Australian Defence Force warns climate will stretch armed forces

Harry Lye 26 September 2019 (Last Updated September 26th, 2019 12:40)

The Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) military capability could be strained by the demands of response to climate change, according to a speech prepared for General Angus Campbell.

Australian Defence Force warns climate will stretch armed forces
Reviewing troops being farewelled during a parade held at Robertson Barracks. Credit: © Commonwealth of Australia 2019.

The Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) military capability could be strained by the demands of response to climate change, according to a speech prepared for General Angus Campbell.

The speech highlighted how the ADF was increasingly having to devote money and personnel to deal with natural disasters.

A section of the speech reads: “Australia sent around 1,000 troops to support Operation Fiji Assist… about 1,600 ADF personnel assisted after Cyclone Debbie hit Queensland and… 3,000 troops helped North Queensland clean up after the floods.

“At the height of our involvement, we had about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan.”

Campbell gave the speech at a private event and it is unclear how closely he closely he followed the prepared statements that were released. The speech argued that increasingly being forced to deal with natural disasters could mean that in the event of conflict the ADF would not have enough forces to cover all its needs.

It adds: “The number of troops deployed on disaster relief missions can, at times, be a significant commitment for defence.

“Deploying troops on numerous disaster relief missions, at the same time, may stretch our capability and capacity.

ABC Australia reported that climate change may also lead the ADF into unforeseen conflicts, with the speech noting how a drought in the Middle East “added enormous pressure” to Syria in the run-up to the country’s ongoing civil war.

The speech said: “Defence may also be increasingly called upon to support stabilisation, governance or peace-keeping activities.” As countries’ climates change and experience natural disasters armed forces may be called in more often to help with support efforts.

Last year the Australian Government signing a declaration recognising the threat of climate change to the Pacific region.

Campbell gave the speech in June with the details of the threat of climate change being released under the freedom of information act.

At the time reports said Campbell spoke of the issues outlined in the newly released speech and the threat of China taking advantage of climate change to exert more control in the region.