CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- A division of the World Meteorological Organization criticized an Australian move to cut staff from a conservation division as worrisome.
The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, tasked in part with addressing climate issues, announced plans to cut or redeploy around 350 staff members over the next two years. CSIRO said it needed to balance its portfolio in order to focus on where it would provide the greatest service.
"No one is saying climate change is not important, but surely mitigation, health, education, sustainable industries, and prosperity of the nation are no less important," CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall said in a statement.
The World Climate Research program, a division within the WMO, said what it characterized as a substantial reduction in headcounts was worrisome. Cuts, the organization said, would sever the ties between Australia and its international climate colleagues.
Given its stated purpose of protecting ecosystems and public health, the WMO branch said "one can hardly imagine a worse and more backward step toward any of those laudable goals than ignoring climate and discarding climate research."
According to government data, annual emissions from June 2014 to June 2015 were the second-lowest since 2000 and 10.2 percent below 2005 levels. Per capita, emissions are 28.4 percent lower than 1990, while the overall emissions intensity of the economy has fallen by more than half since then.
"Australia's biggest challenges and opportunities lie in the health, prosperity and sustainability in the face of rapid global changes; climate is one piece of a much larger puzzle," Marshall said.