By Ben Wilson
The Senate inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security has come to the conclusion that the warming of the climate poses a greater risk to Australia’s security than anything else.
On top of the list is the threat to food and water security. As well as the obvious impacts on Australian society, it raises the risk of regional and global conflict over these precious resources.
The report highlighted that global warming is not just a possible risk, but a reality right now, which has the potential to imperil life on Earth. Australia and the region around us is being affected. The Asia-Pacific is the “most vulnerable” to the security and humanitarian impacts.
Australia is threatened with a heightening of the severity of natural hazards, increasing the spread of infectious diseases, increasing water insecurity and the impact on agriculture.
According to the Climate Council, which made a submission to the inquiry, climate warming is “already contributing to increases in the forced migration of people within and between nations, as well as playing a role in heightening social and political tensions, flowing onto conflict and violence.”
Given this, and the prior recognition of the Australian government of the threat, in the seventh national communication on climate change presented to the United Nations in December, which says “already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate, particularly changes associated with increases in temperature, the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events, extreme fire weather and drought,” why is there so little action?
The report noted that Australia does not have a strategy to deal with the threat.
Research Director for Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration David Spratt, said there was a disconnect between the evidence presented to the inquiry and the recommendations that emerged from it.
Vested interests have been blocking effective action. When the fossil fuel and associated industries are major political donors and have power in the economy, governments resist any movement, and this has been more pronounced in Australia than most other countries.
A consequence is that Australia lags on every front, from embracing alternative energy sources, to investing in the building of a sustainable manufacturing base and overall economy.
But this is not just a problem of the fossil fuel industry. The largest part of it is owned by the banks and other financial institutions, the most prominent of which are major multinational corporations, to a significant extent, operating through the big four in Australia.
Effective action on climate warming involves the will to take on these interests and ensuring that investment is directed to where it is needed.
The problem is so serious that it in addition, it needs to be treated as a national emergency, involving the whole of society, mobilising and taking part in a national effort to make a change.
In the absence of national leadership, this is not happening.