Science

CSIRO climate programs to halve

Protests against the cuts have been strong. Source: AAP

The CSIRO has confirmed to a Senate committee around 100 jobs will go in climate research, with the two climate change programs to be halved.

CSIRO has confirmed it will halve the number of employees in climate science, with around 100 jobs to go from two main monitoring and modelling programs.

A week after revealing a restructure that could impact 350 employees, CSIRO boss Larry Marshall told a Senate committee the cuts emerged after consultation within the agency and would meet the body's innovation strategy.

The CSIRO confirmed about 100 people would go from the oceans and atmosphere division, with 35 jobs to be redeployed.

About 40 jobs will be cut from the manufacturing division and about 50 from land and water.

Staff levels are expected to return to their current levels within two years, with the science body hoping several staff will retrain and move to different research areas.

New people would be employed to fill gaps.

It comes after thousands of international climate scientists signed an open letter urging the CSIRO to reconsider the cuts, and head of the World Meteorological Organisation's Climate Research Program criticised the move.

"Normally as a UN agency we would never intervene or interfere like this, but this is just so startling and so devastating that we have to take this stand," director Dr Dave Carlson said.

It follows a veiled swipe from Australia's new chief scientist Alan Finkel, who told a Senate committee on Wednesday the country needed a "continuous and highly effective commitment to climate science" to meet both national and international commitments.

But Dr Marshall said the CSIRO only makes up around 16 per cent of Australia's climate research, and universities played a big role.

The CSIRO confirmed key partners, like the Bureau of Meteorology, weren't told of the restructure until 24 hours before it was announced last Thursday.

In an email to staff, Dr Marshall said the question of climate change had been proved and it was time to refocus on solutions to it.

The future of partnerships with BOM in the Cape Grim greenhouse gas data collection and the Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator remain unclear.

Earlier in the week, the bureau's chief executive Rob Vertessy said there would be "holes" in the programs if the CSIRO pulled out.

Mr Marshall also apologised on Thursday for an earlier interview with the ABC when he said there was so much emotion in the climate debate that it sounded "more like religion than science".

Senator Kim Carr asked the head of the national science body if he was aware the comparison was used by climate change deniers and was uttered by former prime minister John Howard.

"It was a poor way of expressing the passion with which people feel about this," Mr Marshall told a Senate committee.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last year reinstated much of the $140 million in CSIRO funding cut by his predecessor Tony Abbott.

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