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Source: The Age,
Author: Deborah Snow
Date: 25 March, 2013

Escalating climate change will have an impact on every aspect of Australian Defence Force operations, a report warns, with rising natural disasters and changes to the “physical battle space” affecting Defence’s mission, facilities and strategic environment.

The ADF will have to permanently abandon the idea of Christmas as a time of relaxation and get used to a world where increased floods, fires, storms and cyclones keep it busy throughout summer. And it will have to review defence equipment and infrastructure to ensure they can withstand higher temperatures and wilder weather.

The warnings are spelt out in a paper from the Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Heavy Weather: Climate and the Australian Defence Force, released on Monday.

The report says the assessment of the Rudd government’s 2009 Defence white paper that climate change would be an issue mainly for future generations is wrong, and that the challenges are looming “right now.”

Unlike the US and Britain, where military chiefs have appointed high-ranking climate change envoys, there has been “little interest” in climate change in the ADF or the defence department, the report states.

But the authors, led by strategic analyst Anthony Bergin and head of the Antarctic Climate Research Centre Tony Press, say the Chief of the Defence Force should appoint a climate change adviser.

The report says Defence’s operating environment will be shaped increasingly by climate change-driven events. Food, water and energy security will be affected, especially along the low-lying river deltas in Asia and on islands vulnerable to sea level rise.

Within Australia, prolonged periods of higher temperatures, drought, flood and fire will trigger more demands for disaster relief at home even as demands for regional assistance increase.

“The ADF should start planning for responding to scenarios such as a devastating bushfire at home at the same time that a storm surge hits the Pacific,” the report says.

Drawing on broad scientic data, the authors base their projections on expected global average temperature rises of between 2.4 and 6.4 degrees by the end of the century. They say Darwin, which now averages 11 days a year with temperatures over 35, could have as many as 230 days such days a year by 2070.

Military planners will have to “climate-proof” facilities and equipment. Coastal infrastructure will also be at risk.

The report calls on the ADF to make military assets available for climate change monitoring and to shift away from an “energy intensive culture”, saying Defence now consumes “70 per cent of the Australian government’s energy use”.

Read article in The Age