The longest conflict: Australia’s climate security challenge | REPORT | June 2015

UntitledReport launched by Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, former UK Government Climate & Energy Security Envoy, and Admiral Chris Barrie, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force.

CPD has released a report exploring Australia’s preparedness for the coming security impacts of climate change, and examining how our defence force must adapt.

The Longest Conflict draws on extended interviews with senior military planners and security strategists in Australia and from around the world.

It finds that Australia is critically underprepared for a coming climate security crisis bound to have disproportionate impacts in Australia and in our immediate region.

Download the report here: The Longest Conflict

View the press release here: Climate change a national security threat to Australia

The Longest Conflict reveals our closest allies, the United States and United Kingdom, are taking climate security extremely seriously. Yet Australia’s defence establishment has not developed a strategic framework addressing climate security. Nor do we have a robust, whole of government plan for climate change.

This is an unacceptable oversight for a country facing its own particular exposures to extreme weather and climate change, and whose peace and security will be significantly influenced by developments in a climate-changed Indo-Pacific region.

Asia will be the front line of climate change crises. Security and humanitarian risks from climate change in the Indo-Pacific are significantly higher than in other regions of the world.

More frequent extreme weather, climate-related displacement and the compounding effect of climate instability on competition over food, water and energy resources will pose real risks to human security and geopolitical stability.

But if prudent policy continues to be obstructed by fractious climate-change politics, our key military institutions and defence establishment will be unable to prepare effectively for a century-defining risk to our peace and security.

In launching the report, Rear Admiral Morisetti will emphasise that Australia’s 21st-century defence capability will be incomplete without a comprehensive approach to climate security:

“The security environment is changing. The world around us is changing. Australia’s defence strategy and operational plans need to reflect these changes.”

The report outlines vital actions Australia’s defence establishment can take now to manage climate security risks prudently.

As a starting point, the upcoming Defence White Paper must take this challenge seriously by laying out a roadmap for strategic action on climate security.

This should be followed by development of a Climate Security Strategy, an organisational shift to prioritise climate security across the civilian structure and the services, and commitments to enhance the effectiveness and preparedness of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Australia should engage constructively with regional neighbours to address climate security and provide leadership to ensure interoperability among military forces for humanitarian and disaster relief.

The security implications of climate change are known, real and have begun. It is vital we prepare ourselves before a ‘burning crisis’ combining economic, security and environmental impacts exposes Australia’s failure to act.