A Senate inquiry has dubbed climate change a “current and existential national security risk” to Australia.

A Senate committee inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security has recommended a government white paper on climate security be prepared, as well as the creation of emissions targets at the Department of Defence and a dedicated climate security post at the Department of Home Affairs.

It also calls for an increase in foreign aid to be dedicated to climate change mitigation and adaptation in the region.

The inquiry heard that the security risk of climate change endangers Australia and its region right now.

The committee report says climate change threatens health, energy systems, the viability of communities, businesses and the economy.

It said climate change heightens the severity of natural hazards, increases the spread of infectious diseases and water insecurity, and threatens agriculture.

The Climate Council told the committee that the shifting climate is: “Already contributing to increases in the forced migration of people within and between nations, as well as playing a role in heightening social and political tensions, flowing onto conflict and violence”.

The Department of Defence agreed climate change could worsen conflicts.

“When climate impacts are combined with ethnic or other social grievances, they can contribute to increased migration, internal instability or intrastate insurgencies, often over greater competition for natural resources. These developments may foster terrorism or cross-border conflict,” the department said.

In the Australian region, the Australian Council for International Development said: “For Pacific nations such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and Micronesia, climate change is already a genuine existential threat with the capacity to diminish their livelihoods and even erase their states’ territorial footprints.”

The Senate committee noted Australia’s lack of an overarching climate security strategy.

Climate researcher David Spratt said the recommendations from the inquiry did not match the evidence presented to it.

“Existential risk management requires brutally honest articulation of the risks, opportunities and the response time frame,” he said.

“At the moment we are knowingly locking in an existential disaster without being prepared to articulate that fact … at least this Senate inquiry report is significant for having broken the ice, but it should be so much more.”

The report is accessible here.