Great Barrier Reef Doomed With Up To 99% At Risk, Report Finds
Up to 99% of the Great Barrier Reef is at risk of being destroyed unless immediate action is taken to combat and reverse global warming, a new study finds.
Researchers said temperatures of Australia’s coastal waters have broken records every year for the past 10 years, and only seem to be increasing. In 2020, the Great Barrier Reef experienced the hottest February since records began.
This is having ‘profound long-term consequences for ecosystems, according to the Australian Academy of Science’s report, The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world.
As it stands, scientists predict the world will warm by 3°C by 2100. If this happens, oceans are projected to absorb five times more heat compared to the observed amount accumulated since 1970, which will lead to increased marine heatwaves.
These heatwaves have catastrophic effects on the Great Barrier Reef. But, as the report finds, time to save the reefs is already running low.
Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a professor at the University of Queensland, said current international commitments to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, under the Paris Agreement, do not go far enough to combat global warming and will have ‘serious consequences for Australia and the world’.
‘Australia must revisit its emission reduction commitments and work with other countries to provide the leadership and collaboration required to place Australia and the world on a safer climate trajectory,’ he said.
Experts are now urging the government to rapidly remove greenhouse gas emissions from a range of sectors, as even a warming of 1.5°C will cause 70-90% of the world’s tropical coral reefs to disappear. At a warming of 2°C , 99% of the reef would be lost.
‘The outlook for the state of the Great Barrier Reef is considered ‘very poor’ with climate change seen as the major driver, primarily through more frequent and intense heatwaves and cyclones,’ researchers said.
‘Substantial losses in ocean productivity, ongoing ocean acidification, and the increasing deterioration of coastal systems such as mangroves and seagrasses are projected to occur if global warming exceeds 2°C above the pre-industrial period,’ they added.
A consequence of this warming is rising sea levels, which will further amplify storm impacts, damaging coastal ecosystems like mangroves, seagrass beds and estuaries.
‘The unprecedented bushfire season in 2019–20 and the mass dying of corals on the Great Barrier Reef demonstrate how rapidly and fundamentally our global environment is changing with only 1.1°C of global warming,’ Lesley Hughes, a pro-vice-chancellor of Research at Macquarie University said.
‘It’s not too late to avoid 3°C. We should still be aiming for a stable global temperature below 2°C but to get to that point, we must reduce emissions very rapidly — in particular accelerating the energy transition in the next decade. This must be one of the most urgent national and international priorities,’ she added.
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CreditsAustralian Academy Of Science
Australian Academy Of Science