Why we ‘hate’ certain birds, and why their behaviour might be our fault


Kathryn Teare Ada Lambert, University of New England

We have a complex relationship with wildlife. There are the many species we are encouraged to hate – most typically invasive ones such as cane toads, rabbits and foxes.

There are also some native species, particularly birds, that have a less-than-stellar public reputation too. Often they are the ones that drive out other native species by behaving aggressively and dominating an area almost like a gang, attacking other birds until they get sick of it and move away.

If any other species enters their habitat and they see it as a threat, these birds defend their territory by chasing, pecking, swooping and annoying the individual until they give up the fight and flee. Some large species also steal our food and damage livelihoods, are aggressive towards people who pass through their territory, or just annoy us by making huge amounts of noise.

Naughty and nice

Prevailing views of which bird species are “nice” or “nasty” can actually influence landscapes, because residents with gardens can basically be thought of as being like very small-scale wildlife managers. In the United States, a recent study of more than 900 Chicago residents found that backyards were more likely to contain bird-attracting factors such as fruit trees or complex vegetation, compared with front yards that were more typically influenced by the need to impress the neighbours.

But if people evidently enjoy having birds in their backyards, it seems they are happier with some species than others. A UK study that documented the “likeability” of various bird species found that songbirds were preferred over non-singing ones, and that people tended to enjoy seeing a variety of species in their gardens, rather than one dominant one.

A miner problem

Let’s look at two prime examples native to Australia: the Noisy Miner and the Bell Miner. Both of these birds are particularly pugnacious honeyeaters that noisily defend their “patch” of trees and chase away other birds.

Because of their respective vegetation preferences, the Noisy Miner has increased in number in urban areas such as parks, golf courses and backyards, whereas the Bell Miner has flourished in disturbed forest areas where the understorey is thick and lush.

Bell Miners hardly get ringing endorsements from gardeners.
John Manger/CSIRO/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Both species aggressively defend their territories from smaller insectivorous birds, which reduces species diversity. And both are associated with the plant sickness known as dieback (particularly Bell Miners, which have their own version named after them, called Bell Miner Associated Dieback).

You might think it’s little wonder that these birds are hated by many members of the general public, who would rather have them removed than living in their backyards and nearby national parks.

But is it really the birds’ fault or are we causing all the problems?

The short answer to the first question is no. Both species are Australian natives that live naturally in forested ecosystems, where they do not “take over” habitats. In undisturbed wild areas they exist in balance with vegetation and other bird species.

But the human disturbance of forests through urbanisation, fragmentation, vegetation degradation and the spread of weeds has allowed both species to increase significantly in number, helping to “tip the scales” in their favour.

The Bell Miner and the Noisy Miner are becoming “winners” in this case, while specialist species like the Regent Honeyeater, which relies on nectar-producing eucalypts, are becoming “losers”.

Within the fragmented habitats, trees have also become stressed, which reduces flowering of eucalypts. In the case of the Noisy Miner, its diet typically comprises 25% nectar and 75% insects, so the loss of nectar can be compensated by other food resources. It is also thrives in areas of open understorey, where it can easily dominate over other avian species.

Smaller birds in these areas may be more open to predation or weather and therefore flee the area. What’s more, Noisy Miners also benefit from smaller remnants and a reduction in canopy tree density, which creates an open habitat that is perfect for mobbing other birds.

Although less research has been conducted on the habitat preferences of the Bell Miner, our study suggests that they could prefer areas with a thick understorey, canopy trees and no midstorey, regardless of which plant species are present. They also seem to have a generalist diet similar to the Noisy Miner, featuring a variety of insects including caterpillars. The combination of this feeding behaviour and habitat preference may have allowed the Bell Miner to flourish in areas invaded by weeds such as Lantana.

All of these changes have actually been caused by people. We have removed and changed the habitat to a huge extent, and some bird species have benefited greatly while others have suffered.

Sowing the seeds of recovery

So, if we are the culprits, what can we do? By planting more native plants in our gardens, we can encourage other bird species and make it less likely they will be chased away by dominating species. If everyone did it, this would create entire landscapes where bird communities are much more healthy and diverse.

You can also get involved in bird monitoring. BirdLife Australia runs citizen science projects to which you can contribute and which will also show you how healthy your backyard is for birds.

