The Great Barrier Reef has experienced another mass coral bleaching – the third such event in five years.
“I am devastated to hear this news. It follows mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. And of course it comes after a summer of terrible bushfires across Australia. It shows that climate change is all around us and our response needs to be escalated dramatically,” said the Climate Council’s CEO Amanda McKenzie.
The news of the mass bleaching was announced by Professor Terry Hughes who is currently conducting aerial surveys over hundreds of individual reefs.
Dr Dean Miller from Great Barrier Reef Legacy has recently returned from assessing the bleaching around Lizard Island north of Cooktown.
“This has been a very hot summer. The water temperature has been up to 2 degrees above normal which is stressing corals. I saw coral bleaching both at the surface and as deep as 16 metres. The real question is how long can corals, and the ecosystem, hang on before we reach the point of no return?” said Dr Miller.
“While the bleaching is extensive, fortunately tourism hot spots around Cairns and Port Douglas have been spared this year. But protecting tourism for the long term means we have to tackle climate change now,” said Dr Miller.
“Just as we have heatwaves on land that are supercharging bushfires, climate change is also driving heatwaves under water. These are causing the corals along our iconic reef to bleach,” said Climate Councillor Professor Lesley Hughes.
“It is not too late to protect the reef but we must take radical action now. That means rapidly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by moving away from coal, oil and gas,” said Professor Hughes.
“Australia’s immediate attention needs to be on the coronavirus, but even during this terrible time we must not forget the threat of climate change. The longer we delay meaningful climate action, the more devastating the consequences will be,” said Ms McKenzie.
“The Australian government is now developing stimulus packages to try to help our economy through the coronavirus. This is exactly the right time to be spending on clean energy projects that can employ Australians and protect our reef,” said Ms McKenzie.
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