Climate change is one of Australia's biggest national security risks

iStockThe Great Barrier Reef
  • Climate change poses a “current and existential national security risk” to Australia, according to a Senate inquiry.
  • The Senate report indicated that the Asia-Pacific region is “most vulnerable” to risks associated with climate change, that could increase the potential for conflict.
  • Australia is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the developed world.

Climate change poses a “current and existential national security risk” to Australia, according to a Senate inquiry report released Thursday.

The report, compiled by the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, reviewed the implications of climate change on Australia’s national security and the insights are startling.

Sherri Goodman, a climate security expert and a former deputy undersecretary of defence in the Clinton administration, told the committee that climate change poses a “direct threat to the national security of Australia,” and also creates a “global existential risk.”

“We know that the storms that you’ve been experiencing in your part of the world [Australia] now are also attributable, in part, to accelerated climate risks. The problem also is not a distant one in the future but it’s now,” Goodman said.

Goodman also told the committee that climate change is a “threat multiplier” and aggravates existing security challenges.

Government and defence officials told the committee that security challenges, including geopolitical, socioeconomic, water, energy, food and health challenges could increase the potential for conflict. Australia’s former defence force chief Admiral Chris Barrie submitted his assessment to the committee, predicting that of all seven continents, Australia is most likely to be harmed by the effects of climate change.

Additionally, the report indicated that countries within the Asia-Pacific region is “most vulnerable” to these risks and faced “existential threat.” Researchers from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said that extreme weather brought on by climate change may contribute “to population displacement, conflict over resources, food and water shortages, further environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile states.”

The report also recommended the Australian government increase foreign aid to help mitigate climate change in the Asia-Pacific region and develop a comprehensive plan for a coordinated response to climate change risks.

Climate change is priority in the Pacific

Great barrier reefBrian Kinney/Shutterstock

Climate change has been priority for Australia, as it among the countries most vulnerable to climate change in the developed world.

Australia has taken steps to limit its carbon emission, and pledged in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to slash emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030. Still, Australia’s recent emissions report revealed that while the country was on track to cut its emissions, the country’s carbon pollution has risen in each of the past five years.

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to urge immediate action to combat climate change, saying: “Numerous states in the Pacific are at direct risk of disappearing completely in only a few years if we do not take action.”

Other Pacific players are also taking steps to ensure climate change does not threaten the region.

New Zealand on Friday announced it would invest millions into expanding foreign aid in the Pacific to help fortify infrastructure of Pacific nations and to prevent displacement of people due to climate change.

The country also touted the idea of a “climate-change visa” as a way to deal with potential mass migration due to climate changes in the Pacific region.

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