The Australian Government is now in caretaker mode. After declaring an election is to be held on 2 July, the government will not be making any substantive decisions before the election, other than is absolutely necessary. All seats in both houses of Parliament are up for grabs in what is known here as a double dissolution. That sets the scene for who knows what. The current government is probably ahead slightly, but a lot can happen in the next 46 days.
While the government is not around to stop him, the newly appointed CEO of CSIRO is taking the opportunity to wreak havoc. He is ransacking and pillaging our most prestigious national scientific organisation, destroying decades of climate science. He is not tearing it apart to put back together. No. He is tearing it down. He is plundering our single biggest defense against climate change. Australia will soon be dependent on a very small number of remaining staff at CSIRO, plus the science carried out at Universities, and the Bureau of Meteorology. Larry Marshall is aiming to complete his destruction before the Federal election, while no-one in government can act to stop him. (They could, but by convention they probably won't.)
What this means is that Australians will no longer know nearly as much about what we have to adapt to as climate change continues. Nor will we know if, or by how much, any efforts to mitigate climate change are working. We will be flying blind. Our international partners will find long term commitments from Australia's CSIRO are not going to be honoured. Larry Marshall is not just leaving Australians in the lurch, he's leaving the world in the lurch.
You have probably read of the work of Dr John Church here at HotWhopper and elsewhere. Many of his sea level papers were prepared with his long-time colleague Dr Neil White, who retired last year.
Today Peter Hannam at the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that Dr Church, a living treasure here in Australia, and one of the world's leading authorities on sea level change, got a phone call to tell him that he's out on his ear. He's got the sack. It was reported that he has a couple of weeks (while he's on a ship doing research) to justify his position. Right! As if his major contribution to science in Australia and the world isn't enough. As if it isn't enough of a reason that Australia, with most of its population living on or near the coast, is in desperate need of a very good understanding of sea level changes to come. As if it isn't enough that Australia is totally surrounded by sea, that our shipping infrastructure, on which exporters are almost completely dependent, needs to be able to plan properly for sea level rise.
All Australians must be in shock, turning to anger, that Larry Marshall is removing one of the key planks for national security as well as local planning. They must be incredibly ashamed that Dr Church has been treated in this shocking manner by a trumped up venture capitalist who is so clearly out of his depth that he is wrecking our leading R&D organisation.
The shock waves are not just reverberating around Australia. Scientists around the world are aghast at the destruction.
Larry Marshall's appointment was enough of a shock. He has neither the experience nor attributes necessary to head up an organisation of the size, scope and purpose of CSIRO. He was a minor player in the venture capital market in California before he was given this role by someone in the government here. Maybe he's just carrying out the bidding of the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who thinks climate change is "crap". He is certainly out of his depth, alienating staff and everyone else in the nation. (I've seen this before where an inexperienced incompetent is appointed to an important role and fails quite spectacularly. It can take decades to undo the mess, if it can be undone.)
Update: for an OMG moment, check out this ghastly PowerPoint mess by Larry Marshall. It will help you understand what I mean when I say he is not up to the job of managing one of the most prestigious national R&D organisations in the world, Australia's CSIRO. (H/t John Mashey, a Silicon Valley veteran himself.)
I will have more to say on this act of vandalism and what other climate knowledge built up by CSIRO scientists Larry Marshall is determined to destroy. Shortly.
Just some of the Twitter reaction
Here is how some political leaders, climate scientists and others from around the world reacted to the news of the appalling disrespect shown to Dr Church, and Larry Marshall's disemboweling of CSIRO's climate science.
Monumentally disrespectful and monumentally stupid to be gutting the CSIRO and letting go of our brightest minds... https://t.co/ZrHPSYqvI0— Jeremy Buckingham (@greensjeremy) May 15, 2016
Please Australia, reverse this ridiculous decision to sack your best sea-level scientists https://t.co/613MDYNXPw pic.twitter.com/XzHL8nxU1Z— JPascal van Ypersele (@JPvanYpersele) May 14, 2016
CSIRO sack the "(Don) Bradman of sea-level rise science". Great. Terrific. https://t.co/uxgJhAZsJo via @Colvinius— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) May 15, 2016
This is how @CSIRO honoured John Church before @TurnbullMalcolm destroyed org. @UNFCCC @NASA @billmckibben https://t.co/rU2MYH8MyB— Christine Milne (@ChristineMilne) May 14, 2016
Media Release: John Church's treatment is emblematic of #CSIROcuts fiasco https://t.co/5jnf42p2pl pic.twitter.com/0chQhNxen3— Peter Whish-Wilson (@SenatorSurfer) May 15, 2016
Madness! 'Thrown on the scrapheap': Global sea-level expert John Church made to walk the plank by CSIRO https://t.co/GPBJS5ilJj via @smh— Stefan Rahmstorf (@rahmstorf) May 15, 2016
Global sea-level expert John Church "sacked at sea" by CSIRO https://t.co/1GZCnCF7PU More: https://t.co/Uw2AiIUg3D pic.twitter.com/sdKP1KeiN5— Andy Revkin (@Revkin) May 14, 2016
How to deal with the risk of sea level rise 1. outlaw the science (North Carolina) 2. fire renowned scientist (John Church, Australia) 3...?— Bart Verheggen (@BVerheggen) May 14, 2016
John Church is a high profile scientist & been vocal on impact of CSIRO cuts. Now told he's "potentially redundant." pic.twitter.com/WSnSgsALCO— Michael Brown (@MJIBrown) May 14, 2016
John Church has huge respect in climate science, this seems like pretty shoddy behaviour to me. https://t.co/i6VEvkHqzj— Doug McNeall (@dougmcneall) May 14, 2016
How agile. CSRIO sea level expert sacked by phone half way on trip to Antarctica. https://t.co/HpkaPZxiYJ @smh #ausvotes— Mr Denmore (@MrDenmore) May 14, 2016
References and further reading
- Facebook article by leading oceanographer and climate scientist, Stefan Rahmstorf
- Greens angry over reports senior CSIRO scientist John Church in line for redundancy - article at ABC - The ABC should know that it's not just Greens who are angry
- Global sea-level expert John Church made to walk the plank by CSIRO - article by Peter Hannam at Sydney Morning Herald