A report by the Australian Academy of Science has brought into focus once again how critical and urgent climate action is for the future of our Great Barrier Reef.
The report, which examines the risks to Australian landscapes including our Reef of a 3°C warmer world, is worrying for all Australians and particularly the people in the tourism industry who depend on it for their livelihoods, and who have been faced with blow after blow during the COVID crisis.
It is alarming, and the media headlines even moreso. However anyone who has visited the Reef recently knows we still have plenty to fight for.
Our Reef is still a breathtaking, vibrant system supporting an array of incredible marine wildlife and coastal communities across its 2,300km length. But it is in deep trouble and it is changing. Marine heatwaves and increasingly extreme weather systems driven by climate change are harming Reef ecosystems. Hard coral cover has been severely impacted and will continue to decline the longer we stall on climate change action.
The Reef will look different in the future— it already does compared to five years ago. How different will depend on how urgently we act.
Only the strongest and fastest possible action on climate change will reduce the risks and limit the impacts of climate change on our changing Reef. In this context, the fact that we still don’t have a national climate policy from our politicians, including targets on net zero emissions, detail on how Australia will transition fairly to renewable energy, and global leadership on climate action, is shameful. It is a failure of politics and several cycles of politicians at a federal level in Australia.
We are angry at this staggering failure of leadership. Throughout our history we have spoken up for the Reef and highlighted the many issues it has faced, stopped damaging developments, tackled pollution and overfishing and ensured better protections for our natural world wonder. But the fight for climate action is the hardest one we’ve faced.
Despite the evidence, the warnings, the high level reports, the endless wake up calls and the pleas for action from all corners of Australia and our global society, our politicians have not acted quickly or decisively enough to prevent devastating global warming from impacting one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
We know there are parts of our Reef that are more resilient to marine heatwaves caused by global warming. For the sake of these wonders and the marine wildlife that depend on them – we must keep trying to limit global warming to give these areas a fighting chance, keep standing up for Queensland’s vital water pollution regulations and pushing for fisheries reforms.
And most of all, we must and will keep pressing our politicians to do what it takes on climate change, for a just and swift transition to renewable energy and for net zero emissions well before 2050.
I will not be part of the generation that lets this happen. Our politicians may be blasé about the issue but I am not and nor are you.
The Great Barrier Reef is worth protecting. It is worth fighting for and it is worth doing everything we can to secure the future of the remaining corals of the Great Barrier Reef.
Dr Lissa Schindler
Great Barrier Reef Campaign Manager, Australian Marine Conservation Society
Image by Cam White