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“Missing in Action”: Former Australian security leaders highlight climate-related security threats; call for rapid decarbonisation

A new report released yesterday by the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group calls on the Australian Government to “prevent devastating climate impacts by mobilising all resources necessary to reach zero emissions as fast as possible,” starting with a comprehensive Whole-of-Nation Climate and Security Risk Assessment.

Missing in Action: Responding to Australia’s climate & security failure, lays out a Climate-Security Risk Action Plan for Australia based on four themes: demonstrating leadership, assessing climate risks, coordination and cooperation across government, and acting and investing with urgency.

The impacts of climate change on security have been well documented: climate-fueled water and food insecurity contributed to armed conflicts in Syria, the Maghreb and the Sahel. The Arab Spring occurred after the spot price for wheat tripled due to reduced wheat supply in Russia and China following extreme climate events. Recent commentary has also highlighted climate-related food and water issues in Afghanistan that have contributed to insecurity in the region over recent decades.

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Australia Faces Critical Climate Security Threats, and the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group (ASLCG) is Here to Help

By Lily Feldman

The Indo-Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change impacts. For its part, Australia is already experiencing record-breaking bushfires and droughts, among other environmental security risks. The country also must deal with the potential of further damage to its import and export markets due to the climate crisis. Despite these threats, Australian government action to tackle climate security risks has lagged. There is still a serious need for a more comprehensive government-backed environmental risk mitigation and response system, and the Australian Security Leadership Climate Group (ASLCG) aims to accelerate this process. 

The deadly Black Summer bushfires in 2019 exposed Australia’s vulnerabilities to climate change. Australia did not have the necessary resources available to combat and reduce the fires, so it had to seek international assistance. The Australian Defence Force also mobilized the most servicemen for domestic relief in its history, utilizing roughly 8,000 personnel. Highly ranked ex-service members of the Australian Defence Force experienced, first-hand, the impacts climate change had on communities, ecosystems, and overall security of their country. ASLCG executive member, and long-time Center for Climate and Security Senior Fellow Army Major Michael Thomas (Retd) expressed his frustration with Australia’s lack of response to the fires, stating:

This is no longer something that happens in a third-world country somewhere or in the future. This is happening here on our doorstep. It impacts everyday Australians.” 

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Bushfire Crisis Shows Australia Needs a Strategic Response to Climate Change

By Michael Thomas, Senior Fellow, Asia-Pacific

This article was first published in The Strategist on Jan 14, 2020

In the 1993 cult classic Groundhog Day, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) posed the question: ‘What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing you did mattered?’ Depressingly, it must surely sum up the collective outlook of the world’s climate scientists for at least the past two decades. That frustration has been compounded lately by the ‘mixed bag’ of last month’s UN climate talks in Madrid, the continued assault on the scientific method by the administration of US President Donald Trump, and rolling climate-related global environmental catastrophes. (more…)

Australia’s Defence Chief: Climate Change a National Security Threat

General Angus CampbellBy Marc Kodack

A recent article published in The Telegraph summarizes the text of a prepared speech by Australia’s Defence Force Chief, General Angus Campbell, which was described as “signed off by all of Defence, including the Chief of the Defence Force, as their official views… on climate change as a national security threat.” The speech was given at an invitation-only event in Australia; thus, it is unclear if the text was presented only as written. In the speech, a reference is made to Australia sending more military personnel to assist with climate-related disasters, both domestic and international, than it had at any one time in Afghanistan to conduct military operations. The speech states that Australia is in “the most natural disaster-prone region in the world” and that “climate change is predicted to make disasters more extreme and more common.” It also warns that the Federal Government’s actions on climate change could “affect relationships with Pacific island nations, who have repeatedly called on Australia to do more to reduce carbon emissions.” In that context, it warns of China filling the gap in leadership left by Australian policy, stating: (more…)

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