Moore / The wrong people are losing their jobs

“It is no wonder that more than 2500 scientists from more than 60 countries are calling for a reversal of this decision. It is time to stop this stupidity,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE

OUR climate-enlightened Prime Minister has the chance to show his real colours on climate change. It is simple. Instruct the CSIRO board. If that fails, fire them.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore.

The wrong people are about to lose their jobs. The board or the CEO of a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation that has not comprehended the impact of climate change does not belong in the position. The climate scientists should remain.

Innovation is the catchcry of PM Malcolm Turnbull. Innovation in building business and building the economy is fundamental. However, failure to support innovation on climate change makes no sense at all. Kevin Rudd set the tone when he dubbed climate change “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”. At the Paris Climate Change Conference last year it was announced that Australia was ranked “third to last” on emissions according to the Climate Change Performance Index.

Firing our climate scientists at the CSIRO may well be a political answer to help save face for Australia. Under this sort of doublethink, which was to have disappeared with Tony Abbott’s demise, assurances given at the Paris conference will simply become meaningless if it is not possible to rank Australia at all.

There is another option. The Prime Minister could examine the board of the CSIRO and consider why it is overwhelmingly from the business sector and bereft of climate scientists, physicists, oceanographers or soil scientists. There are just two scientists on the current CSIRO Board. Prof Edwina Cornish, who has a background in genetic modification is one. Dr Peter Riddles, who has a science background and was director of CSIRO’s own Bioactive Molecule Discovery Program and is regularly described as an entrepreneur, is the other.

How can the proposed cuts to CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere and the Land and Water Division help an innovative Australia? It is no wonder that more than 2500 scientists from more than 60 countries are calling for a reversal of this decision. It is time to stop this stupidity.

We are at a time when it has never been more important to understand our ecosystem, to monitor changes as they occur, to analyse them and to plan and monitor responses. The proposed CSIRO staffing changes will undermine the skills, experience and corporate memory for the organisation and its capacity to serve Australia. These jobs in Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra play a key role in international understanding of changes in climate.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr John Church, as part of the International Panel on Climate Change in 2007 explained to the ABC the importance of this type of innovation, saying: “We actually need to continue to observe and understand and project future change, and compare the observations and projections if we are going to mitigate in a cost-effective way.

“How will Australia’s rainfall change? How will Australia’s drought-flood cycle change? This has really important implications for water supply, for food supply.”

The international context was also illustrated by Dr Church: “If Australia pulls out of key activities in the southern hemisphere then that will leave significant gaps, we will be losing partnerships with key agencies all around the world.”

These cuts go beyond science and the environment. They have long-term implications for health and agriculture. Australia’s natural climate is hot and highly fire prone, with the world’s most variable rainfall. As a society, we are yet to really comprehend how these global changes will impact on health issues such as infectious disease vectors and general health, human migration and heat response planning.

Changes in growth patterns and behaviour in crops and livestock require an ability to research the sort of changes needed in agriculture, aquaculture and the protection of natural systems.

Kevin Rudd had a credibility problem over identifying “the greatest moral… change of our time” and then doing nothing. Malcolm Turnbull is identified as understanding and being concerned about climate change. Without action he faces the same cynicism.

 

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