Published October 23, 2008 09:34 AM
Climate crime outbreak may occur: study
Australia may need to brace for an outbreak of climate crime as the world warms and greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans are imposed, a new study warns.
The crime could take the form of complex frauds involving carbon trading schemes to water theft and even more hot weather-induced drunkenness and domestic violence.
Also, climate change could provoke violent protests over perceived inadequate government responses, a paper by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) says.
The institute's research director Anthony Bergin and a former analyst Ross Allen said there was an emerging body of literature relating to the impact of climate change on national security.
But there has been little work on the effect on policing, either in Australia or abroad.
There was potentially a wide range of areas in which police could be involved, with significant implications for their activities and resourcing.
So far, major environmental law-enforcement activity has related to "greenwashing", where companies exaggerate the environmental friendliness of products.
The federal government's planned multi-billion dollar Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, set to begin in 2010, could provide opportunities for serious fraud.
"In a booming market there's always a high possibility of fraud by a green-shoe brigade," Dr Bergin and Mr Allen said.
Investigations into carbon markets overseas highlight some of the possible avenues for deception.
But climate crime need not be complex, high-tech or even lucrative.
"Exceptionally hot days and exceptionally low rainfall days are expected to increase in frequency.
"We may, therefore, see increases in a range of water thefts: individuals stealing water, the use of fraudulent water trucks to steal public water for private gain, more incidences of siphoning from river systems for irrigation and illegal damming of rivers.
"If water becomes increasingly precious, the lengths to which individuals will go to protect their water assets, including violence, will increase."
Climate change could also make more vulnerable sections of the community even more vulnerable with the less well off already relocating into drought-affected towns.
"Some communities risk being caught in a vicious cycle of poor economic prospects and associated social ills, including increased crime against both persons and property," they said in the report.
Educating Australian communities about the role of law enforcement in event of future climate disasters would be an important step towards improving Australian resilience to the impact of climate change, Dr Bergin and Mr Allen said.
"And while we may not see the early introduction of climate change squads in Australian police forces, there will be an increasing requirement for Australian law-enforcement agencies to consider how they will need to adapt to the challenges posed by the severity and impact of climate change."