The Royal United Services Institute said a tenfold increase in research spending, comparable to the amount spent on the Apollo space programme, will be needed if the world is to avoid the worst effects of changing temperatures.
A dried-up reservoir: Climate change 'may put world at war'
Governments should be preparing for the worst
However the group said the world's response to the threats posed by climate change, such as rising sea levels and migration, had so far been "slow and inadequate," because nations had failed to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
"We're preparing for a car bomb, not for 9/11," said Nick Mabey, author of the report which comes after Lord Stern, who compiled an economic assessment of climate change for the Government, said last week that he had underestimated the possible economic consequences.
Mr Mabey, a former senior member of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit who is now chief executive of the environmental group E3G, said leading economies should be preparing for what would happen if climate change turned out to be running at the top of the temperature range scientists are predicting.
He noted that investment in energy research is ten times less than the £10 billion a year (at 2002 prices) spent on the Apollo shuttle programme.
Unless similar sums are poured into battling climate change the world risks being caught completely unprepared if the climate reaches a "tipping point" where warming and sea level rise began to accelerate, he said.
Even if climate change was more benign than the worst-case scenario, the research would not be wasted as technological advances in nuclear power, biofuels, carbon capture and storage and renewables were urgently needed anyway, he added.
The report said: "If climate change is not slowed and critical environmental thresholds are exceeded, then it will become a primary driver of conflicts between and within states."
It added: "Climate impacts will force us into a radical rethink of how we identify and secure our national interests.
For example, our energy and climate security will increasingly depend on stronger alliances with other large energy consumers, such as China, to develop and deploy new energy technologies, and less on relations with oil producing states.
"No strategy for long run peace and stability in Afghanistan can possibly succeed unless local livelihoods can survive the impact of a changing climate on water availability and crop yields."
A spokesman for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office said: "We welcome the RUSI report as a helpful addition to the growing debate on climate security."
© 2008 The Telegraph