Environmental Security

The Environmental Security program focuses on the rising salience of environmental challenges to political stability, economic prosperity and survival with a particular focus on the Asia Pacific region. Key themes include the security implications of environmental decline, food, water and energy scarcity and climate change.

Members: Curson, Wesley, Wainwright, Connolly

Energy and Security in East Asia: Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Dilemmas

The purpose of this project is to provide a conceptual and empirical assessment of the security implications for East Asia of energy resource scarcity. At the outset, if the term 'security' is to retain any analytical value, it is important to distinguish between an energy challenge and an 'energy security' challenge. To the extent that the economic wellbeing of a state and its people depends upon energy resources, it is useful to consider at what point a reduction in national prosperity becomes a threat to societal functioning and national survival. As very few countries are energy self-sufficient, the pursuit of energy security necessarily traverses international politics. In the context of East Asia, a region in which economic growth is increasingly driving hunger for energy resources, there at least two dimensions of international politics worthy of analysis. The first is the prospect for regional competition or cooperation in the pursuit of fossil fuel supplies, and the concomitant potential for increased strategic rivalry and military conflict. Many East Asian countries, for example, have a strong interest in the security of tankers passing through the Malacca Strait and in contested claims over offshore oil and gas resources in the South China Sea. The second dimension is the dilemma that expanding reliance on nuclear energy, as a supplement or alternative to fossil fuels, may pose a proliferation risk and possibly lead to nuclear war. Australia's domestic debate over nuclear energy and exports is relevant to this international dynamic, as are the ongoing diplomatic efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

Climate Change and International Security

The likely speed and magnitude of climate change in the 21st century will be unprecedented in human experience, posing daunting challenges of adaptation and mitigation for all life forms on the planet. This project continues to explore the security implications of climate change, particularly in developing Asia and the Pacific.

The project also considers the wide-ranging impacts of climate change on the region's food production, energy and health systems, and its potential to trigger extreme weather events, short-term disease spikes and destabilising unregulated population movements. It explores economic and social costs of mitigation, including reduced rates of growth, depressed incomes and limitations on the ability of developing states to meet the rising aspirations of their people. Finally, the project looks at the intersection of climate change with other regional security challenges such as terrorism, pandemic disease, and pre-existing ethnic and social tensions, tracing linkages between these phenomena and how they contribute to and magnify the effects of the other.