Australia’s military has warned that global warming could create failed states across the Pacific as sea levels rise and heighten the risk of conflict over resources, according to a report.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) analysis found the military could be called on to undertake more security, disaster relief and reconstruction missions as a result of climate change, the Sydney Morning Herald said.
“Environmental stress, caused by both climate change and a range of other factors, will act as a threat multiplier in fragile states around the world, increasing the chances of state failure,” the analysis said.
“This is likely to increase demands for the ADF to be deployed on additional stabilisation, post-conflict reconstruction and disaster relief operations in the future.”
The analysis, a summary of which was obtained by the paper using freedom of information laws, also noted the possibility of a serious conflict over the undersea oil and gas deposits of the Arctic as shrinking icecaps make these more accessible.
“Climate change is unlikely to increase the risk of major conflict, although there is one exception,” it said.
“The Arctic is melting, potentially making the extraction of undersea energy deposits commercially viable. Conflict is a remote possibility if these disputes are not resolved peacefully.”
The analysis, completed in November 2007, found that Australia could face increased illegal migration and fishing as Pacific islands succumbed to rising sea levels and climate change impacted on fishing grounds.
“From a defence planning perspective, we don’t know how quickly these changes will occur, exactly what their impact will be, or how states and societies will react,” it said.
“Nevertheless, climate change may affect security by increasing stress on fragile states, state and societal competition for resources, environmental threats to ADF infrastructure and increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.”
The military released a summary of the analysis but refused to hand over the full 12-page report, saying to do so could damage Australia’s defence capability and international relations, the Herald said.
The Australian Defence Force had no immediate comment on the report.