BirdLife Australia’s Birds in Backyards project

Birds in Backyards is a research, education and conservation program that was created in response to the loss of small native birds from our parks and gardens, and to the loss of native bird habitat due to the rapid expansion of the urban landscape.

If you’re in Sydney, you can get involved with the Noisy Miner survey, which aims to determine where these birds are living. Who knows, you might even grow to like them.

The Conversation

Kathryn Teare Ada Lambert, Research Associate, University of New England

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Six burning questions for climate science to answer post-Paris


John Church, CSIRO; Alistair Hobday, CSIRO; Andrew Lenton, CSIRO, and Steve Rintoul, CSIRO

Much has been written about the challenge of achieving the targets set out in the Paris climate agreement, which calls for global warming to be held well below 2℃ and ideally within 1.5℃ of pre-industrial temperatures.

That’s the headline goal, but the Paris agreement also calls for a strong focus on climate science as well as on curbing greenhouse emissions. Article 7.7c of the agreement specifically calls for:

Strengthening scientific knowledge on climate, including research, systematic observation of the climate system and early warning systems, in a manner that informs climate services and supports decision-making.

The next paragraph also calls on countries to help poorer nations, which have less scientific capability, to do the same.

But what are the many elements of climate science that need strengthening to achieve the aims of the Paris agreement? Here are six questions that need answers.

What do the targets mean?

What do the 2℃ and 1.5℃ targets imply for our climate and adaptation responses? Even warming of 2℃ will have significant impacts for humans and natural systems, albeit much less than would occur if we allowed warming to continue unchecked. Still, climate science needs to clarify what is gained by meeting the 1.5℃ and 2℃ targets, and the consequences of missing them.

Are we on track?

It will be essential to monitor the climate system over the coming years and decades to see whether our efforts at curbing warming are delivering the expected benefits, or if more measures are needed.

The path to these ambitious temperature targets will not be smooth – there will be periods of rapid warming interspersed with periods of slower warming. We will not meet the targets if the world relaxes on mitigation efforts because of a short-term slowing in the rate of warming as a result of natural variability, such as we saw between 1998 and 2013.

Greenhouse gas concentrations, global temperatures, rainfall and water balance changes, extreme weather events, ocean heat content, sea level and terrestrial and marine carbon sinks are all vitally important elements to track. A focus on surface temperature alone is not sufficient.

What are the tipping points in the climate system?

Tipping points are thresholds beyond which there will be large, rapid and possibly irreversible changes in the climate system. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are one example – beyond a certain level, warming will cause large and irreversible loss of ice, and sea level rise of many metres over the ensuing centuries. Thresholds also exist for ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef, and the services they provide, including food production and water supply.

We need to know what these thresholds are, the consequences of crossing them, and how much and how fast we will have to reduce emissions in order to avoid this.

How will climate and extreme events change?

Many places already experience weather extremes such as heatwaves, droughts, fire, floods, storm surges and cyclones, all with damaging consequences. Many of the negative impacts of climate change will occur through changes in the magnitude, duration and frequency of these extreme events.

To adapt to these changes and manage the risks, more detailed information is needed on local and regional scales. It is important to recognise that 2℃ of globally averaged warming does not imply 2℃ everywhere (many regions, particularly on land, will have larger temperature rises). Extremes may increase faster than averages.

We also need to understand the short-term (decades) and long-term (centuries) implications of choices made today.

What are the appropriate adaptation pathways?

Even if the Paris targets are achieved, some adaptation will be essential. So how do we reduce vulnerability, minimise costs and maximise opportunities? Given the changes already observed with the roughly 1℃ of global warming so far, it’s fair to say that more severe impacts will occur during this century.

Keeping warming within 2℃ and moving to a lower-carbon world presents many challenges. Considerable work will be needed to help identify climate-resilient pathways and allow humans to adapt to the changes.

Successful adaptation will require an ability to foresee and prepare for inevitable changes in the likelihoods of extreme climate events from year to year. Development of climate forecasts on timescales of a year to decades may provide opportunities to reduce losses in critical sectors such as water, agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, fisheries, energy and natural resources.

Can we take greenhouse gases back out of the atmosphere?

Most scenarios for future emissions that keep warming below the agreed Paris target require not just a reduction in emissions, but also the ability to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere – so-called “negative emissions”.

