A recent report by the Climate Council of Australia brings together data which demonstrate that the inaction of the Australia federal government is leading to adverse outcomes both for Australia and the region.
The report includes an insightful review of how climate changes in the past (nowhere near as severe as the one we are currently going through) led to the fall of kingdoms and empires through food insecurity and conflict.
Australia’s inaction in decarbonizing it’s economy has contributed to global warming, which in turn has led to sea level rise. Australia’s near neighbors are low-lying pacific islands, some of the most vulnerable countries in the world. Australia is not listening, and so is losing influence. The pressure of forced migration will be felt first by New Zealand, and then by Australia.
“The Boe Declaration on Regional Security takes a holistic, human-centred approach to security. It reaffirms climate change as the ‘single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific,'” the report notes.
If Australia wishes to remain a trusted and valued member of the Pacific family, it will need to demonstrate that it is taking the region’s #1 security concern seriously. Australia’s actions, particularly in subsidizing fossil fuels — estimated to be $10 per annum — are exacerbating the situation. Australian budgetary policy seems more about recovering from crises — bushfires, floods, etc. — than in preventing them.
Australia only spent approximately 2% of its Covid economic stimulus money on climate solutions. By comparison, Canada spent 74.5% and the UK spent more than 20%.
“Australia is one of the nations most exposed to economic, health and other risks from climate change and is situated in the most vulnerable region…. Using a term coined in the US Department of Defense in 2007, security planners often describe climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ — it has the potential to amplify other drivers of insecurity.”
The map provided in the report clearly shows the dependence of over 3 billion people on the water flowing from decreasing Himalayan glaciers. It discusses the possibility of a war over water between Pakistan and India, which could draw in China, the US, and Australia. It is highly likely that this would disrupt supply lines and lead to economic disruption in Australia.
“International Renewable Energy Agency has identified 3 factors required for a secure renewable energy system: (1) a large renewable energy capacity, (2) adequate sources of rare earths and minerals, and (3) technological innovation (IRENA 2019). Australia has these advantages but is failing to take them.”
(Side note: Evidence is emerging of Australian companies moving towards more value adding in mining and battery manufacture.)
The report lists actions that need to be taken urgently, some which were recommended by a senate committee as far back as 2018. So far, little has been done. Australia is out of step and out of time.
Featured image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory: Rapid Intensification for Typhoon Chanthu