PHASING out coal must be a top priority for Australia if we are to protect what’s left of the Great Barrier Reef, a group of eminent Australian scientists have collectively warned in their strongest statement yet on the reef.
In an open letter published today in a full-page advertisement in the Courier Mail, the 57 experts – with more than 1200 years’ experience in studying climate change, marine ecosystems and coral reefs – call for “the end of the fossil fuel era” because the Great Barrier Reef’s future “depends on how much and how quickly the world, including Australia, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit ocean warming”.
In the letter, published in full online, the scientists explain how climate change has led to the worst mass coral bleaching event in the history of the World-Heritage listed reef.
“As you read this, a catastrophe is unfolding,” the letter reads. “The reef is currently experiencing the worst mass coral bleaching event in its history. From Cairns to the Torres Strait, vast swathes of once-colourful reefs are now deathly white.
“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 said the science was clear: the mass bleaching event would not be occurring without the influence of 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.”
Only 7% of the Great Barrier Reef remains unaffected by coral bleaching, new surveys have shown.
World-renowned reef scientist Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said that if the reef was in hospital, it’d be in ICU.
“For scientists like me, who have devoted their lives to improving our collective understanding of the Great Barrier Reef, it’s been distressing to see first-hand the severity and extent of damage from the bleaching event underway.
“This is one of the most visible icons of Australia – one of the world’s seven natural wonders and a multi-billion dollar economic asset. It is under threat and we must act now to save it.
“If we don’t, we will be explaining to our children and grandchildren that we had the chance to save this precious reef and we failed to take it.”
The letter was published thanks to the support of many Australians concerned about the damage to the reef.
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