ASPI Decades: Covering Climate Change


ASPI celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. This series reviews the work of ASPI since its inception in August 2001.

For a think tank dedicated to strategy, the need to fight climate change naturally refers to the fields of defense and national security.

The first work of ASPI on climate change was carried out by Anthony Bergin upon his arrival at the institute in 2006.

Bergin had been director of the Australian Defense Studies Center at the Defense Force Academy (1991-2003), and his writings on climate were based on his study of ocean, South Pacific and Antarctic politics.

Bergin paired his research on terrorism with his study of climate change. His responses to the two scourges rhymed: the need for Australia to ‘harden up’ and strengthen its resilience, for the Australian people to clearly understand the political challenges and for all branches of government to reflect on leadership lines, responsibilities. and coordinated responses.

Bergin sought answers that brought together Australian governments, police, emergency services, insurers and businesses. A central thought running through his writings was the impact of climate change on the role and structure of the Australian military.

In 2007, Bergin and Jacob Townsend published A change of climate for the Australian Defense Force discuss how the ADF should rebalance its mix of missions and create new types of missions. The task was to look at two to three decades to examine the implications for strategy, force structure, capabilities and how the military uses energy.

ADF’s missions would combine disaster relief, development assistance and statebuilding, Bergin and Townsend wrote. The biggest challenge would be to change Defense behaviors and systems without reducing the operational capacity of the ADF.

Relief missions would require the ability to move and land large amounts of supplies. The Navy may need more shallow draft ships to land in disaster areas and heavy lift helicopters for ship-to-shore transport, or even hovercraft:

For the ADF, the rapid response to disasters may require greater surge capacity, greater logistical capacity and the maintenance of higher preparedness states. Additional resources would be required, while extreme weather conditions will add complexity to military missions and maintenance schedules.

Over the next decade, Bergin called the Navy’s largest ships “absolute game-changers”, the Canberra-class helicopter landing docks, which were longer than the previous aircraft carrier. Ships could respond to disasters in Australia as well as in the region:

LHDs will focus on regional military support, including disaster relief (they can be deployed as floating hospitals and command and control centers); evacuation missions (such as a raid from the sea to recover hostages); and peacekeeping. They will also play a key role in extreme natural disasters in the home.

At the 2007 ASPI Global Forces Conference, Brahma Chellaney argued that beyond the environment or the economy lies a new topic: ‘climate security’, expressing the disturbing link between global warming climate and international security.

Climate change would be a “threat multiplier,” Chellaney said, increasing the risk of water wars as different weather conditions impinge on military operations. The most serious effects of climate change would occur where states are poor or fragile:

Intra-state and interstate crises linked to water and food shortages, flooding of low-lying areas or recurrent droughts, hurricanes or floods can lead to large displacements of citizens and mass migration, in addition to exacerbating the ethnic or economic divisions in societies. It is therefore important to consider the risks of global warming, including potential situations in which climate variations could be a catalyst for conflict within or between states.

ASPI has explored the political implications of scientific findings and the growing demands of national security, and Bergin has produced or co-authored a series of studies.

Australian Homeland Security: The Role of Defense: The ADF focused primarily on warfare, but a change or broadening of military culture was needed. Defense expectations for internal security had increased: “The government is attracted to the use of ADF because it projects force. Potential roles included maritime surveillance, security of special events and protection of mass gatherings, communications and community liaison, and protection of critical infrastructure.

A national security office: Australia needed a national security strategy, created and managed by an independent entity reporting directly to the Prime Minister, much like the Office of National Assessments.

Take a punch focused on resilience, robustness and alternative supply options as responses to terrorism and climate-related disasters, thereby strengthening the capacity to cope with large-scale catastrophic events. Disaster response has emerged as a “central mission” for the ADF, influencing decisions about equipment and the military base around Australia.

The cops and the climate: Australia’s eight police forces would be the “green thin line” in the face of environmental disasters and refugees, enforcing emissions trading systems and protecting precious water.

All in one working day: business and disaster management in Australia: There would be a dollar in it, but the companies are happy to help. And they are already in place.

Rudd’s army, a deployable civilian capability for Australia: In 2009, the Labor government envisioned a deployable civilian capacity for the rapid use of civilian experts in international disaster relief, stabilization and post-conflict reconstruction. Bergin and Bob Breen recommended an emergency response registry (medical teams, engineers, logisticians, sanitation experts, and communications technicians) and a registry monitoring the amount and location of commercial emergency aid stocks.

Australia hardening argued that climate change disasters “would become larger, more complex, occur simultaneously and in areas that had never experienced natural hazards before or at the same intensity or frequency”. The nation needed to strengthen its critical infrastructure just as it should toughen the preparedness and coordination of its emergency response system.

In 2010, Here to help explored the growing role of Defense in disaster management. Extreme weather events would increase the vulnerability of growing populations in coastal developments and in areas prone to bushfires. The ADF would be called upon due to the continued decline in the number of volunteers and emergency service personnel per capita and “growing community and political expectations to use military resources to support whole-of-government efforts to combat the threats. disasters ”.

Funding Australia’s Disaster Resilience asked fundamental questions about the role of private insurance and government in reducing future losses from natural disasters: “We need a new approach to financing the costs of natural disasters and encouraging people living in natural disasters. high-risk areas to be better prepared. The reality is that all Australian taxpayers will have to bear a share of this cost. ‘

In 2013, Heavy weather said ADF would inevitably be involved in mitigation and response tasks. Seeking to deflect politics from skepticism or denial, the report argued that this was not from a ‘green’ perspective, but that it was about the need to prepare the Australian military. to deal with disruptive forces. An interagency group is expected to examine “climate event scenarios for Australia and the Asia-Pacific region” and the implications for national resilience and regional stability. The ADF chief is expected to have a climate adviser and should work with Five Eyes allies (Canada, New Zealand, UK and US) to plan military responses to extreme weather events.

In 2014,Working Together: A Disaster Resilience Roadmap for Australia reported that natural disasters cost the Australian economy $ 6.3 billion annually and that figure is expected to rise to $ 23 billion by 2050. local communities as well as state and federal agencies.

As the strategy was always to react to change, the discussion of climate security had become part of the response to climate change.

From the book on the first 20 years of the institute: An informed and independent voice: ASPI, 2001-2021.

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