The Guardian • Issue #2095

Albanese and Plibersek need to ‘do their jobs’ as Great Barrier Reef suffers ‘underwater bushfire’

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2095
Barrier Reef

Photo: flickker photos – flickr.com (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

New data shows the Great Barrier Reef has suffered through its worst-ever heat stress with more than 80 per cent of reefs enduring dangerous levels of heating (more than 4 Degree Heating Weeks).

Surveys show widespread coral bleaching affecting an area likened in size to the land burned during the Black Summer fires. Marine scientists have reported coral bleaching at greater depths of the ocean than previously recorded, and centuries-old corals succumbing to the extreme heat.

Reports from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, and other experts show that:

The Great Barrier Reef as a whole has been subject to a greater level of heat stress than during any of the previous six mass bleaching events.

Almost half (46 per cent) of the individual reefs that form the Great Barrier Reef experienced record heat stress. (Based on analysis of data from NOAA Coral Reef Watch.)

More than 60 per cent of individual reefs across the Great Barrier Reef have shown “prevalent bleaching”

This is the latest event in a slow-unfolding disaster that is fundamentally altering the Reef. Repeated mass bleaching events started occurring in the late 1990s due to marine heatwaves driven by climate pollution. Every part of the Great Barrier Reef has bleached at least once since then, with some areas bleaching four times with little recovery time. As a result the Great Barrier Reef is fading to a shadow of its former glory.

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said: “An underwater black summer is ravaging the treasured Great Barrier Reef right now. The survival of the Reef – and all life that depends on it – hinges on our willingness to drastically cut climate pollution in the 2020s, which means scaling up clean energy as quickly as possible so we can phase out coal, oil, and gas.

“While the Great Barrier Reef fades before our eyes, the Australian government continues to wave through new coal, oil, and gas projects. Our national environment law is failing the very things it’s supposed to protect. 

“Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek need to do their jobs by protecting nature from climate change. The Australian government has an opportunity to better protect iconic natural places like the Great Barrier Reef by fixing our national environment law.”

Climate Council

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More