Rising to the Challenge: Addressing Climate and Security in our Region

14.09.21 By , and

Security at its most basic level is about freedom from harm or freedom from fear of harm. In the face of security risks or challenges, governments must prioritise investment to mitigate harm.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described climate change as an existential risk in 2018. An existential threat means that climate change threatens the very survival of humanity. Nothing is bigger or more urgent. Without far stronger action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, climate change may reach tipping points (Steffen et al. 2018). But even if we act fast enough to avoid this worst-case scenario, there is now emerging evidence that climate change amplifies other security risks – including the risk of conflict or war (IMCCS 2021).

This report outlines what the research tells us about the relationship between climate and security. It highlights significant risks within our region that could be realised in the future.

Australia must make smarter choices, based on a pragmatic assessment of climate and security risks and the range of possible interventions. Left unaddressed, these risks threaten our security as a nation.

The cover of CLimate Council report about security and climate change. 3 images as a collage.

Key Findings:

1. Climate change increases the risk of conflict and Australia will not find lasting national security without adequately addressing it.

2. The federal government’s financial support of the fossil fuel industry is actively undermining Australia’s national security.

“ Today, no nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis. We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them truly deserve to be called existential. The climate crisis does.”

Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense, 22 April 2021

3. Australia has fallen well behind the US, UK, Japan, New Zealand and other peers in analysis of climate and security risks.

4. Australia must act rapidly and decisively on climate change in order to maintain the collective security of our region.


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