Science Policy & Funding Editors' Vox

Cuts to CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Program Cause Concern

Drastic cuts within CSIRO will cut off Australia's critically important contributions to the global climate community


The recent announcement of planned cuts to the Oceans and Atmosphere program in Australia’s CSIRO is cause for deep concern. CSIRO’s ocean and atmosphere scientists have made vital contributions to our understanding of how climate works, and continued strength will be critical for Australia to plan for climate change.  Australia has been the Southern Hemisphere anchor for high quality, long-term atmospheric and oceanic data and climate modeling, and CSIRO scientists helped pioneer methods for quantifying interactions between the land surface and atmosphere.

Specific details of what will be cut have not yet been announced. Programs at risk include the Cape Grim measurements program, Southern Oceans atmospheric and oceanic observations, Ozflux (a national ecosystem research network), and the ACCESS (Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator) weather and climate model. Southern Hemisphere processes play a critical role in global climate, carbon cycle, and atmospheric/oceanic dynamics, and CSIRO plays a leadership role in Southern Hemisphere climate and carbon cycle observations.   The planned cuts will thus not only decimate Australia’s ability to evaluate climate impacts locally and verify the outcome of mitigation efforts, but also cut off Australia’s critically important contributions of the Southern Hemisphere to the global climate community.

The rationale behind the cuts is ‘we know climate is changing, so it is time to move on to mitigation and adaptation’.  This logic is akin to removing instruments that monitor basic bodily functions from a patient before performing an operation. Our grand planetary experiment is ongoing, and while scientists agree the world is warming, we need increases in basic observations to understand how this will play out regionally.  It is shortsighted in the extreme to think adaptation and mitigation efforts will be helped by reducing Australia’s expertise in climate and ocean sciences, or by ending long-term observations of the basic behavior of atmosphere, ocean and ecosystems.

—Susan Trumbore, Editor in Chief, Global Biogeochemical Cycles; email: [email protected]

Editor’s Note: See also the news story on about this development.