Feb 4, 2005

30 Years left for the Great Barrier Reef?


MEDIA RELEASE – Anthony Albanese – 4 February 2005

The Great Barrier Reef could begin to collapse in as little as 30 years from now. For Queensland, the destruction of this iconic natural wonder would emasculate a tourism industry worth $4.3 billion annually.

This alarming warning comes from new research conducted by a team of scientists from Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Their research found our oceans are becoming more acidic as they soak up the ever increasingly amounts of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

Higher levels of acidity make it difficult for many coral organisms to produce skeletal and other hard parts. If the acid levels continue to rise, the forces of erosion eating away at coral reefs will outstrip the organisms’ ability to reproduce them.

According to the Head of the Israeli research team, Professor Jonathan Erez:

“This ecosystem, which is the most productive and diverse in the ocean, is going to disappear as an ecosystem. The individual components may survive here and there but as an ecosystem our grandchildren will not see coral reefs any more and I think this is too big a loss for our society.”

Separate research being undertaken by the British Royal Society warns that if radical action is not taken by governments around the world to significantly cut carbon dioxide emissions, our oceans could be more acidic in 2100 than they had been for 400 million years.

But the dangers for the world’s coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, don’t stop there.

Increasing emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are also warming global water temperatures, which in turn is increasing the incidence of ‘bleaching’ events and coral diseases.

These are not the hollow warnings of scientists. In 2002, there was mass coral reef mortality across the South Pacific and in 1998, most of the corals of the Indian Ocean died.

Thanks to the Howard Government Australia’s performance at reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emissions has been appalling. Emissions from the energy sector are projected to rise by 40-50% over 1990 levels by 2010 and in the transport sector by 60-70% over 1990 levels.

If we do not start reversing this trend today, there will be no Great Barrier Reef for our grandchildren to see, and the world will be in worst shape than the one we inherited.