Climate change, security, and the Australian bushfires

The Interpreter

By Matt McDonald, 


Scientists have long argued that climate change will contribute to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters throughout the world. More directly, the scientific community has argued that for Australia, climate change means a significant increase in the occurrence and size of bushfires. 


Recognising the security implications of climate change means long-term preparedness and planning to manage its effects – including in the form of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions for the ADF – and mitigation action across all of government and society to minimise the threat itself. This is the international model, and its embrace by a range of states suggests momentum is building behind comprehensive approaches to climate security. But like its climate policy more broadly, Australia lags far behind.


For Australians, the threat is more direct and immediate. It is in the form of large-scale disasters, rising sea levels, reduced rainfall, and the devastating effects on our way of life that a changed climate promises. This suggests the possibility that if Australian policymakers ultimately acknowledge the threat posed by climate change, it may encourage progressive policy aimed at addressing the threat itself and the rights and needs of the most vulnerable, including our flora and fauna. If any silver lining can come from the catastrophic bushfires, that – and an associated end to the toxic politics of climate change in Australia – might be it.

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