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Climate change and security: a wake-up call for Australia

The most recent IPCC report included a chapter on security – the first time this has happened. The report pointed to a range of security threats associated with climate change, including ill-health, food shortages and natural disasters; and increased conflict, displacement and migration.

But it noted that the world, including Australia, is ill-prepared for those threats.

Growing concern

The new security focus for the the IPCC reflects growing interest in climate change and security in the academic and policy worlds. A number of states (from the USA to Germany, Australia and the UK) have now included climate change in national security statements or strategies.

Policy-oriented think tanks have also outlined how climate change multiplies threats — triggering unrest and complicating national security planning.

At the international level, the UN Development Program, like the IPCC report, has focused on the human security effects of climate change. And the UN Environment Program and the Secretary-General have linked climate change to international instability.

This was the focus too of UN Security Council discussions on climate change in 2007 and 2011.

What the latest IPCC report says

In the IPCC report, the emphasis is on the nature of current and future (human) security threats associated with climate change.

In particular, the summary for policy-makers and the chapter on “human security” explicitly state that the world is currently not prepared to deal with the security risks associated with a warming world. The authors stated that there is “'strong evidence’ that climate-related threats to human security are getting "progressively worse”.

According to the report, we are already seeing water and food insecurity, with all aspects of food insecurity set to worsen.

Other “threats” outlined in the report include an increased likelihood of conflict, higher levels of population movement and displacement and damage to infrastructure.

The report suggests that states will need to ensure that these threats are reflected in national security strategies.

For the complete article, please see The Conversation Trust.