Geoffrey Baker speculates today in the Fin Review (not online) that the PM’s request for an ONA report on the security implications of global warming coincides pretty neatly with Rupert Murdoch’s green light on global warming. But Crikey understands that the idea for a paper on the security implications of climate change came up at a high-level meeting around a year ago.

Maybe the government was taking its cue from Washington — a secret Pentagon report on the global security implications of climate change that was leaked back in February 2004 made for some pretty scary reading. The London Observer obtained a copy of the Pentagon report that painted Biblical scenes of global catastrophe costing millions of lives, with “nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting” that could erupt across the world and “bring the planet to the edge of anarchy.”

The Pentagon report warned that global warming was a far greater risk than terrorism, advised that climate change should be considered “immediately” as a top political and military issue and concluded: “Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life … Once again, warfare would define human life.” Among the catalogue of unbelievable predictions was that “catastrophic” shortages of portable water and energy will lead to widespread war by 2020.

So what would an ONA report on the security implications of global warming for Australia look like? Clive Hamilton of The Australia Institute told Crikey that “the most startling claim of the Pentagon report for Australia was that we, along with the United States, could find ourselves building ‘defensive fortresses’ around our country to protect our resources from desperate outsiders and aggressive states created by rapid and unpredictable climate change.”

The Pentagon report also “raised the issue of food security and the implications for countries like Australia if crops persistently fail in developing countries leading to famine and mass migration,” says Hamilton.

And today’s release of the report Australia Responds: Helping our Neighbours Fight Climate Change also offers a glimpse of what could be in store for us – it argues that rising sea levels caused by global warming could force the mass exodus of millions of Pacific Islanders as “environmental refugees”.

The scenario mirrors last week’s World Bank report Not If But When which warned that climate change will have a huge impact on Pacific islands. Since 2001, citizens of Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu have been able to enter New Zealand as environmental refugees displaced by climate change but that’s a mere trickle compared to the predicted deluge of displaced people that Australia is set to face if the Pentagon predictions are anything to go by.

 

Peter Fray

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