One proposed method of partially meeting our energy needs and reducing CO₂ concentrations is called BioEnergy Carbon Capture and Storage. It would involve growing biofuels for energy, then capturing and burying the carbon dioxide released by these fuels. While potentially important, its large-scale deployment poses important questions regarding its costs and benefits and how the large amount of agricultural land required would compete with food production to feed the world’s growing population.

To keep climate change below 2℃, some have proposed a need for more radical geoengineering options if emissions are not phased out quickly enough. These include schemes to cool the Earth by reducing solar radiation. But these proposals fail to address other knock-on issues of carbon dioxide emissions, such as ocean acidification. They also pose large risks, are beset with ethical issues and beg the question of who is going to take responsibility for such schemes.

The Paris agreement proves that the world’s nations know we need strong climate action. But society faces tough choices as we seek to find economically, socially and environmentally feasible ways to meet the targets. Informed decisions will depend on robust science at both local and global scales, which means that far from being done, climate science is now more important than ever.

The Conversation

John Church, CSIRO Fellow, CSIRO; Alistair Hobday, Senior Principal Research Scientist – Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRO; Andrew Lenton, Senior Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRO, and Steve Rintoul, Research Team Leader, Marine & Atmospheric Research, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Ocean acidification is already harming the Great Barrier Reef’s growth


Kennedy Wolfe, University of Sydney and Maria Byrne, University of Sydney

A new experiment on the Great Barrier Reef has shown, for the first time, that ocean acidification is already harming the growth of coral reefs in their natural setting.

As our research published in Nature today shows, the reduction in seawater pH – caused by carbon dioxide from human activities such as burning fossil fuels – is making it more difficult for corals to build and maintain their skeletons.

We and our colleagues, led by Rebecca Albright and Ken Calderia from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, carried out the first experimental manipulation of seawater chemistry in a natural coral reef ecosystem. Previous climate change studies on coral reefs have been done either in the laboratory or in closed-system tanks on the reef.

One Tree Island forms a naturally isolated lagoon where pH levels can be manipulated.
One Tree Island Research Station/University of Sydney/Nature

Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because calcium carbonate, the mineral building blocks of their skeletons, dissolves easily in acid. Below a certain pH, this dissolution is predicted to outweigh the accumulation of new calcium carbonate that allows reefs to grow and to recover from erosion processes such as storms.

Previous studies have shown large-scale declines in coral reefs over recent decades. Rates of reef calcification were 40% lower in 2008-09 than in 1975-76.

However, it was hard to pinpoint exactly how much of the decline was due to acidification, and how much was caused by other human-induced stresses such as ocean warming, pollution and overfishing. Understanding this is essential to predicting how coral reefs may fare in the face of continued global climate change.

The study used pink dye to track the movement of the experimental seawater.
Rebecca Albright/Nature

To answer this question, we manipulated the pH of seawater flowing over a reef flat at One Tree Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef. By adding sodium hydroxide (an alkali), we brought the reef’s pH closer to levels estimated for pre-industrial times, based on estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide from that era. In doing so, we pushed the reef “back in time”, to find out how fast it would have been growing before human-induced acidification began.

It was clear from our results that reef calcification was around 7% higher under pre-industrial conditions than those experienced today.

Most other ocean acidification experiments manipulate seawater conditions based on the low pH levels predicted for coming decades, to understand the potential effects of future ocean conditions. But we have shown that present-day conditions are already taking their toll on corals.

As Albright explains:

Our work provides the first strong evidence from experiments on a natural ecosystem that ocean acidification is already causing reefs to grow more slowly than they did 100 years ago. Ocean acidification is already taking its toll on coral reef communities. This is no longer a fear for the future; it is the reality of today.

With greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise, our results suggest a bleak future for coral reefs over the coming decades, with reduced calcification and increased dissolution. This is particularly concerning in light of the major coral bleaching events observed globally over the past few years amid prolonged high sea surface temperatures. The mixed effects of ocean warming and acidification, as well as other human-induced and natural stressors, pose serious threats to the ecosystems we know today.

Increasing the alkalinity of ocean water around coral reefs has been proposed as a geoengineering measure to save shallow marine ecosystems. Our results suggest that this could be effective in isolated areas, but implementing such measures at large scales would be almost impossible.

As our colleague Ken Caldeira has pointed out, the only real and lasting solution is to make deep, rapid cuts in our carbon dioxide emissions. Otherwise the next century could be one without coral reefs.

