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Home Front: New Australian Documentary on Climate and Security

Royal Australian Navy Base_Sydney Harbour_Home Front_2019

A still from Part One of “Home Front” (at 04:55), Breakthrough, the National Centre for Climate Restoration 2019

Breakthrough, an independent Australian think tank, today released Part One of its new climate and security documentary, Home Front. In it, interviewees from the military, business and humanitarian communities describe the myriad security threats driven by a changing climate, ranging from political instability and economic collapse, to sea level rise risks to Australia’s numerous military installations along its significant coastline.

The 15-minute segment also touches on the controversial climate-migration nexus, which if misinterpreted could feed hyper-nationalist narratives and policies that themselves can have a destabilizing effect on security. However, as one interviewee, John Blackburn AO, Former Deputy Chief of the Royal Australian Airforce, wisely notes:

Simply putting up a barrier, and running around with a few Navy ships and contract ships stopping people coming in boats, might work today, it will not work in ten or fifteen years if what we anticipate with climate change happens.

The documentary also features key experts from the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) and International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS), among others.

Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist with CCS and Secretary General of the IMCCS, notes in the segment that our current response to climate change is not commensurate to its threat profile. Specifically:

In the Cold War, we spent billions of dollars of American GDP to deter and prevent a low probability but very high consequence event of the threat of a bolt out of the blue nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. Today, we face a threat in climate change that is higher probability, and equally high consequence, and yet we are not addressing it with the same alarm and attention.

Dr. Michael Thomas, retired Major in the Australian Army, Senior Fellow for Security Sector Education at CCS, and Participant in the IMCCS, highlights the unpreparedness of the Australian Defence Force to deal with cascading, simultaneous disasters resulting from climatic changes, or as he calls it, the “risk of simultaneity.” Full quote:

Consider for example, if we were to have an extreme weather event in the South Pacific, maybe we would have two in the future scenarios. How does the ADF [the Australian Defence Force] actually respond to those two simultaneous events. The military often call this the risk of simultaneity. The ability for the Australian Defence Force to respond to multiple events. Climate change poses such scenarios.

Admiral (Ret) Chris Barrie, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force (Ret), focuses on the connection between climate change and instability, stating:

Instability becomes the term that we use in connection with climate change consequences. But instability means people getting angry and doing something about it.

In all, the interviewees seemed to agree that Australia has a lot more to do in order to comprehensively meet the threat of a changing climate.

To watch the full segment, click here. There’s a short trailer for Part 2 at the end of it.

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