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Australia burying ‘head in the sand’ on security risks of climate change, former defence official says

Australia burying ‘head in the sand’ on security risks of climate change, former defence official says

Warning comes as Climate Council report finds Australia will not have ‘lasting national security’ without addressing climate crisis

Australia has its “head in the sand” regarding the national security implications of climate change and should follow the US in spelling out the risks, a former senior Australian defence official says.

Australia’s “strategic weakness” on climate policy is also making it harder for the country to be seen as a preferred partner with Pacific Island countries, according to Cheryl Durrant, the defence department’s former head of preparedness.

The comments coincide with the release of a new report by the Climate Council that argues Australia has “fallen well behind the US, UK, Japan, New Zealand and other peers in analysis of climate and security risks”.

The US president, Joe Biden, has ordered a review of the security implications of climate change. His defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, has said climate change is “making the world more unsafe and we need to act”.

Austin – who will meet with his Australian counterpart, Peter Dutton, in Washington for the Ausmin talks on Thursday – said in April that no nation could find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis.

Echoing that language, the Climate Council report says climate change “increases the risk of conflict and Australia will not find lasting national security without adequately addressing it”.

“Failure to rise to the challenge of climate and security is already leading to a loss of geopolitical influence for Australia, particularly in the Pacific,” says the report, titled Rising to the Challenge: Addressing Climate and Security in our Region.

The report says water has long been a contested resource in Asia and climate change is worsening the situation.
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