In February, the new leader of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) revealed a plan to lay off almost all of the agency’s climate scientists, along with an equal number of scientists from its Land and Water division. CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall framed the cuts as part of a significant change in mission, saying that the question of whether climate change is occurring “has been answered.” The mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, he said, should be the agency's focus.

Australia guts government climate research

Australia decides it should probably study climate science after all

The outcry was loud, particularly from climate scientists who recognized the value of the work that CSIRO had long been doing. As a result, Marshall has gradually conceded much of the planned reduction and decided to go ahead with a new climate research center in Tasmania that would house 40 current CSIRO scientists. With these changes, 35 of the agency’s 140 climate scientists will be losing their jobs.

Following on Australia’s July federal election, Greg Hunt became the new science minister. This week he announced plans to further limit the cuts to CSIRO’s climate science capacity—even if CSIRO will still be changing. According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald, Hunt plans to direct CSIRO to add 15 new positions and AUD$37 million over 10 years to the (current) funding level.

The full details won’t be worked out for several months, so the uncertainty will continue for the climate research program. But the outlook has at least changed since the surprise announcement of cuts in February.