The Australian Government's assurance that climate science will remain a "bedrock function" of the CSIRO has been welcomed by leading science peak bodies.
On 4 August the new Innovation Minister Greg Hunt announced a partial reversal of CSIRO's decision to scale down its climate research capacity.
There will 15 new jobs in climate science and forecasting, costing around $3.7 million per year for salaries and additional support. The move will increase CSIRO's climate science capacity from now 100 to 115 researchers.
CSIRO has been in damage control ever since it took the decision end last year to redirect its focus from climate research to climate mitigation (see also our commentary 'Agile mistake'). Thus, in April it announced the establishment of a national climate research centre in Hobart in response to intense international criticism.
According to the president of the Australian Academy of Sciences, Professor Andrew Holmes, the Government's change of heart was a positive step towards addressing concerns within the broader community about Australia’s nationally coordinated climate science capacity."Australia plays a key role in understanding global climate, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, and this will go some way towards addressing the critical capacity issues identified; there is still a need to make sure Australia’s climate science is effectively led and coordinated."
The Climate Council also issued a statement welcoming the news of CSIRO's board and executives being ordered to put the focus back on climate science. However, according to the Climate Council's Professor Tim Flannery, nothing less than the full restoration of Australia's climate science capabilities will be an acceptable outcome from the perspective of the science community at home and abroad.
He said that the Minister's actions were evidence of the government's ability to have a significant impact on the direction of the CSIRO.
"But the government's failure to intervene from the outset has set back Australia's climate science enterprise, including the loss of some world class scientists from CSIRO," he said.
He further notes that "nothing less than the full restoration of Australia's climate science capabilities will be an acceptable outcome from the perspective of the science community at home and abroad".