Climate change is a significant and growing national security threat that is undermining the preparedness of the Australian Defence Force, a new report authored by Australia’s former Defence Chief found.
Be Prepared: Climate Change, Security and Australia’s Defence Force found Australia is lagging behind its UK and US allies in preparing its militaries for climate change, with Australian Defence Force resources already under strain from the increased need for humanitarian assistance in response to climate-induced disasters.
Strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was critical to limiting the security implications of a changing climate, the report noted.
Former Australian Defence Force chief Admiral Chris Barrie said it was impossible to prioritise national security without prioritising climate change.
“Climate change is driving more frequent and intense natural disasters, driving up food prices and displacing people, all of which can lead to conflict,” he said.
“Military forces around the world have identified climate change as a high-risk phenomenon. When conservative institutions, run by people with some of the most strategic brains on the planet determine something to be high risk, you want to make sure you’re prepared.
“The Australian military has undertaken serious planning for scenarios less likely, less immediate and with fewer far-ranging consequences than devastating climate change.”
The report also found:
- Climate change threatens food, water, health and national security. Climate change will significantly affect the accessibility and availability of freshwater resources and was a key factor in the 2008 food crisis, which increased the number of undernourished people worldwide by 75 million.
- Climate change is a threat multiplier that exacerbates other stressors, such as poverty and economic shocks, worsening tensions and increasing the risk of conflict.
- The ADF will increasingly be called upon to provide humanitarian assistance in response to climate-induced disasters both at home and overseas. The Asia-Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world with more than half of the world’s natural disasters occurring there in 2014.
- Governments in the UK and US have taken significant legislative and strategic steps to ensure that climate change is integrated into defence planning. In Australia, comparatively less action is being taken to ensure the Australian Defence Force is prepared for the risks posed by climate change to security.
“The first line of defence in military planning is prevention. If you can stop a serious situation from occurring, that’s what you should do and so we should be doing everything we possibly can to get climate change under control, “ Admiral Barrie said.
The Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen said that whilst the defence forces could respond to climate change, they couldn’t solve it alone.
“The frequency and scale of natural disasters the ADF will be called upon to respond to and the likelihood of conflict will only increase as the global temperature continues to rise,” he said.
“We need a two-pronged approach to dealing with the national security threat of climate change. Strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect Australians and our neighbours from worsening climate change.
“We also need climate change to be mainstreamed into defence planning so that our defence personnel are protected and our defence forces well-placed to keep our country safe.”
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