Climate change has had impact all over the world but one of the most severely hit places is the Great Barrier Reef. Recent studies have shown that over 50% of the northern reef has been lost due to climate change.
This reality has finally set in with the government of Australia as a new plan endorsed by the state and federal government has recognized that the reef system is set to collapse.
On Friday, a new plan was release named “Reef 2050 Plan” which has been created to save the largest living structure on our planet and specifically recognizes that climate change poses a deadly threat to the reef. Unfortunately, critics have found that the plan turns a blind eye to Australia’s inadequate effort to cut carbon emissions and really attempting to slow climate change although they do recognize that holding the global temperature increase to 1.5°C or less is critical to ensure the survival of coral reefs.
A positive note though is the plan does changes tone drastically from previous official efforts to downplay damage on the reef for fear of impacting the tourist industry.
Based on current climate projections, the outlook for coral reefs generally is “one of continuing decline over time, and in many regions, including the Great Barrier Reef, the collapse and loss of coral reef ecosystems”, the plan says.
Coral bleaching, agricultural runoff, invasive species, coastal development and overfishing have had the biggest negative impact on the reef systems. The last few years have seen consecutive extreme bleaching events that “have fundamentally changed the character of the reef,”
According to WWF-Australia, the countries emissions reduction efforts were not even in line with limiting warming to 2° as greenhouse gas emissions were set to far exceed its pledge under the Paris accord.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s reef campaign director Imogen Zethoven said increased recognition of climate change as a threat to the reef must be followed by action.
The Queensland government has plans in place to spend millions of dollars in federal reef spending but completely ignores the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions which are the main driver for the loss of the reef and instead is focused on reducing run-off from the land. Many have said this spending is a waste of money as the reef will be lost if they do not address the real problem.