CSIRO’s re-embracing of climate change research will be underlined on Monday when the national science agency announces a new centre partly funded by Chinese interests.
Based in Hobart, the $20 million centre will examine the role oceans will play in future climate change, including their influence on floods and drought. It will be half funded by China’s Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology.
The Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research will also look at the capacity of seas to keep absorbing carbon dioxide – more than 90 per cent of heat has been taken up by oceans in recent decades – and the expected impact of melting Antarctic ice shelves.
The announcement comes a year after CSIRO came under fire for a proposed restructure that involved a shift away from “science for science sake” and towards corporate partnerships and work that could be sold.
Climate change measurement was among the areas facing cuts because, chief executive Larry Marshall said, the problem was “proven” and resources should be dedicated to finding solutions to global warming.
Some scientists, including world renowned sea level expert John Church, left before the scale of the cuts was reduced following a public backlash and the intervention of then industry minister Greg Hunt. A new Climate Science Centre was created, with its headquarters in the Tasmanian capital. The oceans laboratory will sit within that.
CSIRO has committed $8.25 million to the Chinese partnership, with the balance from the universities of NSW and Tasmania.
In a statement, Dr Marshall said the centre would tackle fundamental questions about the future climate. “The oceans in the southern hemisphere play a crucial role in the climate system, absorbing more heat and carbon dioxide than any other region in the world,” he said.
“It is also an exciting opportunity to work with China’s leading marine science and technology organisation, and cultivate our close research relationship with China, which has been going strong for more than 40 years.”
It follows CSIRO’s announcement in November it had signed a technology licensing agreement with Chinese solar company Thermal Focus allowing it to use the agency’s patented solar concentrating technology in its local market.
By Adam Morton
Sydney Morning Herald