Climate & Security

This Environment and Governance research theme examines the intersections between climate change and international security. This includes climate change law and governance in traditional fora such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and new spaces such as the Security Council, regional organisations and civil society. Key projects and outreach efforts are listed below. 

Climate Change & the UN Security Council

In this project, Shirley Scott and Charlotte Ku gather a range of researchers and experts to consider how the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) could assist in addressing the global security challenges brought about by climate change. Contributing authors contemplate how the UNSC could prepare for this role; progressing the debate from whether and why the council should act on climate insecurity, to how? The key outcome of this project is the book, Climate Change and the UN Security Council, which includes analysis of climate migration, proposals for a climate court, peace missions, the EU role, and the attitude of the P5 powers. 

Inquiry into the Implications of Climate Change for Australia’s National Security

This Inquiry was held in 2017 and 2018 by the Australian Parliament’s Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, hearing from key government agencies, stakeholders and experts. Anthony Burke and Shirley Scott authored Submission 51, Avoiding the strategic shock of climate change: An integrated national response, and gave evidence to the committee in Canberra. Their submission and evidence were cited throughout the committee’s final report and influenced several recommendations. UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Climate Change Research Centre, and Stuart Pearson, also made influential submissions

Theory, Ethics & Norms in Climate Security

This project gathers a diverse range of theoretical work that examines climate security as an analytical, ethical, and normative framework. It considers its simultaneously subversive and conservative potentials (for example, to bring human and ecological security perspectives to the fore, on the one hand, or to reinstate problematic securitisations of forced climate migration, on the other) and the ways that climate change complicates state-centric and event-focused approaches to national and international security. 

Shirley Scott has considered the norm of climate security in the Routledge Challenges of Globalisation volume, Norm Antipreneurs and the Politics of Resistance to Global Normative Change. Anthony Burke, Katrina Lee Koo and Matt McDonald devote a chapter of Ethics and Global Security: A Cosmopolitan Approach to the environment, and argue that climate change is one of many structural and globalised sources of insecurity that challenges the paradigm of national security. Cameron Holley has partnered with Clifford Shearing, Cameron Harrington, Amanda Kennedy and Tariro Mutongwizo to analyse the implications of the Anthropocene for the governance of security. Anthony Burke and Rita Parker’s edited volume, Global Insecurity: Futures of Global Chaos and Governance features Mary Pettenger questioning the securitisation of climate change, and Simon Dalby examining the impact of the Anthropocene on global security. 

A Coal Elimination Treaty

Anthony Burke and Stefanie Fishel have published an article in Earth System Governance making an integrated environmental, public health and security case for the adoption of a Coal Elimination Treaty (CET) by 2030. They specify its design principles and propose three negotiation pathways, including a normative model inspired by the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 

Public Engagement & Dialogue

UNSW Canberra has hosted a number of events highlighting the security challenges of climate and environmental change. These include a workshop on “Climate intervention and national security” in partnership with the University of Tasmania and the Australian Forum for Climate Intervention, a public lecture by Gwynne Dyer, and a public forum “Climate change and international security: Meeting the challenge” with Admiral (ret.) Chris Barrie, Col. Ian Cumming, Will Steffen, Shirley Scott, Robyn Eckersley, Anthony Burke and Matt McDonald. 

In January 2017, Anthony Burke published an analysis of the implications of the 2019-20 Australian bushfires for national security, and our alumnus Michael Thomas argued in the ASPI strategist that Australia needs a strategic response to climate change.  

Social Impacts of Citizen Science

In this ongoing project, Dr Coby Calyx is researching the social impacts of citizen science and its role in emergency response and recovery. She is looking into ways to design and sustain citizen science beyond an emergency, particularly for disasters expected to be more frequent or severe due to climate change. This relates to her service on the ACSA Management Committee

A Regional Analysis of the Impacts of COVID-19 on Environmental Defenders in Southeast Asia

Pichamon Yeophantong is leading this small-scale funding agreement (SSFA) project that seeks to understand the pandemic’s impacts on environmental law, regulations and defenders in Southeast Asia. This project is funded by the UN Environment Programme and conducted in collaboration with Not1More.

Global Health in Changing Times

Pichamon Yeophantong is leading this interdisciplinary research project that explores new avenues to enhance global health through a better appreciation of environmental spirituality. This ongoing project is funded by University College London.