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Warning Issued Over Pacific Climate Instability

November 4, 2010

Australia’s military forces could be deployed to the Pacific more often and on bigger missions as small island states become progressively more unstable due to climate change, warned the country’s military chief.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been deployed to Samoa to assist with the relief operation after a destructive tsunami killed 143 people. The military has also been sent to the Solomon Islands and East Timor in recent years to enforce law and order there.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said operations like these would probably be more frequent in the future, according to The Age newspaper on Wednesday.

“It is highly likely the ADF will be engaged in disaster relief and stabilization operations in the south Pacific into the future,” the paper reported Houston as saying at a lecture last week at the University of Canberra.

“With the effects of climate change compounding existing pressures, future operations will be more frequent and more intense than those currently underway in East Timor and the Solomon Islands,” he reportedly said.

Climate changes will most likely bring rising sea levels that would also worsen social structure on the islands in the Pacific, many of which are poor and under-developed. Economic growth in most of the Pacific island countries is quite limited already, said Houston.

Island nations will struggle to adapt to climate change, he said, while changing weather patterns and rising sea levels would threaten the agriculture and fisheries on which the economies depend.

“From there, it is a small step to political instability and social disorder,” said Houston.

Although, it could as long as two decades before climate change begins to wreak intense havoc on the South Pacific, he added, warning that Australia would need to be prepared well before that.

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