No denying this: Climate change classified as an official threat to national security

Climate change is a bigger risk to Australia's security than Islamic terrorism, according to Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo.

Climate change is a bigger risk to Australia's security than Islamic terrorism, according to Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo.

Hot on the heels of the Reserve Bank unequivocally calling out the financial danger of climate change, the head of the Home Affairs Department has listed it as a threat to national security. 

In a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute yesterday subsequently published in The Mandarin, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo named seven “gathering storms” for national security in the 2020s.

Within the fifth of these storms, Mr Pezzullo said a changing climate would have to be thought of “as a systemic risk factor”.

The context of his warning was that “the world’s ungoverned and dangerous territories” and the disputes fought across them would continue to generate the mass displacement of peoples, as also would poverty, water and resource scarcity, hunger and a changing climate.

“Fragile or non-existent state sovereignty and control over territory co-exists with the interrelated challenges of terrorism, insurgency and the mass movement of people who are seeking protection from violence and conflict. We treat these problems separately at our peril.”

Mr Pezzullo ranked the storms by their importance and likelihood. Extremist Islamist terrorism and the globalisation of serious organised crime were ranked six and seven – below that fifth storm. 

It would not be lost on those in or outside Scott Morrison’s “Canberra bubble” that while the government headlines the terrorism threat, the head of the government’s national security umbrella department ranks it only sixth in importance and below climate change, which the government can’t manage to credibly address. 

At another sort of extreme, the obvious suspects, primarily in Murdoch-controlled media, dismiss climate change but never miss a chance to warn about the smaller risk of Islamist terrorism.

Mr Pezzullo might have had that in mind when introducing his list.

“This is a framework for thinking about risk,” he said. “It is not a list of predictions. Nor is it a gratuitously drawn ‘dark view’ of the world, designed to frighten children, readers of this city’s newspaper, or the subscribers of certain commentary blogs.”

Mr Pezzullo’s top four storms, in order, were:

  • The prospect of a Great Powers war
  • The employment of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons outside a Great Powers war
  • Cyberattack 
  • Deliberate subversion of our democratic institutions and social cohesion

PS: It has been bemusing to read the odd climate denialist fulminate about the RBA belatedly following APRA in warning about the financial dangers inherent in not dealing with climate change. 

One of APRA’s responsibilities is the insurance industry. I’ve worked at quite a few insurance conferences of one sort or another, and you don’t meet any climate denialists there.

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