The Australian Security Leaders Climate Group (ASLCG), a group of former national security leaders, castigated the Australian government for climate change inactivity while releasing its new report on the link between climate change and national security.
The ASLCG, a non-partisan group of former Australian national security leaders, released a report this week attacking the government for being “missing in action” by failing to address the national security risks posed by climate change.
The report, Missing in Action: Responding to Australia’s climate & security failure, outlined the requirement for Australia to establish a whole-of-nation climate and security risk assessment and an Office of Climate Threat Intelligence, which will be used to inform the Climate-Security Risk Action Plan. These plans are integral to “prevent devastating climate impacts by mobilising all resources necessary to reach zero emissions as fast as possible”.
The report analyses potential threats caused by change in climate, including analysing how food insecurity exacerbated conflicts in Syria, the Maghreb and the Sahel, as well as the impact that food price spikes had on the Arab Spring.
According to former Australian Defence Force Chief, Admiral (Ret'd) Chris Barrie AC, climate change poses a security threat to Australia that needs to be addressed by government.
“Australia has been “missing in action” on climate security risks. We are falling well behind our allies and failing in our responsibility to protect our own people,” Barrie said.
“The dangers that climate change impacts pose to international peace and security are real and present. In vulnerable countries, climate-fuelled water and food insecurity have mixed with instability, leading to the collapse of governments and civil wars, as we’ve seen in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
“The failure of leadership and inaction by Australian governments have left our nation ill-prepared for the security implications of devastating climate impacts at home and in the Asia-Pacific, the highest-risk region in the world.
“We must stop pretending to act by diverting attention to the symptoms of climate change, and start addressing the fundamental causes, primarily by rapidly decarbonising the economy.
“Yet, as the latest IPCC report demonstrates, we are likely to underestimate the scale and scope of the security risks posed by climate change because they have not been fully assessed by our governments. Climate-security risks will blow up in the future, and we must be better informed and prepared by urgently undertaking a comprehensive whole-of-nation climate and security risk assessment.”
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The report further argued that Australia is not immune to such climate change risks, pointing to how Murray-Darling Basin inflows have dropped by 40 per cent over the last two decades. Meanwhile, the ADF has already expended valuable resources on combating the effects of climate change, as evidenced during the Black Summer fires in 2019-2020.
“Climate impacts on agriculture have the potential to significantly threaten food production in Australia,” Barrie said.
“Australia’s supply chains are precarious, being a distant island in a hyper-connected global economy. In a global emergency where supply chains are disrupted, domestic oil supplies would last only weeks. If that coincided with extreme climatic impacts, as may well occur, civilian and military capacity to provide disaster relief would be severely compromised.
“Climate change is already placing great pressure on the ADF to pick up the pieces in the face of accelerating climate impacts. Higher levels of warming will stretch them beyond their capacity to respond.
“Australia must start to contribute fairly to the global effort to limit these impacts.”
The ASLCG proposed a Climate-Security Risk Action Plan for Australia as part of the report, and called upon to government to undertake the following:
- Appointment of an independent expert panel to urgently conduct a comprehensive whole-of-nation climate and security risk assessment, using the best available information;
- The establishment of a specific Office of Climate Threat Intelligence that can provide an integrated flow of analysis to governments and departments;
- The establishment of a national climate risk assessment, as occurs in the US, where a high level expert group works with relevant agencies to provide a regular, publicly-available assessment of climate trends, risks and impacts; and
- The preparation of a policy of Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent (R2P2) which systematically and holistically addresses climate-security risks.
The authors of the report were:
- Former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Admiral (Ret'd) Chris Barrie AC
- Former Deputy Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal (Ret'd) John Blackburn AO
- Iraq and Timor Leste veteran, Colonel (Ret'd) Neil Greet
- Former Director Preparedness and Mobilisation at the Australian Department of Defence, Cheryl Durrant
- Senior fellow and co-leader Indo-Pacific Program at Centre for Climate and Security (Washington) Major (Ret'd) Michael Thomas
- Former chair of the Australian Coal Association, Ian Dunlop