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Australia setting poor example on emissions targets as global mass bleaching event confirmed

Eco Voice
Eco Voice
First published in 2003, Eco Voice is your go-to publication for sustainability news in Australia. Eco Voice prides itself as an independent news platform with a clear focus on sustainability, with articles coming from a diverse range of contributors – all levels of government, corporations, not-for-profits, community groups, small to medium sized businesses, universities, research organisations, together with input from international sources. Eco Voice values community, conservation and commerce. Eco Voice is a media partner of the prestigious Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards – The Peak Sustainability Awards.

The heat stress damaging coral across most of the Great Barrier Reef is now officially part of a global mass bleaching event.

Earlier today, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the world is experiencing a fourth mass event, and the second in the last 10 years.

“This event drives home that no reef anywhere is safe from the impacts of climate change,” said Richard Leck, Head of Oceans, World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia.

“As caretaker of the most famous reef in the world, Australia needs to lead by example on climate action. Instead, our emissions reduction targets are nowhere near ambitious enough.

“The Australian government should announce a 2035 target of at least 90% below 2005 levels,” he said.

Wide swathes of tropical reefs in the three largest ocean basins – the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian – are experiencing extreme stress with concern this will have severe negative consequences for coastal communities and ocean health.

This event was triggered by record-shattering ocean temperatures that began last year. The ocean absorbs 90% of the excess heat caused by burning fossil fuels.

“If we need a specific, visual, contemporary case of what’s at stake with every fraction of a degree warming, this is it. The scale and severity of the mass coral bleaching is clear evidence of the harm climate change is having right now. The coral crisis is a climate crisis .We must act urgently to stop burning fossil fuels or we will lose coral reefs worldwide, with devastating consequences for coastal communities and marine wildlife,” says Pepe Clarke, WWF Oceans Practice Leader.

Roughly 850 million people worldwide rely on coral reefs for food, jobs and coastal protection from storms. They also provide habitat for more than 25% of all marine species. Half of all tropical reefs have disappeared in the last century; we are on course to lose up to 90% by 2050 and all coral reefs by the end of the century.

Many coastal communities have done little to contribute to climate change, but are vulnerable to the effects.

“We’ve experienced mass coral bleaching in 2010, then 2016, and this year. This year felt worse, as bleached coral not only occurs in its ecosystems, but also in our restoration structures. Restoration structures are one of our active conservation efforts, to revive coral reefs, providing a house for reef fish, and tourism attraction related to our local income. I really hope bleaching does not make coral die, if so our active conservation efforts like restoration could be in vain,” said Nyoman Sugiarta, head of the community monitoring group for Bondalem’s Locally Managed Marine Area and dive instructor in Bondalem village, Bali, Indonesia.

“In light of this global coral bleaching event, it is more important than ever to protect specific reefs that have exhibited resilience to marine heatwaves and can help in the future to re-seed damaged coral reefs. We must focus on limiting pressures from overexploitation, pollution and over-development on these resilient reefs to enable their survival in a changing climate,” said Carol Phua, Coral Reef Rescue Initiative Lead.


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