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.
Mr Hunt, the former environment minister, told Fairfax Media he has instructed CSIRO’s executives and board to “put the focus back on climate science”, adding: “This is not an optional component, it’s critical“.
The CSIRO earlier this year announced 275 jobs would be cut from the organisation, with climate change monitoring and modelling the hardest hit.
The move angered the science community, unions and the Federal Opposition.
Mr Hunt said both he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have directed the organisation to make climate science a core component of its work.
“Climate science is important, it’s significant, it’s critical to our long-term planning,” Mr Hunt said, as reported by ABC News.
Mr Hunt has announced an extra 15 jobs focusing on climate science, as well as additional support, costing $3.7 million a year.
He said it would increase the number of climate researchers from 100 to 115 after the latest round of job cuts is taken into account.
Mr Hunt said both he and Mr Turnbull have “clear and strong views” on the value of climate change science.
“We have clearly but respectfully made that known to the CSIRO and they’ve embraced and endorsed the direction and so climate science will be a bedrock function of the CSIRO, which is really one of the world’s great institutions,” Mr Hunt said.
“It’s a new Government and we’re laying out a direction that climate science matters.”
The new strategy, to be developed over the next three months, will incorporate a new climate change centre in Hobart with 40 positions announced by the CSIRO earlier this year.
The CSIRO Staff Association’s Dr Sam Popovski welcomed the announcement but warned it would not be enough to counter the job cuts announced by the CSIRO’s chief executive Larry Marshall.
“That commitment is not sufficient to maintain critical areas of climate research, including monitoring greenhouse gas emissions,” Dr Popovski said.
He said more than half of approximately 300 job cuts announced earlier this year have been carried out, including 61 jobs in the oceans and atmosphere division.