Can we think in new ways about the existential human security risks driven by the climate crisis?

| July 21, 2019 | Leave a Comment

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Item Link: Access the Resource

Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Author(s): Admiral Chris Barrie, AC RAN Retired

Newspaper: Climate Code Red

Categories: , , ,

Note: This post is the foreword to a policy paper on existential climate and security risks released today by Breakthrough. It is written by Retired Admiral Chris Barrie, who was Chief of the Australian Defence Force from 1998 to 2002.


In 2017-18, the Australian Senate inquired into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security. The Inquiry found that climate change is “a current and existential national security risk”, one that “threatens the premature extinction of Earth- originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development”.

I told the Inquiry that, after nuclear war, human- induced global warming is the greatest threat to human life on the planet. Today’s 7.5 billion human beings are already the most predatory species that ever existed, yet the global population has yet to peak and may reach 10 billion people, with dire implications absent a fundamental change in human behaviour.

This policy paper looks at the existential climate-related security risk through a scenario set thirty years into the future. David Spratt and Ian Dunlop have laid bare the unvarnished truth about the desperate situation humans, and our planet, are in, painting a disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way.

Access the complete article here.

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Arnold Byron

    Admiral Barrie, you are absolutely right on your assessments, including the following excerpts: “We need a social tipping point that flips our thinking before we reach a tipping point in the climate system.” and “A doomsday future is not inevitable! But without immediate drastic action our prospects are poor. We must act collectively. We need strong, determined leadership in government, in business and in our communities to ensure a sustainable future for humankind.”

    I’m not certain what tipping points you are thinking of. I agree that we must act collectively. I hope you will agree with me that we need some kind of a global office that will have been put in place by the nations acting together. My idea of a global office is a governmental entity but is one that doesn’t have governmental authority such as a nation might have. It can be enabled with the help of the nations and still be given the authority to solve the crises of overpopulation, global warming and the hazards posed by atomic energy and plastics degradation while benefiting all nations appropriately.

    Please consider these examples. A school board is the authority for an office of superintendent of schools. A city council is the authority for a city mayor. A legislature is the authority for a state or provincial governor. A parliament or congress is the authority for a prime minister or president. An association of nations is the authority for a global office. Oh! I’m sorry! We don’t have a global office or an association of nations. We need to consider a global office. How else will we get fair, unbiased, effective coordination with regard to the work that needs to be done to solve the crises facing humanity?

    It would be nice if the United Nations could be our association of nations but it has the Security Council veto that will skew the power to the rich countries. We actually need two associations. The United Nations to work at helping people and maintaining peace; and our association of nations to setup a global office and work at solutions.

    An association of nations will not happen by magic. I would suggest that the association of nations be formulated by an association of colleges and universities worldwide. Colleges and universities have the expertise to put together an association of colleges and universities; which can then claim the authority to apply their expertise to put together the legal and cultural elements needed for the nations to accept and ratify an association of nations. With ratification the association of nations will have the authority to create a global office and give that office the authority to work on the global crises. The association of colleges and universities will always be on hand to give guidance, expertise and peaceful intention to the association of nations and to the operations of the global office.

    No single nation can do it all by itself. Worse yet, the nations will not work together unless they have a focal point i.e., a global office where they can come together cooperatively. The problems that humanity is facing are global in scope. I have written my ideas under the name, A Plan for the Nations. Here are a couple of links to my writings.
    https://mahb.stanford.edu/?s=A+Plan+for+the+Nations
    https://www.ofpopulationandpollution.com/uncategorized/46/

  • Greeley Miklashek

    Apparently our good Admiral has not studied the literature on crowded animals. We are seeing a sequence of social breakdown totally predicted in over 100 crowded animal researches over the past 70 years. An excellent intro is John B. Calhoun’s iconic 1962 Sci Am (Feb) article describing one of his many “mouse utopia” experiments, which predicts the sequence of social collapse in an overpopulated group of mice and, as all of the other similar studies, inevitably results in extinction of the entire group down to the last mouse left standing.

    Salient features of crowding are an over abundance of unattached males who are hyper aggressive, depose alpha males guarding brooding females, and cause harassed mothers to abandon their helpless pups to die. Homosexual behavior becomes commonplace. Stress hormone levels (cortisol) go through the roof and turn off immune and reproductive functions resulting in sterility and rampant infections. A group of “Beautiful People” set themselves apart from the melee and avoid violence all together as they endlessly preen.

    The argument still rages in the field as to whether the disruption of mothering and consequent deaths of pups or the stress hormone driven cessation of successful reproduction are the last straws of population collapse, but why not both have a role? If the good Admiral is unable to see parallels here with more recent turmoil in our crowded big cities and “hurry-up” culture in general, he needs a stronger spy-glass before the ship of state hits a reef and sinks out of sight.

    BTW, need I point out that climate change is the direct result of too many humans using too many natural resources and producing too much pollution? I certainly hope not.

    Stress R Us