great_barrier_reef

Reuters, November 16th 2009

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has only a 50 percent chance of survival if global CO2 emissions are not reduced at least 25 percent by 2020, a coalition of Australia’s top reef and climate scientists said on Tuesday.

The 13 scientists said even deeper cuts of up to 90 percent by 2050 would necessary if the reef was to survive future coral bleaching and coral death caused by rising ocean temperatures.

“We’ve seen the evidence with our own eyes. Climate change is already impacting the Great Barrier Reef,” Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said in a briefing to Australian MPs on Tuesday.

Australia, one of the world’s biggest CO2 emitters per capita, has only pledged to cut its emissions by five percent from 2000 levels by 2020.

It has said it would go further, with a 25 percent cut, if a tough international climate agreement is reached at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen in December, but this is looking increasingly unlikely with legally binding targets now off the agenda.

“This is our Great Barrier Reef. If Australia doesn’t show leadership by reducing emissions to save the reef, who will?” asked scientist Ken Baldwin, in calling for Australia to lead the way in cutting emissions.

But the Australian government is struggling to have a hostile Senate pass its planned emission trading scheme. A final vote is expected next week.

The World Heritage-protected Great Barrier Reef sprawls for more than 345,000 square km (133,000 sq miles) off Australia’s east coast and can be seen from space.

The Australian scientists said more than 100 nations had endorsed a goal of limiting average global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, but even that rise would endanger coral reefs.

The scientists said global warming was already threatening the economic value of the Great Barrier Reef which contributes A$5.4 billion to the Australian economy each year from fishing, recreational usage and tourism.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the Great Barrier Reef could be “functionally extinct” within decades, with deadly coral bleaching likely to be an annual occurrence by 2030.

Bleaching occurs when the tiny plant-like coral organisms die, often because of higher temperatures, and leave behind only a white limestone reef skeleton

 

3 Responses to Great Barrier Reef survival "requires 25% CO2 cut"

  1. “We’ve seen the evidence with our own eyes. Climate change is already impacting the Great Barrier Reef,” Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said in a briefing to Australian MPs on Tuesday.

    OK, the climate does change, and I would expect that to affect things like the Great Barrier Reef.

    But what has that got to do with CO2?
    The climate has been warming from the Little Ice Age in about 1700.

    I’m not sure anyone can prevent the Earth’s climate from changing.

  2. J.Roff says:

    Steve – Show me the science that “the climate has been warming from the Little Ice Age in about 1700″?

  3. Mike P says:

    Mr Roff,

    you can debate the science, or even the correctness of the records or algorithyms that are used to push back the records to beyond the early 1800′s but several studies do show that global average temperatures have been increasing steadily since the 17th century,see Huang (2004). , Geophys. Res Lett., 31: L13205 and wikipedia “global warming” has a nice montage of lots of different guestimates of the global average temperarture rise. Whether man made CO2 emmissions are the reason is an entirely different dispute. It can be argued successfully in both directions, ie

    1) man made emmissions of CO2 were so small in the 17th and 18th centuries that what is being shown is an underlying rise or:

    2) CO2 emmissions from man made industrial processess have been contributing to a constant rise since the beginning of the 1600′s

    both are equally valid arguments from temperature rise alone.

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