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The first responsibility of a government is to safeguard the people and their future well-being. The ability to do this is threatened by climate change, whose accelerating impacts will also drive political instability and conflict, posing large negative consequences to human society which may never be undone. This report looks at climate change and conflict issues through the lens of sensible risk-management to draw new conclusions about the challenge we now face.
• From tropical coral reefs to the polar ice sheets, global warming is already dangerous. The world is perilously close to, or passed, tipping points which will create major changes in global climate systems.
• The world now faces existential climate-change risks which may result in “outright chaos” and an end to human civilisation as we know it.
• These risks are either not understood or wilfully ignored across the public and private sectors, with very few exceptions.
• Global warming will drive increasingly severe humanitarian crises, forced migration, political instability and conflict. The Asia–Pacific region, including Australia, is considered to be “Disaster Alley” where some of the worst impacts will be experienced.
• Building more resilient communities in the most vulnerable nations by high-level financial commitments and development assistance can help protect peoples in climate hotspots and zones of potential instability and conflict.
• Australia’s political, bureaucratic and corporate leaders are abrogating their fiduciary responsibilities to safeguard the people and their future well-being. They are ill-prepared for the real risks of climate change at home and in the region.
• The Australian government must ensure Australian Defence Force and emergency services preparedness, mission and operational resilience, and capacity for humanitarian aid and disaster relief, across the full range of projected climate change scenarios.
• It is essential to now strongly advocate a global climate emergency response, and to build a national leadership group outside conventional politics to design and implement emergency decarbonisation of the Australian economy. This would adopt all available safe solutions using sound, existential risk-management practices.