Queensland’s economy and tourism sector could suffer a billion dollar hit, if extreme coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef continues, according to a new Climate Council report.
The report ‘Climate Change: A Deadly Threat to Coral Reefs,’ shows worsening coral bleaching and mortality events worldwide, driven by intensifying climate change could put an astounding $1 trillion at risk globally.
Ecologist and Climate Councillor Professor Lesley Hughes said extensive coral bleaching and mortality shocked the world in 2016, with the Great Barrier Reef experiencing its worst bleaching event in history.
“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 milestone report also recognises coral reefs as major economic assets around the world, 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.”
Key findings include:
- The longest global coral bleaching event on record, ongoing since 2014, has led to widespread bleaching and mortality of reefs as pools of unusually warm water move around the globe.
- The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is a national economic asset worth $7 billion annually, supporting the livelihoods of around 70,000 Australians employed in sectors such as tourism.
- If severe bleaching continues, regions adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef risk losing more than 1 million visitors annually – equivalent to at least $1 billion in tourism spending and 10,000 jobs.
- Protecting our coral reefs urgently requires the rapid phasing out of fossil fuels globally, and the uptake of cheap, clean and efficient renewable energy and energy storage technologies.
- Cooler waters as a result of Tropical Cyclone Debbie that hit North Queensland in late March 2017, may bring some temporary reprieve from further bleaching, however, there could be significant physical damage to corals as Cyclone Debbie tore through the reef.
- The commissioning of new coal mines such as that planned for the Galilee Basin, and the pursuit of expensive and polluting “clean coal” technology and other new fossil fuel infrastructure, is completely at odds with protecting the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs globally.
Head of Research at the Climate Council, Doctor Martin Rice 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.
Doctor Rice issued a challenge to Queensland Premier Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Nicholls to travel with scientists and tourism operators to see the damage.
“Our leaders need to see first hand what is happening to the Great Barrier Reef.”
Doctor Rice said the combination of strong climate and energy policy from the Federal and State 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.
BRISBANE MEDIA ALERT: TODAY – WEDNESDAY April 12, 2017 at 10:30AM AEST
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 [email protected]