The 2009 Defence white paper dismissed climate change as an issue for future generations, judging that the strategic consequences wouldn't be felt before 2030. That's no longer the case.
A new Australian Strategic Policy Institute report I've co-authored with Anthony Press (CEO of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre) and Eliza Garnsey (former ASPI analyst) -- Heavy Weather: Climate and the Australian Defence Force -
- argues the downstream implications of climate change are forcing Defence to become involved in mitigation and response tasks right now. Defence's workload will only increase -- we need a new approach.
Climate change is a change in Defence's operating environment. Just as the ADF changes in response to shifts in economic conditions, technology and demographics, it needs to adapt in response to changes in the physical battlespace. Climate science involves no more uncertainty than other environmental factors in Defence planning. The ADF operates on "warning times", so it needs to understand how environmental changes can affect risk management and prepare accordingly.
Climate change will require Defence to play its part as part of a whole-of-government approach, rather than work in isolation. Tasks range from identifying the threat and taking preventive action to reduce the risk, through to dealing with the consequences.
The ADF will always need to have hard-edged war-fighting capabilities, but it will also have to recognise the increasing requirement to become involved in capacity building, especially in those countries that are already feeling the effect of stresses and where climate change will have its greatest impact.
Increased frequency of inundation due to storm surges and tides with 50cm sea-level rise