Exposing the depressing reality of the damage inflicted by man upon the ocean, The Great Barrier Reef’s outlook has been officially downgraded from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ by Australian authorities.
The reef has been a World Heritage site since 1981 due to the huge importance it plays to the ocean scientifically and environmentally.
The reef spans over 2,300km (1,400 miles) and can even be seen from outer space. It is built from billions of tiny organisms and supports a huge diversity of sea life, meaning losing it would have a catastrophic knock-on effect for the ocean and the planet.
But the coral is dying due to rising sea temperatures caused by climate change. A five-year report concludes that human-driven global warming is the biggest problem to the reef.
And urgency is needed if there is any chance of recovering it, as officials say the issue has ‘never been more time critical’.
The percentage of baby corals born in 2018 dropped by 89%, while much of the reef has suffered ‘bleaching’ in which coral begins to starve due to changes in its environment.
Unesco’s World Heritage Committee is now considering if the reef should be added to its list of ‘endangered’ sites.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is legally required to document the reef every five years.
Ten years ago the report described it as being at ‘a crossroads between a positive, well-managed future and a less certain one’.
There are no prizes for guessing which direction the reef has taken, after in 2014 scientists described it as ‘an icon under pressure’ and the most recent report concedes that ‘the region has further deteriorated and, in 2019, Australia is caring for a changed and less resilient reef’.
Some of the reef is still in a good state, but overall it is deteriorating drastically. The number of new corals plummeted by 89% thanks to bleaching events of recent years which affected a 1,500km stretch.
Is hope lost?
Though the report is extremely concerning, environmentalist groups argue all is not lost if governments and people around the world take action to reduce carbon emissions.
Imogen Zethoven, director of strategy for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said: “We can turn this around, but only if the prime minister cares enough to lead a government that wants to save it. And saving it means being a leader here and internationally to bring greenhouse gas emissions down.
“This is now the third Outlook Report. We’ve had 10 years of warnings, 10 years of rising greenhouse emissions and 10 years watching the Reef heading for a catastrophe.”
Last year, the most comprehensive analysis of the impact of food on our planet concluded that going vegan is the single biggest way we can reduce our impact on the planet.
If everyone went vegan, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% while still feeding the world.
Meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, but it uses 83% of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.
While other factors hugely influence global greenhouse gas emissions, such as air travel and a growing global population, changes in diet are the simplest and most direct everyday way to reduce our effect on the planet and in turn help to save the Great Barrier Reef.
How can the Great Barrier Reef be saved? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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