes in ocean climate CO2 uptake, etc?" the scientist said. ...

"I, and many of my colleagues, find this deeply insulting to us as scientists and our efforts over many years," John Church, a climate scientist and CSIRO fellow. 

"Rather than major cuts to climate change science in Australia, what is needed is both a reinvigoration and a refocusing of that research on Australia's future needs."

"The cuts to CSIRO will leave Australia unable to meet certain international research commitments, including commitments stemming from the Paris climate conference," the statement read.

The keynote speaker on ocean warming, CSIRO's Susan Wijffels, criticised the cuts, adding Dr Marshall's comments last week sent a "very poor message to the community" that climate science was not needed.


Chief executive Larry Marshall is right that we need to invest in adaptation, 
but this requires a proper understanding of how the climate will change
Michael Slezak | Monday 8 February 2016 | The Guardian

The decision to gut Australia’s government science agency of climate research may seem hard to fathom. But let’s pause from the hyperventilation of the past week and ask whether there is an underlying logic.

Could the shift from studying how climate changes, to studying ways of mitigating and adapting to climate change, be a good thing? 

The CSIRO’s chief executive, Larry Marshall, who is responsible for the decision, has deployed several arguments in defending the move. Let’s take a look at them one by one. ...

Marshall is right that we need to invest in adaptation to these very significant and inevitable changes.

But adapting to climate change will require a proper understanding of how the climate will change. ...

Adapting to different climates isn’t the problem. The problem is that we don’t know what those climates will be. ...

Marshall argues that the CSIRO isn’t needed to do that work because universities are now doing it. ... But experts in the field say that argument doesn’t hold up.  Universities are not the same sort of institution as the CSIRO and there is a difference in the sort of projects they are capable of doing. ...

The loss of these capabilities will impact most Australian industries, says Tony Haymet, previously a policy director at the CSIRO and a director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the US: ...

As Marshall hints at, start-ups are built to fail. ... So the risk is worth it...

The CSIRO, however, is different. This year will be the 100th anniversary of the CSIRO, or at least of the body that eventually grew into the CSIRO. And, despite cuts to its budget, it costs more than a $1bn a year.

Far from anything like a start-up, Dave Schimel, the chief adviser on carbon cycle science at NASA’s jet propulsion lab in California, has described the CSIRO as “a national treasure”. 


Australia to be 'isolated' from global research after CSIRO climate cuts: WMO

Peter Hannam | February 9, 2016

International criticism of the CSIRO's planned deep cuts to its climate monitoring programs has intensified with the World Meteorological Organisation blasting the move as a "backward" step that would see Australia isolated.

Staff were told last week the  CSIRO planned to cut about 100 full-time researchers from the Ocean and Atmosphere division alone. The key units - Earth System Assessment and Ocean and Climate Dynamics - have 151 staff including doctoral researchers but about 135 full-time positions, insiders say.

Larry Marshall, the CSIRO's chief executive, on Monday sought to allay concerns about the cuts, saying the overall division - which also includes coastal management, engineering and technology and marine resources and industries - would lose 65 of its 420 staff. ...

Apparently climate science can stop now


Why CSIRO matters

There’s not very many people in the Southern Hemisphere, and certainly not very many people studying the climate. Australia is really the only Southern Hemisphere country with the critical mass of population and wealth to pull off a significant climate research programme. And historically, Australia has done this very well. I can attest that the climate modelling community is larger and more active in Australia than it is in Canada, despite Canada’s population being about 50% higher.
Some of this research is done in universities, mainly funded by Australian Research Council grants. I’m a part of this system and I love it – we have the freedom to steer our research in whatever direction we think is best, rather than having someone from the government tell us what we can and can’t study. But there isn’t very much stability. Projects are typically funded on a 3-5 year timeline, and with a success rate around 20% for most grant applications, you can never be sure how long a given project will continue. You wouldn’t want to be the official developers of a climate model in an environment like that. You certainly wouldn’t want to be in charge of a massive network of observations. And that is why we need governmental research organisations like CSIRO.
Right now CSIRO hosts the ACCESS model (Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator) which is used by dozens of my friends and colleagues. ACCESS has a good reputation – I particularly like it because it simulates the Southern Ocean more realistically than just about any CMIP5 model. I think this is because it’s pretty much the only contribution to CMIP5 from the Southern Hemisphere. Even if a model is ostensibly “global”, the regions its developers focus on tend to be close to home.  ...   link

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