Media Release Climate Change

There is still time to avoid IPCC’s dire predictions for our Reef

March 1, 2022

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows the urgency of the climate action required to protect precious places like our Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

The report projects that globally bleaching events will occur every five years from 2035 and what happens next will depend on how quickly we lower emissions. If emissions remain high, bleaching could occur every year from 2044. If emissions are reduced, annual bleachings are projected to occur from 2051. Cyclone intensity will also increase, putting coral reefs further at risk.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign manager Dr Lissa Schindler said the report was a grim reminder of the future if Australia and the rest of the world did not lift their climate ambitions and push others to take faster and stronger action on this issue.

“The IPCC report shows a bleak future for the Great Barrier Reef if rapidly warming temperatures are not addressed this decade. We know the problem, we know the solution – we need to act now to protect the Reef for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” she said.

“The solutions are there – reduce emissions which drive damaging marine heatwaves. To do this Australia must rapidly phase out its relationship with coal and gas and embrace a renewable future. We have what it takes to transition from dirty coal and gas to clean renewable energy production.

“As Reef custodians, we should be leading the way to zero emissions and creating a renewable future to provide good paying jobs for Queenslanders.

“With the right leadership and smart planning, this transition could be an economic boon for areas like northern and central Queensland. And we could protect the Reef too, safeguarding the jobs of more than 60,000 Queenslanders. But we have to face up to this issue now, not leave a disaster for others to deal with.”

The report has been released just weeks before UNESCO’s Reef Monitoring Mission is due in Australia to review the Australian and Queensland governments’ management and protection of the Reef. UNESCO will then provide a draft decision to the World Heritage Committee as to whether the Reef should go onto the World Heritage in Danger list.

The World Heritage Committee last year urged the Australian government that ‘accelerated action at all possible levels’ was required to address the threat to our Reef from climate change.

“The Morrison government is yet to increase their climate ambition to what is needed for coral reefs to survive into the future. With a 2030 emissions reduction target that remains at 26%-28% and a 2050 net zero target that relies on technology that hasn’t yet been invented, it is hard to see how UNESCO would not recommend the Reef be listed on the World Heritage in Danger list again this year,” said Dr Schindler.

“As this IPCC report illustrates, our pathway to net zero emissions needs to be shortened for the benefit of our Reef and the tens of thousands of livelihoods that rely on it being healthy.”