Kennedy Wolfe will be online to answer questions about this research from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm AEDT on Thursday February 25. Leave your comments below.

The Conversation

Kennedy Wolfe, PhD Candidate, University of Sydney and Maria Byrne, Professor of Developmental & Marine Biology, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Great Barrier Reef faces a mixed future in acidifying oceans


Mathieu Mongin, CSIRO; Andrew Lenton, CSIRO; Jennifer Skerratt, CSIRO, and Mark Baird, CSIRO

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have travelled to spectacular coral reefs marvel at their colour and biodiversity.

At around 2,000 km long, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. It includes 3,581 individual reefs and an immense lagoon. But the likelihood of future generations being able to enjoy the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef is dwindling, as it comes under increasing pressure from the degradation of water quality and climate change.

Warming water is one of the greatest threats facing the reef in the long term. But what about another consequence of rising carbon dioxide, ocean acidification?

When carbon dioxide dissolves in water it (slightly) increases the water’s acidity, or lowers its pH. This affects the ability of marine creatures such crustaceans, corals and coralline algae to build their skeletons. But exactly how it will affect the whole reef ecosystem is unknown.

In research published in Nature Communications, we mapped parts of the reef that are most exposed to ocean acidification. As you’d expect, there will be some regions more strongly affected than others, indicating where we might focus our efforts to preserve the reef.

Building skeletons

Conditions in the marine tropics are becoming less friendly for coral. Coral bleaching, cyclones, outbreaks of pest species and nutrient-impacted river run-off are now regular events that impact coral reef health.

What’s more, and perhaps more ominously, as the world’s oceans take up more carbon dioxide, it becomes harder for corals to secrete and maintain their calcium carbonate skeletons. While the exact response remains unknown, at some point thresholds will be reached at which dissolution exceeds calcification, leading to overall coral loss.

But ocean acidification doesn’t affect the whole reef equally. Corals change the chemistry of the seawater around them. In fact, corals are constantly building and dissolving their skeletons, taking up and releasing calcium carbonate into the water, thus increasing or lowering the pH.

The fine balance between these processes changes over the course of the day. Ocean circulation, as well as photosynthesis and respiration of other non-calcifying marine organisms, also determine the overall variability in pH of water above reefs, and therefore a coral’s ability to produce and maintain their structure.

While scientists have researched these effects on individual reefs, how do they play out on the thousands of reefs that make up the entire Great Barrier Reef?

To find the answer we used a new information system developed for the Great Barrier Reef. We found that some inshore reefs experience a lower pH now than is projected for offshore reefs in the future.

Which reefs are most threatened?

On the Great Barrier Reef, the ability for coral to build skeletons tends to decrease towards the coast. This is a consequence of the lower pH, and more nutrients, fresh water and sediment coming from the land.

GBR Coral reef’s exposure to global ocean acidification, green reefs have some protection, white are neutral and red are already exposed.
CSIRO

But details of a more complex picture emerged from the study, highlighting the interaction between the thousands of reefs.

The outer reefs generally have Coral Sea water flowing over them, and for a thin band, especially in the north, their ability to build skeletons is actually driven by large scale oceanographic processes. But as the outer reef corals build their skeletons, the water flowing off them has lowered pH (more acidic). Circulation carries this water onto parts of the inner reefs, changing the average pH above their corals.

In other words, good coral health in the outer reefs, especially in the northern and southern regions, creates less favourable conditions for the mid lagoon central reefs.

What can we do?

While atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing, focus should shift to conserve parts of the Great Barrier Reef and its corals which can be achieved through changes in the way we manage the reef. The new map of pH on the Great Barrier Reef presents the exposure to ocean acidification on each of the 3,581 reefs, providing managers with the information they need to tailor management to individual reefs.

Thus we see the Great Barrier Reef is not a singular reef nor a physical barrier that prevents exchange between reefs; it is a mixture of thousands of productive reefs and shallow areas lying on a continental shelf with complex oceanic circulation.

We cannot treat the Great Barrier Reef as one entity. We cannot summarise the impact of global ocean acidification as one number, and we cannot have one management strategy (aside from cutting global carbon emissions) to protect it.

