Great Barrier Reef in Danger


A marine scientist known as the “Godfather of Coral”, Dr Charlie Veron, says the Great Barrier Reef - one of the seven wonders of the natural world - is in grave danger if the Australian government doesn't act on climate change. According to Dr Veron, who has worked on the reef for 45 years, without immediate action, the entire reef could be dead quite soon.
Great Barrier Reef
According to researchers from the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce (NCBT) - a federal government-funded initiative devoted to researching the reef - 7% of the world's largest living structure has been left unaffected by a massive coral bleaching event.
Coral bleaching happens when abnormal water conditions - for instance, rising temperatures caused by climate change - discharge tiny photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae, turning the coral white and subsequently killing it.
Veron says that the only reason why the coral bleaching didn't spread to 100% of the reef was thanks to a sudden easing of warm conditions last December. “Once the coral's bleached, it's dead. It's the end of the road,” Veron says. “It's a matter of time before that full whammy happens.”
Veron has been particularly against the federal and Queensland state governments; decision to approve the massive Adani Carmichael coal mine in Queensland's Galilee basin, 500km from the reef.
The mine could produce up to 60 million tones of coal each year from six open-cut pits and five underground mines. The project has the support of both the federal and Queensland state governments, which affirm it will create thousands of jobs and inject $16 billion into the economy. However, over its period of activity, the mine is expected to pump billions of tones of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“Both governments have approved the the Adani mine without thinking of the consequences,” Veron says. “It's last thing Australia, of all countries, should be doing. I can't think of anything more harmful to do to the Great Barrier Reef than that.”
It's a sentiment echoed by Professor Terry Hughes convener of the NCBT, who says the approval of the mine shows the government isn't serious about stopping climate change and saving the reef. “I think an appropriate reaction from Hunt would be to rescind the 60-year permit. That would be real action for the Great Barrier Reef,” Hughes says.
Queensland's Environment Minister, Steven Miles, evaded any responsibility and passed it down to the federal government.“What the Reef needs is a set of policies that will cap and reduce emissions in real terms year on year,” Miles said. “The state government will play our part within the scope of our powers, but meeting our Paris [Climate Conference] targets is primarily the responsibility of the national government. What we don't have right now, and what we are demanding the Turnbull government deliver, is a national plan to meet those targets.”
Scientists from the Climate Council took a stand a placed a full page ad in Queensland's Courier Mail. The article explained that climate change is destroying the reef and immediate action is needed to prevent further damage. The open letter was signed by 56 experts with countless years of experience in studying climate change, and called for an end to investment in fossil fuels in Australia. “As you read this, a catastrophe is unfolding,” the letter reads, before going on to explain the extent of the coral bleaching event. (...) Why is this happening? As the Earth's temperature rises due to climate change, our oceans are experiencing record-breaking heat.”
Climate Councillor Professor Lesley Hughes stated there is no doubt that the massive coral bleaching event on the reef is due to climate change. “This is not a surprise because we have known for decades that the burning of fossil fuels is driving climate change, and that delicate ecosystems like the reef will be destroyed as a result,” she said. “We are now seeing first hand the damage that climate change causes, and we have a duty of care to speak out.” There's some great research on the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies website.
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