• HMAS Adelaide arrives off the coast of Eden under a cloud of smoke. (RAN via Twitter)
    HMAS Adelaide arrives off the coast of Eden under a cloud of smoke. (RAN via Twitter)

The federal government's failure to address climate change is undermining Australia’s national security, a new report from the Climate Council has found.

“Australia’s unwillingness to deal with climate change is already affecting our security, leading to a loss of geopolitical influence, particularly in the Pacific,” said Climate Council spokeswoman Cheryl Durrant, who spent 30 years working in the Department of Defence, most recently as the Head of Defence Preparedness.

‘Rising To The Challenge: Addressing Climate And Security In Our Region’ finds that Australia has fallen well behind the US, UK, Japan and New Zealand in its analysis of climate and security risks.

“Climate change needs to figure prominently in Australia’s security thinking and investment but this is not yet the case. Other nations are rapidly broadening traditional notions of national security in order to address climate security risks, but Australia is being left behind,” said Durrant.

The former US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense and the Secretary General of the International Military Council on Climate & Security, Sherri Goodman, has described the Climate Council report as “ground-breaking” and says we “should take heed of the impending climate disasters awaiting Australia.”

She also said “it is not too late for responsible action by Australian leaders."

“The ingenuity and innovation that has been Australia’s trademark can be mobilized to create a climate-secure future,” Goodman said. “Australia should act with alacrity to address its most pressing climate security risks, both for the sake of its citizens, the Asia-Pacific region, and the future of the world."

The report also found that the Federal Government’s financial support of the fossil fuel industry exacerbates climate change and undermines Australia’s national security.

In 2018, a Senate Inquiry called for a national climate and security threat assessment but this has not occurred.

Climate hazards in Southeast Asia could affect Australia’s security even more than the domestic impacts of climate change, said Robert Glasser, Head of the Climate and Security Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

“In Maritime Southeast Asia, 400 million people live in low lying island states, the majority of them in Indonesia. Sea level rise is happening four times faster than the global average in maritime Southeast Asia. What is currently a 1-in-100 year extreme flooding event will become an annual event within little more than a decade in many parts of the region. This could have profound consequences for Australia," Glasser said.

The Climate Council recommends that Australia should reduce its emissions by 75 per cent (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035. 

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