Because of the strains on the Australian Antarctic Division’s budget, dozens of vital climate scientific projects, such as studies of record low sea ice and fast-dropping penguin populations, are in danger of being shelved, postponed, or curtailed. These programs include studies of record low sea ice.
Internal documents viewed by Australia suggest that the “cleaner Antarctica program,” which repairs damage caused by human activity such as diesel spills, will not be maintained “due to budget constraints.” The “cleaner Antarctica program” remediates damage caused by human activity like diesel spills.
A year ago, the division referred to the work being done on the cleanup as its “flagship science project,” which would give a “clean-up strategy for Australia’s contaminated sites” and “enhance Australia’s scientific and environmental leadership in Antarctica.” Last year, the work was touted as providing a “clean-up strategy for Australia’s contaminated sites.”
Due to financial restrictions, a number of industry insiders have stated that two of Australia’s research stations, Mawson and Davis, will not have their full complements of employees working during the summer season, which is the busiest time of year for scientific research. These individuals asked to remain anonymous.
The employees were given an update on the plans to lower the staffing numbers at the stations the previous week, but many of them are still uncertain about the future of their research. Their dissatisfaction comes approximately eighteen months after the government of Morrison declared an expenditure of $800 million in the division to keep the continent “free from conflict.”
Scientists stationed at universities, which rely on the AAD for logistics and transport, have also complained about “a domino effect” generated by the division’s budget problems, which is now harming their research. The AAD is responsible for providing these services.
Others are worried that important research is being shelved or put on hold at a time when prompt action is required to address the climate issue. The Australia reported a week ago that there are concerns about a “shocking shift” in record low sea ice levels, along with concerns that the beginning of an event linked to global warming might have frightening knock-on repercussions.
The document with an internal date of 20 July shows a list of projects that the head of the division believes possible when taking into consideration the limitations of the money, the logistics, and the operational difficulties. There are a total of 56 projects that are unable to be funded according to this list, which has not yet been finalized and may undergo changes before the summer research season begins.
At Davis station, the division is only able to provide full assistance for a single one of its priority projects. An “airborne” assessment of the thickness of the sea ice is one of the studies that cannot be funded “due to budget restraints.” Other studies that cannot be sponsored include “observations of Antarctic land-fast sea ice.” The “East Antarctic Margin Ice Zone Study” does not receive funding from Davis, but it is allowed to proceed from Casey.
Although some personnel will continue to assist with the research in the absence of six scientists who were scheduled to fly to Davis or Mawson to study breeding seabirds in Antarctica, the scientists will not travel. According to the document, Australia may not be able to fulfil its international commitments to gather data, control the population, and monitor avian flu because of the demands on its budget.
According to the information provided in the publication, “This is a ten-year project that has been supported by station staff for the last three years,” which indicates that only a fraction of the government’s aims has been reached.
It is not possible to sponsor “summer project work” at Mawson station because such work requires tickets for project staff. These programs include monitoring the sea floor of the Southern Ocean, investigations of the species found underwater, and “effective territories administration.”
Since scientists are unable to visit the station, research on topics such as “greenhouse gases in the Southern Atmosphere” and “UV monitoring” at Mawson can only be supported in a limited capacity. Other members of the station’s employees are able to provide a hand with the project.
The majority of the priority work will be carried out by the division at Australia’s largest station, which is called Casey. The million-year ice core project is one of these undertakings. It is an ambitious quest to examine atmospheric data that has been frozen in ice.
A spokesman for the AAD stated, in response to a question from the Guardian Australia regarding the recommendations contained in the document, that the program “continues to prioritise critical science that supports understanding of climate, ecosystems, and environmental stewardship.”
“The climate science that Australia conducts is of global importance, and the Australian Antarctic Program will continue to deliver our priority scientific initiatives,” such as “the million-year ice core” and “the Denman terrestrial campaign.”
According to the statement made by the spokesman, the draft plan for the season “provides support to continue delivering these two priority science projects that will be ongoing for years to come and help inform global decisions on climate change.”
According to the spokesman had to say, “The AAD’s annual season plans are based on priorities articulated through the Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan and the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20-year Action Plan, both of which were released in 2016”
The division announced a week ago that it needs to find savings of $25 million within the next year. This is mostly due to an overspending as well as an efficiency dividend that limits the amount of money it can spend on external consultants and labour.
On Friday, the Director of the Antarctic Advisory Division (AAD), Emma Campbell, informed the employees that she had “asked the Antarctic operations committee to revisit the season plan with a view to finding savings.”
According to Campbell noted, “The season accounts for a significant portion of our budget, so it makes sense to look here.” We have to cut back on the activities we have planned in order to stay within our budget. We will need to give serious consideration to our current employee levels as well as the responsibilities that are currently being prioritized.”
The pandemic, which halted nearly all research on the continent, and the technical challenges with Australia’s new icebreaking vessel Nuyina, which required the division to lease replacement supply vessels, have contributed to the aggravation caused by the budget limitations.