Transparency Essential On Climate Risks
The climate crisis is not a distant, abstract concern. It is here, and poses significant national security threats. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recognised this when he ordered the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) to investigate these threats as a promise before the last election. His government also touted its commitment to an "urgent climate risk assessment" when it notified the United Nations of Australia's stronger 2030 emissions reduction target last year. The report is complete but the commitment isn't translating into transparency.
The PM's refusal to release the climate risk assessment report, or even a sanitised public version of it - as happened with the Defence Strategic Review - raises big red flags. The lack of transparency surrounding such a crucial document only deepens public distrust and feeds into the perception of a cult of secrecy and spin among our politicians. Scott Morrison kept Australians in the dark on lots of things when he was Prime Minister. We expect better from Anthony Albanese.
Transparency is not an arbitrary demand; it's fundamental to democracy and good governance. Informed decision-making requires access to comprehensive and accurate information. When it comes to climate change and its national security implications, the Australian public has a need and a right to know. By withholding information, the Government is denying us as citizens the capacity to understand the magnitude of the threat, to hold it accountable and to prepare and adapt to serious climate risks.
Refusal to release the report contradicts the urgency with which Australia should be addressing climate change. The climate crisis is not a hypothetical future scenario; it is unfolding before our eyes. September 2023 wasn't just the hottest the world ever recorded. It surpassed the previous record for that month by a staggering 0.5 degrees Celsius. When compared to pre-industrial temperatures, we're talking about a 1.8-degree increase. This is a clear indication of a planet in crisis. And it is a direct and major threat to national security. Transparency is an essential step in galvanising the public and policymakers to take the necessary steps to mitigate these threats.
Transparency is less of a risk to national security than ignoring climate change. The consequences of inaction are already far more severe than any discomfort that might come from disclosing classified information. Other nations, including the United States, have released their climate risk assessments, recognising the importance of transparency in addressing this global challenge.
Transparency and national security are not mutually exclusive. While certain aspects of the report may be classified for legitimate reasons, there is absolutely no excuse for withholding the entire document. A declassified version, redacted as necessary to protect sensitive information, should be made public.
When Senators David Pocock and David Shoebridge proposed motions to order the government to produce key documents related to the climate risk assessment, it was disheartening to see the two major parties combine to defeat them.
Prime Minister Albanese has correctly described the climate crisis as "a direct threat to global security." Maintaining secrecy undermines this acknowledgment. It is time for him to change his stance and prioritise transparency. By releasing the climate risk assessment report, he can demonstrate a commitment to Australia's national interests, responsible governance, and addressing the urgent climate crisis. The Prime Minister must put the needs of us and our planet first.