Climate security

ABC 7:30’s four-part special on the climate emergency, ‘Part 2: How climate change will affect our weather into the future’ featured 
exclusive interviews with Australia Security Leaders Climate Group‘s Chris Barrie and Cheryl Durrant.

We’ve seen the military being called in to help on the frontlines of recent bush fire and flooding catastrophes in Australia. And now, after decades of silence on the topic of climate, we are also finally beginning to see military leaders and security experts entering the public arena to help inform the public about which kind of severe security threat the escalating climate emergency represents.

Similar to the significance of our courts beginning to wake up to their duty and role in society to protect citizens against crime and insecurity, the clear language coming from military leaders is an important storychanger in the race to raise sufficent awareness in the general public to create the required political change and action before it is too late.

In Australia, the newly formed Australia Security Leaders Climate Group is a non-partisan network of Australian security and policy professionals, including Admiral Chris Barrie AC, former Chief of the Defence Force, working to “reframe Australia’s climate narrative” and “making climate an immidiate security priority”.

The World Climate and Security Report 2021, released by the International Military Council on Climate and Security, looks at the threats posed by the convergence of climate change with other global risks. The report reiterates that climate change presents a clear and present danger to our collective security. Climate change is already harmfully impacting security environments, infrastructure, institutions, lives and livelihoods.

“A growing number of world leaders, including US President Biden, are recognising that climate change is an existential security threat and prioritising action on climate and security. However, in our region we have yet to come to terms with climate security risks. Australia is being left behind our closest ally and European nations,” said former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie:

“The report underlines the need for countries around the world to immediately prioritise the security risks posed by climate change and urgently take action to mitigate against and address these risks. As former Australian defence and security leaders, we call on the Australian Government to commit to an urgent and comprehensive Whole-of-Nation Climate and Security Risk Assessment as a first step towards ensuring our nation can address the security risks posed by climate change with clear eyes and calm minds.”

→ SBS News – 8 June 2021:
Australia’s bushfires highlighted in new global report on the intensifying threat of climate change
“A new report by former defence and security leaders suggests climate change presents a clear and present danger to the world’s collective security.”

In Canada, Climate Solutions Advancement Network (ClimateSAN) hosted a conference on 18-19 May 2021, where they brought together leading security experts for a serious and nuanced discussion about the Impacts of Climate Change on Human Security: What Can Be Done?.   

To view a summary along with links to related information, go to the Conference Summary and Video Recordings.

The impacts of climate change on human security are already considerable and are expected to grow substantially. Military and intelligence experts are uniquely positioned to speak out about security issues caused by climate change, which can help build strong support for action on a sufficiently large scale. As Michael Klare explains in this article, they can bridge the gap between believers and doubters on climate change.

No one is asking for a military coup or marshall laws. But we stress that it is about time for the military to make better use of its very powerful and well-respected voice to convince both senior decision-makers and media influencers as well as the ordinary climate-doubting bloke in the suburb that the climate emergency is a serious threat to our safety and security and that consequently we need get into real action mode not tomorrow, but now.

In the United States, army commanders and security expert speaking at American president Joe Biden’s climate summit made strong statements about the existential threat that the climate emergency is as they were addressing the world’s decisionmakers as a whole. Watch the speech of the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haynes, who is an American lawyer and senior government official currently serving as the Director of National Intelligence in the Biden administration

In Europe, NATO is on board as well. Here’s a link that will take you to NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg‘s speech about the contribution of this military alliance.

→ The Washington Post:
Intelligence forecast sees a post-coronavirus world upended by climate change and splintering societies
“U.S. intelligence officials have little comfort to offer a pandemic-weary planet about where the world is heading in the next 20 years. Short answer: It looks pretty bleak.”

“Climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to human and national security and force states to make hard choices and tradeoffs. The burdens will be unevenly distributed, heightening competition, contributing to instability, straining military readiness, and encouraging political movements.”

→ The National Intelligence Council – March 2021:
Global Trends 2040 – A more contested world

At the Canadian conference ‘Impacts of Climate Change on Human Security’, experts provided a vivid and honest picture of what we can expect life to be like if we don’t bridge the gap between climate change believers and doubters to enable sustained action on this issue at a sufficiently large-scale.  

Speakers at the conference included:

· General (Ret) Tom Middendorp, Chair, International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).

· Hon. Sherri Goodman, Secretary-General, International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).

· Colonel Mark Read, Head of Dept of Geography and Environmental Engineering, US Military Academy at West Point.

· Erin Sikorsky, Director, International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) and Deputy Director, Center for Climate and Security.

· Hon. John Conger, Director, Center for Climate and Security & Council member, IMCCS.

· Michael Ruehle, Head of Hybrid Challenges and Energy Security Section of the Emerging Security Challenges Division of NATO HQ.

· Peter Hammerschmidt, ADM Minister (Policy), Canadian Department of National Defence.

· Mr. James Bezan, MP, Conservative Shadow Minister for National Defence and the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence.

· James Grabert, Director, Sustainable Development Mechanisms, United Nations Climate Change Secretariat.

· Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors.

To make it easy to quickly view a presentation by a particular speaker, separate web-pages have been created for each session that include links to the start times of each speaker.  For an example, click on the image below or visit this link: CSSF Keynote Conference Session.

You may find the presentation by Professor Michael Klare to be particularly interesting.  He spoke about how security experts can help “bridge the gap between believers and doubters” on the need for large-scale action on climate change.  To view his presentation, click here.

Climate Solutions Advancement Network in Toronto welcome everyone who is concerned about climate change to join them in building broad-based support for large-scale action on this issue.  To inform people about how they can help, they created a “call to action” page: Current Climate Warming Trend and Call to Action.

Attenborough documentary
David Attenborough’s very poignant new documentary called Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet premiered on Netflix on 4 June 2021. This documentary makes a strong case for very large-scale action on climate change but to build broad-based support needed to achieve this level of action on a sustained basis, we also need to engage the doubters on this issue – and this is where the military and intelligence experts can help. Their analysis of the current and future impacts of climate change on human security can engage many doubters on the need for action.

→ CTV News – 2 June 2021:
Climate change toll on Canadians’ health to cost hundreds of billions of dollars: report