What are the consequences of extreme weather on the security of energy networks?

Australia’s annual Climate Change Statement warns that extreme weather seasons are increasing the risk of sabotage on its energy systems, putting them at risk of being exploited by hostile actors. The statement suggests that the threshold for damage to energy networks from sabotage may be lower during high demand/low supply periods, such as extreme weather seasons.

The statement, prepared by departmental officials, will be released by Minister for Climate and Energy Chris Bowen on Thursday. The updated security warnings are informed by a declassified snapshot of work undertaken into climate change security risks by the Office of National Intelligence.

The statement also highlights the biosecurity problems climate change brings, such as the potential for pests and diseases to spread to Australia, posing risks to border and supply chain management. It also predicts that fisheries will become more contested as high ocean temperatures and acidification reduce productivity and alter fish stocks, potentially impacting Australia’s maritime security.

Climate extremes are expected to increase stress on national coordination and domestic crisis management, extending Australia’s emergency capabilities. Rising sea levels will prompt countries to seek closer economic integration through migration and expanded labor schemes, as seen in Australia’s recent agreement with Tuvalu. The transition to clean energy could also impact Australia’s emergency response and warfighting capabilities.

The government prioritizes maintaining a secure and affordable supply of legacy fuels during the transition, as well as the resilience of critical infrastructure in the face of extreme weather events or cyber attacks. Australia will not pause its transformation and expects to deploy speculative solutions in 2049 to address the current climate emergency.