A new report by the Climate Council has found that Australia’s geopolitical influence has been impacted following data showing its analysis of climate and security risks has fallen well behind the US, UK, Japan and New Zealand.
In 2018, a Senate Inquiry called for a national climate and security threat assessment but this has not occurred, and climate change remains on the margins of Australia’s defence, foreign affairs and trade strategies.
Australia’s unwillingness to deal with climate change is already affecting its national security due to a loss of geopolitical influence, particularly in the Pacific, according to Climate Council spokeswoman Cheryl Durrant, who spent 30 years working at the Australian Defence Department, most recently as the Head of Defence Preparedness.
“Climate change needs to figure prominently in Australia’s security thinking and investment but this is not yet the case,” Durrant said.
"Other nations are rapidly broadening traditional notions of national security in order to address climate security risks, but Australia is being left behind.”
Key findings in the Rising To The Challenge: Addressing Climate And Security In Our Region report assert the federal government’s financial support of the fossil fuel industry exacerbates climate change. With pacific nations facing significant threats from sea level rise, displacement and forced migration is likely to increase.
According to Robert Glasser, head of the Climate and Security Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, climate hazards in south-east Asia could potentially affect Australia’s security even more than the domestic impacts of climate change.
“In maritime south-east Asia, 400 million people live in low lying island states, the majority of them in Indonesia,” Glasser added.
“Sea level rise is happening four times faster than the global average in maritime south-east Asia.
“What is currently a 1-in-100 year extreme flooding event will become an annual event within little more than a decade in many parts of the region. This could have profound consequences for Australia.”
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Water has long been a contested resource in Asia and climate change is worsening the situation. Any conflict over water in our region could have profound consequences for Australia.
“Australia must act rapidly and decisively on climate change in order to maintain the collective security of our region,” Durrant added.
“We can do that by shifting from fossil fuel exports to clean exports and making smart use of development assistance.”
The Climate Council recommends that Australia should reduce its emissions by 75 per cent (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035.
Former US deputy undersecretary of defense Sherri Goodman has described the Climate Council report as “ground-breaking” and has advised that Australia “should take heed of the impending climate disasters”, urging the Australian government that it is not too late to take responsible action.
“The ingenuity and innovation that has been Australia’s trademark can be mobilised to create a climate-secure future,” said Goodman, who is also the Secretary General of the International Military Council on Climate and Security.
“Australia should act with alacrity to address its most pressing climate security risks, both for the sake of its citizens, the Asia-Pacific region, and the future of the world.”
Journalist – Defence and Security, Momentum Media
Nastasha is a Journalist at Momentum Media, she reports extensively across veterans affairs, cyber security and geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. Previously, she was a Content Producer at Verizon Media, a Digital Producer for Yahoo! and Channel 7, a Digital Journalist at Sky News Australia, as well as a Website Manager and Digital Producer at SBS Australia. She started her career in media as a Video Producer and Digital News Presenter at News Corp Australia.