Australia risks missing climate change commitments: report

Sydney, Feb 22 (IANS) Australia risks not meeting its commitments agreed to under the Paris Climate Change agreement while also being ill-prepared to offset the local impact due to job cuts at the nation’s chief scientific body, a report said.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) recently announced it would halve the number of employees in its climate science programme, with approximately 100 jobs to go from its two main climate monitoring and modelling stations, Xinhua cited the report by the nation’s leading climate advocacy group as saying on Monday.

The losses were in response to significant budget cuts by former Prime Minister and climate change sceptic Tony Abbott, but also current Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s drive for increased scientific innovation.

As a result, the nation’s chief climate advocacy group, Sydney-based climate council, looked into the national and international ramifications of the reductions, finding it would cut the nation’s ability to respond to climate change but also have detrimental impacts to its growing export industries, according to its report titled: Flying Blind; Navigating Climate Change without the CSIRO.

The report follows a protest letter signed by thousands of international climate scientists that said the job losses proceed, without being filled elsewhere, Australia would not develop its capability to assess the accelerating risks associated with the climate change.

The report’s author Professor Will Steffen argues critical information about climate change in the Southern Hemisphere would be lost and it will also be detrimental to the billion dollar industries, such as agriculture that relies on CISRO climate modelling.

“Cutting climate science now, as the demand escalates for both adaptation and mitigation strategies, is just like flying into a violent storm and ripping out the radar, navigation and communication instruments,” Steffen said in a statement.

Australia’s rural exports are playing an ever more important role as the nation’s economy transitions away from mining-led growth to capitalise on the high quality food needs of the emerging Asian middle class, accounting for 45.2 billion Australian dollars in 2015.

CSIRO’s research has been assisting farmers with tools, technologies and forecasts to manage more frequent and severe droughts.

Joint studies with the body have led to breakthroughs in agriculture production, such as sunscreen for grapes or genetically modified drought resistant grain.

“Climate science also supports bushfire responses by providing the knowledge underpinning high fire danger weather warnings and fire behaviour predictions,” Steffen said.

However, what is most embarrassing for the nation, Steffen said if the cuts proceed, Australia will have already reneged on a key promise in the Paris Climate Change agreement.

“Australia, along with the rest of the world’s nations, agreed to strengthen climate science as a fundamentally important component of meeting the climate change challenge,” Steffen said.

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall has previously said the restructure decision would enable new research in how to live with climate change and help meet the government’s innovation strategy. No final decision has been made on which programmes would be closed.

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