09 April 2021
The rapidly emerging crisis on our doorstep
This Strategic Insight report warns that within a decade, as the climate continues to warm, the relatively benign strategic environment in Maritime Southeast Asia - a region of crucial importance to Australia - will begin unravelling. Dr Robert Glasser, Head of ASPI's new Climate and Security Policy Centre, documents the region’s globally unique exposure to climate hazards, and the increasingly significant cascading societal impacts they will trigger.
Dr Glasser notes that hundreds of millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas will not only experience more severe extremes, but also more frequent swings from extreme heat and drought to severe floods. The diminishing time for recovery in between these events will have major consequences for food security, population displacements and resilience.
According to Dr Glasser, 'Any one of the numerous increasing risks identified in the report would be serious cause for concern for Australian policymakers, but the combination of them, emerging effectively simultaneously, suggests that we’re on the cusp of an overlooked, unprecedented and rapidly advancing regional crisis.'
The report presents several policy recommendations for Australia, including the need to greatly expand the Government’s capacity to understand and identify the most likely paths through which disruptive climate events (individually, concurrently, or consecutively) can cause cascading, security-relevant impacts, such as disruptions of critical supply chains, galvanized separatist movements, climate refugees, opportunistic intervention by outside powers, political instability, and conflict.
Dr Glasser also proposes that Australia should identify priority investments to scale-up the capability within Defence, Foreign Affairs, the intelligence agencies, Home Affairs and other key agencies to recognise and respond to emerging regional climate impacts, including by supporting our regional neighbours to build their climate resilience.