The Australian Climate Council recently released a report: “Be Prepared: Climate Change, Security and Australia’s Defence Force.” The report provides a good overview of climate change risks to national security and adds a critical look at how the Australian Defence Force is (and is not) preparing for those risks, and how this compares to US and UK defense forces. The report draws from an international team of reviewers including CCS advisory board member Rear Admiral Dave Titley USN (Ret), as well as Professor Jon Barnett, Professor Alan Dupont, Captain Leo Goff, USN (ret.), Dr. Liz Hanna, and Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti RN (ret.).
For a quick overview, Admiral Chris Barrie (ret.) and Will Steffen with the Australian Climate Council have conveniently listed the report’s key findings. In addition to providing a clear snapshot of the nexus between climate change and security, and a detailed breakdown of how the US, the UK and Australian defenses are preparing for climate risks, the report provided two key takeaways:
- The Australian military, as with many military forces, is vulnerable to climate change – both in terms of risks to capabilities, and geostrategic risks. Bushfires, extreme heat, drought, floods, and typhoons in Australia and neighboring countries increases demands on the ADF. Risks to Australian defense deserves special attention given its location in the Asia-Pacific region, which is of growing strategic importance, and the fact that that region is very disaster-prone. Indeed, former US PACOM Commander Admiral Samuel Locklear, USN (ret), deemed climate change the biggest long-term threat to the region.
- Australia is increasingly “out of step with its allies,” particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, who have taken important steps to preparing for and mitigating climate risks to security. Given the United States’ stated Asia-Pacific Rebalance policy, addressing climate risks is important for ensuring better coordination and a shared understanding of strategic risks with Australia’s key allies.
The full report is available online, and worth a read.