“No region spared”: Reef report confirms severe bleaching, highlighting need for rapid emissions reduction this decade

11.05.22 By

A DAMNING report from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, released overnight, has confirmed the heartbreaking extent of this year’s Great Barrier Reef mass coral bleaching event.

The Reef Snapshot includes extensive aerial observations, showing widespread bleaching that has affected the northern, central and southern regions of the Reef. The severity ranges from minor to severe. The majority (91%) of the 719 reefs surveyed have suffered some degree of bleaching. 

It is the first mass bleaching event to occur during a traditionally cooler La Niña period.

Dr Simon Bradshaw, Director of Research at the Climate Council, said:

“This report confirms our beloved Great Barrier Reef is in serious trouble. The Reef’s very survival, and all the jobs and industries that depend on it, requires a major step up on climate action now and during this next term of Government, starting with a credible plan to rapidly reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Not 30 years from now, this decade. 

“Climate change is front of mind for voters this election. They are counting on our next Federal Government to show true leadership. Australians deserve a government that will work hard to give our reef a fighting chance.

“Mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef during a La Niña period is a first that has shocked the scientific community. This is a wake up call for Australians to think long and hard about just how much our nation’s woeful climate policy is costing us. 

“This is an issue that cannot be solved with big shiny funding announcements. The science is very clear, in order to protect the world’s reefs from total destruction, we must dramatically reduce emissions in the 2020s.”

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered four mass bleachings in just the past seven years (2016, 2017, 2020 and 2022). Continued failure to tackle the climate crisis could mean the Reef suffers bleaching every year from 2044. This would mean the loss of the Reef and other shallow water reefs worldwide.

Scientists have repeatedly warned these ecosystems are at grave risk of mass bleachings and extinction.

The Climate Council’s recent briefing: In hot water: Climate change, marine heatwaves and coral bleachinghighlighted that 2021 was the warmest year on record for the world’s oceans. The excess heat absorbed by the ocean in 2021 was equivalent to the energy of seven Hiroshima atomic bombs detonating every second.

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Header image credit: Harriet Spark