The Conversation

Mathieu Mongin, Biogeochemical Modeller, CSIRO; Andrew Lenton, Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, CSIRO; Jennifer Skerratt, Coastal and enivronmental modeller, CSIRO, and Mark Baird, Team leader, Coastal and Environmental Modelling, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why bats don’t get get sick from the deadly diseases they carry


Michelle Baker, CSIRO

Bats are a natural host for more than 100 viruses, some of which are lethal to people. These include Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola and Hendra virus. These viruses are among the most dangerous pathogens to humans and yet an infected bat does not get sick or show signs of disease from these viruses.

The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa showed the devastating impact such diseases can have on human populations.

As treatments in the form of therapeutics or vaccines rarely exist for emerging diseases, future outbreaks of disease have the potential to result in similar outcomes.

Understanding disease emergence from wildlife and the mechanisms responsible for the control of pathogens in their natural hosts provides a chance to design new treatments for human disease.

The path to discovery

Until recently, bats were among the least studied groups of mammals, particularly in regard to their immune responses.

But even early studies of virus-infected bats provided clues that there may be differences in the immune responses of bats. It was observed that some bats were capable of clearing viral infection in the absence of an antibody response.

Antibodies are one of the hallmarks of the immune response and allow the host to respond more rapidly to subsequent infection when the same pathogen invades the body. The absence of a detectable antibody response within the bat was striking and drew our attention to the earliest stages of the immune response, called the innate immune system.

The recent sequencing of the first bat genome provided some of the first clues that the innate immune system may be key to the ability of bats to control viral infection. There is intriguing evidence for unique changes in innate immune genes associated with the evolution of flight, and bats are the only mammal capable of sustained flight.

Flight is energetically expensive and results in the production of oxygen radicals. In the research we speculated that bats have made changes to their DNA repair pathways to deal with the toxic oxygen radicals.

A number of innate immune genes intersect with the DNA repair pathways. These genes have also undergone changes, so it appears that the evolution of flight may have had inadvertent consequences for the immune system.

Bat super immunity

In humans and other vertebrates, infection with viruses triggers the induction of special proteins called interferon.

This is one of the first lines of defence following infection. It starts the induction of a variety of genes, known as interferon-stimulated genes. These genes play specific roles in restricting viral replication in infected and neighbouring cells.

Humans and other mammals have a large family of interferons, including multiple interferon-alpha genes and a single interferon-beta gene. People have 17 type I interferons, including 13 interferon-alpha genes.

Analysis published today of the interferon region of the Australian black flying fox reveals that bats have fewer interferon genes than any other mammal sequenced to date. They have only ten interferon genes, three of which are interferon-alpha genes.

This is surprising given that bats have this unique ability to control viral infections that are lethal in people and yet they can do this with a lower number of interferons.

Although interferons are essential for clearing infection, their expression is also tightly regulated. This is to avoid over-activation of the immune system, which can have negative consequences for the host.

The expression of interferon-alpha and interferon-beta proteins, which account for the majority of the antiviral response generated following viral infection, is normally undetectable in the absence of infection. It is rapidly induced following detection of a pathogen.

Yet we again see a difference in bats. The three interferon-alpha genes are continuously expressed in bat tissues and cells in the absence of any detectable pathogen. Bats appear to use fewer interferon-alpha genes to efficiently perform the functions of as many as 13 interferon-alpha genes in other species. And they have a system that is constantly ready to respond to infection.

Continual activation of the interferon response in other species can lead to over-activation of the immune response. This frequently contributes to the detrimental effects associated with viral infection, including tissue damage. In contrast, bats appear able to tolerate constant interferon activation and are continually primed for viral infection.

The bat approach in others

We are familiar with the important role bats play in the ecosystem as pollinators and insect controllers. They are now demonstrating their worth in potentially helping to protect people from infectious diseases.

The ability of bats to tolerate a constant level of interferon expression is poorly understood at the moment. But the identification of the unique expression pattern of interferons in bats is a first step in identifying new ways of controlling viruses in humans and other species.

If we can redirect other species’ immune responses to behave in a similar manner to that of bats, then the high death rate associated with diseases such as Ebola could be a thing of the past.


Peng Zhou was a co-author of this article. He’s a researcher in pathogen discovery and antiviral immunity, formerly employed at Duke–National University of Singapore Medical School and CSIRO.

