Climate change is destroying the world’s largest living structure

Bleached coral

Researchers have said that global warming has resulted in marine heatwaves which has killed half the corals of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia over the past 25 years. Although all sizes of coral have been affected since the 1990s, the larger species such as branching corals have been affected more. They have almost disappeared, they say, from the reef’s northern reaches. The loss of big corals is important because “they make all the babies” (Terry Hughes co-author of the report and a professor at James Cook University).

Bleached coral

Corals on reefs showing bleaching by warmer than average waters near Keppel Islands off the central Queensland coast, Monday, Jan. 23, 2006. Photo: University of Queensland/Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

More than 1,500 species of fish, 30 species of whale and dolphin and 215 species of bird make their home on the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is being bleached which refers to the algae being expelled from the corals due to heat stress caused by global warming. The scientists have decided that the bleaching means that there is little chance of the corals regenerating.

They argue, like every other concerned scientists and conservationists that there is little time to lose. There is great urgency in the need to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. They expect the corals to continue dying unless the targets agreed at the Paris Agreement are met. Global average temperature increases need to be kept to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

They hope that if temperatures are stabilised the corals might recover. Scientists in Australia have decided to trial 43 different ways to try to save the reef. Comment: it appears that the conservationists have reached a desperate stage in their struggle to save the world’s largest living structure. Personally, I have little hope that they will succeed because the world’s nations pull in different directions in serving self-interest. In observing the negotiations and the behaviour of the nations concerned, I see only a faint hope that they will truly commit to curbing global warming by limiting climate change gas emissions. And if they do it won’t happen soon. Also the coronavirus pandemic has clearly interfered in the work required to curb climate change in both monetary and commitment terms.

The report comes from The Times newspaper of Thursday, October 15, 2020.