Media Release CORAL CRISIS: Loss of reefs could cost $1 trillion globally

06.04.17 By
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Intensifying climate change remains the biggest threat to coral reefs around the world, with rising sea surface temperatures driving widespread bleaching events, according to the Climate Council’s latest report.

The report ‘Climate Change: A Deadly Threat to Coral Reefs’, shows worsening bleaching events are also placing tourism and global economies at risk, with the loss of coral reefs potentially costing an astounding $1 trillion.

Ecologist and Climate Councillor Professor Lesley Hughes said extensive and ongoing mass coral bleaching and mortality on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and now in 2017 should be a wake up call.

“The extraordinary devastation being experienced on the Great Barrier Reef is due to the warming of our oceans, driven by the burning of coal, oil and gas. It would have been virtually impossible for this to have occurred without climate change,” she said.

“Repeated events such as those seen in 2016 and 2017 mean that the opportunities for corals to recover are very limited.”

The report also recognised coral reefs as significant economic assets, with research showing that ongoing severe bleaching on the World-Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef alone could result in the catastrophic loss of more than 1 million visitors to the region annually – a figure equivalent to at least $1 billion in tourism spending and 10,000 jobs.

“This isn’t just an environmental issue. The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s greatest economic assets. It’s responsible for bringing in more than $7 billion each year to our economy, while also supporting the livelihoods of around 70,000 people.”

“Some commentators pit the environment against the economy. A healthy Great Barrier Reef underpins the tourism industry and the jobs that it supports.”

Key findings include:

Climate scientist and Climate Councillor, Professor Will Steffen said bleaching events are likely to become more frequent and more severe in Australia over the next two to three decades, sparking potentially devastating impacts for the health of the Reef.

“The only way to protect coral reefs in Australia and around the world is to stop greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is the caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef and we are lagging well behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to doing our part to effectively combat climate change,” he said.

“Emissions are flat-lining in China and declining in the United States and in other OECD countries. In comparison, Australia’s emissions continue to grow. We’ve got to stop and then reverse this trend and we’ve got to do it now. There is no time to lose.”

Professor Steffen said the combination of strong climate and energy policy from the Federal Government, along with swift support in the uptake of clean renewable energy and energy storage technologies would simultaneously deal with Australia’s emissions, while providing hope for one of the great wonders of the world.

Talent and vision opportunities will be available at the report launch in Brisbane.
WHERE: Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park (meeting at the lookout next to Cliffs Café – 29 River Terrace, Kangaroo Point).

For more information please contact Media Advisor Alexia Boland on 0430 511 068 and at