531 Climate Change and Security

How will climate change affect us? Well, it’ll get warmer, oceans will rise and weather events will be more severe, e.g. droughts, bush fires, cyclones - that much we know. But in the SMH today an article addresses what the security implications are for us here in Australia. And there is a lot I didn't know.


Australia's peace threatened by climate change

by Rob Sturrock

Nationally, we are not grappling with the impact of climate change in economic, environmental and societal terms. This includes the very real and emerging effect it will have on our national security in Asia and the Pacific. Research released on Monday by the Centre for Policy Development found Australia is exposed to the new risks from climate change, unlike our key allies.

Seven out of 10 of the world's most vulnerable countries to climate change are in the Asia-Pacific. Asia has 90 per cent of the world's risk of tropical cyclones. By 2030, about 880 million people will live in low coastal zones vulnerable to storm surges and sea-level rises, with 70 per cent of these living in Asia.

Climate change will undermine peace and stability in our region as demand for food, water and energy increases sharply, as our neighbours have communities and infrastructure battered by storm surges and cyclones, and as agricultural livelihoods are affected by extreme weather.

This is unwelcome, yet unavoidable in a region experiencing a shift in power dynamics between emerging and major powers. Any material deterioration in the security landscape in Asia inevitably affects Australia.

Australia needs a sophisticated national approach to understanding climate security impacts. Our inaction to date means we are missing out on our opportunity to deepen our engagement with the region and our corresponding commitment to advance its collective human security. 

Whether we like it or not, our defence forces are likely to be called upon more regularly for humanitarian relief and stability operations at home and abroad.

Each additional year of inaction increases our insecurity and the cost of relief. It's time to make Australia and the region more secure, not more vulnerable.

Rob Sturrock is the lead author of The Longest Conflict:

Australia's Climate Security Challenge.