Quantcast

Australia Downgrades Great Barrier Reef Outlook to 'Very Poor'

Climate
Half bleached coral in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. JAYNE JENKINS / CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

The government agency that manages Australia's Great Barrier Reef on Friday downgraded its outlook for the condition of the coral system from "poor" to "very poor."


The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's (GBRMPA) report blamed climate change for coral bleaching, which occurs as a result of rising sea temperatures.

"Significant global action to address climate change is critical to slowing the deterioration of the reef's ecosystem and heritage values and supporting recovery," said the five-year review of the world's largest coral reef system.

Bleaching and other factors

But the agency added that the threats to the 2,300-kilometer (1,400-mile) reef were "multiple, cumulative and increasing."

Agricultural runoff, coastal land clearing and coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish were also to blame for its woes, the report said.

GBRMPA's Chief Scientist David Wachenfeld told reporters in Sydney that despite the threat, "with the right mix of local actions to improve the resilience of the system and global actions to tackle climate change ... we can turn that around."

Located off the northeast Australian coast, the Great Barrier Reef is home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusks.

Scientists have been concerned about the health of the coral network for decades. In 2012, a study found the reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985.

A 2017 study published in the journal Nature found that 91 percent of the reef had been bleached at least once during three bleaching events of the past two decades.

A fourth significant bleaching struck later in 2017 after the report was published.

Australia: Mining prioritized

Australia's conservative government has faced criticism for favoring an expansion of its massive coal mining, the country's biggest export, over action to curb climate change.

New government data released this week showed that Australia's emissions of greenhouse gases, blamed for climate change, continued a four-year rising trend during the first half of 2019.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said she was not surprised by the downgrade given the damage done by recent cyclones and latest bleaching events.

But she insisted that the Great Barrier reef "is the best-managed reef in the world."

Resilience-building program

The Canberra government earlier this year announced a $380 million (€312 million) program to breed more resilient coral.

However, the downgrade has boosted calls for UNESCO to revoke the reef's status as a World Heritage site, which would be an embarrassment for the government.

The reef is estimated to be worth at least $4 billion a year to Australia's economy.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DW.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Individual standing in Hurricane Harvey flooding and damage. Jill Carlson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis

Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Read More Show Less
A pregnant woman works out in front of the skyline of London. SHansche / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.

Read More Show Less
Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less