The Conversation

Michelle Baker, Research scientist, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

CSIRO climate cuts will trash a decade of hard work with the Bureau of Meteorology and universities


Gregory Ayers, Monash University

A dozen years ago, climate science in Australia was academically excellent, but was being done in small groups, none able by itself to answer the large, complex scientific questions that were beginning to confront Australia, such as understanding the adverse trends emerging in temperature and rainfall.

We weren’t alone – all countries were grappling with their own issues, as the scale of the climate challenge was made starkly clear by a succession of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

So, early in the new century, a handful of people leading the key separate parts of Australia’s system began working together to create a truly strategic, truly national climate science capability.

CSIRO led from the front. Its executives knew that CSIRO alone could not meet the nation’s climate science needs, so they worked with government departments to support the development of a larger national architecture.

Gradually, the project took shape. In 2005, CSIRO merged its atmospheric and marine research divisions, creating a unified division focusing on a single national climate modelling system, rather than two separate ones. Sensible move.

The following year, CSIRO championed integration of all state and national marine observing systems into one federal system, the Integrated Marine Observing System.

CSIRO also turned its attention overseas, joining with the Bureau of Meteorology to adopt the UK Met Office’s state-of-art Unified Atmospheric Model as our national weather forecasting model, for an immediate improvement in forecasting skill.

Since this model could be run in climate mode as well as weather mode, we now had both agencies’ scientists supporting a single, world-leading atmospheric climate model that was also the national weather forecasting model. It was a superbly efficient outcome. The pieces of a truly national climate science program were falling into place.

Universities on board

Meanwhile, in 2007 CSIRO and the Bureau launched a joint venture now called the Collaboration for Australian Weather and Climate Research. The idea was to create a single large government-funded climate science program that, for the first time, would be easy for top university climate scientists to engage with.

CSIRO already had a fruitful collaboration with Antarctic climate researchers at the University of Tasmania, but what was needed was for all universities doing significant climate science to become engaged in the national endeavour.

This was harder than it sounds; government research agencies are typically driven by specific missions related to the agency’s charter, whereas university research often focuses on investigating science questions framed by individual specialisations and academic prowess.

As chief of CSIRO’s Marine and Atmospheric Research Division at the time, I was seconded into the federal Department of Climate Change to draft a blueprint for a national climate research agenda that would include universities along with government scientists. It gave rise to the National Framework for Climate Change Science, which was adopted by the Rudd government in 2009 and still remains current.

With the framework in place, CSIRO, the Bureau and universities signed up to use Australia’s new National Computational Infrastructure for climate research. In 2011, the Australian Research Council funded the creation of the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, which drew together the best university-based climate research. With everything now in place in 2012 the federal government turned the 2009 climate science framework into an implementation plan to deliver on the research goals.

More than a decade in the making, Australia finally had a truly national, unified collaboration set up to deliver as fruitfully as possible on our nation’s climate science needs.

All of that hard work, planning and organisation is now at risk.

Climate cuts

The implementation plan contains a series of tables listing the priority policy questions to be answered, and who is best placed to deliver the scientific research needed to answer them. CSIRO appears in every one. If you mentally remove the word CSIRO from the document, it’s clear that if CSIRO leaves the climate science stage (and while the precise number of job cuts remains uncertain it is set to be significant) it will leave Australia’s federally endorsed climate science agenda gutted, and totally unachievable.

This brings us to the misconception promulgated by CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall as a rationale for the CSIRO cuts: that human-induced climate change is now confirmed, so there is now less need for climate science and more need for research into adaptation and mitigation measures.

The implementation plan makes it clear that mitigation and adaptation would also suffer badly from CSIRO’s climate cuts, as they would no longer be built on the national climate science framework set up precisely to enable and support those activities.

CSIRO was the main agency behind Australia’s world-leading climate science framework – a setup that serves this nation’s climate science policy needs superbly, and one of the areas in which Australia punches above its weight internationally.

Why would CSIRO retreat from one of its own (and Australia’s) most effective scientific endeavours? Why stop now, after working tirelessly for more than a decade to create a unified national platform that provides essential advice to local, state and federal governments, as well as industry, commerce and the environmental sector? I don’t know. It makes no sense.

CSIRO’s decision to pull away from climate change science is against the national interest. It should not proceed.

The Conversation

Gregory Ayers, Atmospheric Scientist and Advisory Board Chair, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.