There is an uproar that began this week in Australia when the head of the top national research organisation, CSIRO, decided we don’t need no steenking climate change modeling. Those scientists and staff can change to engineers and start figuring out how to ‘mitigate’ the risk.
It didn’t take long until the worldwide climate science community came out in force to tell the ‘venture capitalist’ Marshall that he’s got it wrong.
( his history: http://www.brw.com.au/p/tech-gadgets/csiro_venture_partners_marshall_d0FTIiadQE6MbvRMveE2dL )
I normally don’t write to agencies. I usually write to ministers. In this case, I made an exception (along with copies to the relevant Ministers)
My letter to Dr Marshall:
Subject: The CSIRO climate science debacle
Dear Dr Marshall
I don’t normally write to heads of agencies, but I had to make a change myself as the current situation is too important.
I read with deep concern your quotes in this ABC News article
regarding your interpretation of the reaction to the open letter from the scientists. Those of particular concern are:
– explaining to yourself that their outcry is because ‘they’re not going to want to change’. Sir, good science is completely about change. I see you’re an engineer and physicist by background. That explains much about your misunderstanding. You worked in a static discipline. You’ve been working in finance and business. You are being very condescending to those who are telling you that you are wrong.
– change as your justification. **Inclusion** of mitigation is, in my opinion, a good thing. We are at risk. It is important to assist those whose lives will be affected by the impact of extreme climate change — coastal areas, food production, energy use, building construction to name a few. However, it does not mean the models are static and complete. What if we had stopped developing and observing 30 years ago? Our models today would be wrong. How would we understand what is happening now? It’s not just about continuing to collect data. It’s about interpreting it, feeding it into the scientific community, testing hypotheses, and identifying the areas where mitigation is going to be required.
– equating the reaction to ‘religion’. ““In fact it almost sounds more like religion than science to me. “ On the contrary, you are hearing from professionals — worldwide — who are pointing out you are making a grave error. This is not a group of religionists, sir. These are some of the best minds in the world. I suggest you consider they may know a bit more than you about this area.
In closing, I don’t want you to take any time in responding to this email. What I ask you to do instead is to ramp up a bit of your own humility, think about the expertise of the people in the scientific community most involved in this discipline, and step back from this ill-thought-through decision.
If you need resources to add mitigation to the climate portfolio, either redistribute from other money-making areas in CSIRO (your KPI for entrepreneurship we are all suspecting is driving your role – http://www.brw.com.au/p/tech-gadgets/csiro_venture_partners_marshall_d0FTIiadQE6MbvRMveE2dL ), or other less vital areas within the agency, or approach your boss PM and fight for additional funds.
At a minimum, don’t throw out the underpinnings or downsize to insignificance, what has been built already. That’s no way to run a Research Organisation.
cc: Christopher Pyne, Karen Andrews, Wyatt Roy