It’s an insidious threat that will damage our security, cost lives and harm our economy — and our children are the ones most at risk. It poses a serious risk right now in poor, less stable countries but is also a threat to rich Western countries. It is already having humanitarian consequences and threatens vastly greater humanitarian risks in the future.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon warned it could “devastate homes, land, and infrastructure” and was a “threat multiplier” for other national security risks. Australia is at real risk from this threat, but has also disproportionately contributed to it, including sending people and money overseas to fight in the name of blind, irrational zeal. It’s a challenge that requires concerted global action, not complacency, one that a country like Australia should be on the forefront of committing resources to fighting. And the United States wants Australia’s support in what is likely to be a long-term fight.

We speak, of course, of climate change, which world leaders gathered to discuss this week at the United Nations. Sadly, our own leader, so eager to be first in line to follow the US back into Iraq, dodged the meeting — how could he do otherwise, given he’s a climate denialist who has dismantled a working, effective and cheap carbon pricing scheme?

Terrorism kills thousands of people a year — almost all of them in developing countries, not in the West. But the economic impacts of climate change will dwarf those of terrorism. As Barack Obama said:

“For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease — there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other … the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

“Nobody gets a pass” on the issue, the US President said.

But Tony Abbott wants a pass. He wants to bludge off the efforts of the rest of the world, let other countries, other economies, other people — most of them poorer than us — carry the burden of addressing climate change. If only some of his enthusiasm for joining in wars could be directed toward a threat of far greater long-term importance to Australians.