Defence unprepared for climate change: report | Pacific Beat

Defence unprepared for climate change: report

Defence unprepared for climate change: report

Updated 25 March 2013, 10:50 AEDT

A new study from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute argues that the Australian Defence Force is unprepared for a changing climate environment and needs to do more to develop adequate strategies to protect the nation and the region.

The reports cites a range of factors including an increased requirement for domestic disaster response, the likely spread of infectious diseases, and regional instability as potential issues that it says need to be addressed.

Presenter: Michael Brissenden

Speaker: Anthon Bergin, Deputy Director, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The special report titled Heavy Weather, Climate and the Australian Defence Force makes the case that Australia and the region is already feeling the effects of climate change and the Australian Defence Force is already stretched to the limit in its capacity to deal with it.

The 2009 defence white paper dismissed climate change as an issue that didn't need to be addressed until after 2030 but this ASPI report argues that's no longer the case and the new white paper to be delivered this year needs to embrace a new approach.

Anthony Bergin is the deputy director of ASPI and one of the authors of the new report.

ANTHONY BERGIN: Every Christmas now almost by rotation we're seeing the military deployed to floods or bushfires in Australia. The ADF of course have been heavily involved in deploying to regional disasters.

But one of the points that our report makes is that Defence are now going to need to factor in concurrent disasters. While we've been pretty good at dealing with offshore disasters without anything happening on the home front, I think we're now going to see the ADF really stretched in dealing with extreme weather events both within the region and at home.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The report says the Asia Pacific region is the most disaster prone region in the world and many of those disasters are likely to be aggravated by climate change. Climate change, it says, has the potential to generate and exacerbate destabilising conditions that could reshape the regional security environment.

Disease transmission, population displacement, resource wars and the further weakening of fragile states are some of the potential consequences that could result in an increase in the ADF's involvement in regional stabilisation missions.

ANTHONY BERGIN: Climate change is a stressor, it's a threat multiplier that Defence needs to factor in now.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Climate change, the reports says, should be considered alongside all other factors now taken into account in assessing future strategic planning. The report also argues for a permanent climate advisor to be appointed to the Defence Department.

Anthony Bergin believes the last few years of extreme weather events has concentrated the thinking on climate change in the military and that many in Defence now also believe the 2009 white paper position is unsustainable.

ANTHONY BERGIN: There's much greater recognition now in the preparation of the new defence white paper than there was, what, three and a half, four years ago, that climate change cannot be dismissed as tomorrow's problem, that as I say we're seeing many of the impacts of a changing climate now.

Defence are heavily involved in humanitarian disaster relief and those operations will increase as a result of a changing climate.

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