Is The Great Barrier Reef Really Dead?

The reef is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Kyle Taylor/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Are We Too Late?

While there are plenty of conservationists working their hearts out to try and save, or at least mitigate the loss of the reef, from breeding bleaching-resistant corals to legally challenging developments along its coast, unfortunately they don’t appear to have the government backing they so desperately require. Even as the disaster striking the reef was beginning to unfold at the end of 2015, the Australian government gave the go-ahead to a massive coal port expansion at Abbot Point, smack bang in the middle of the marine reserve. The irony is almost too much.

Not only that, but the government seems to be turning a blind eye to the impact, or at the very least burying its head in the sand. This is despite the fact that it’s the largest tourist attraction in the country, supporting an industry worth an estimated $6 billion as well as 69,000 jobs. It was revealed that even this summer, the government censored a major UN report looking into which World Heritage Sites were most at danger from climate change, pressuring them to remove a whole chapter focuses on the reef because the government was worried it would negatively impact tourism. Well guess what, tourism will be even worse hit when there is no reef for people to visit.

So how long then does it have left? If things carry on as they are, then probably not long. But this is not just the responsibility of Australia. All nations are guilty of pumping more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We all need to control our emissions and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The Australian government, however, needs to wake up to the very real and very serious threat facing the reef, otherwise it will be lost not just for them, but for us all.

At the end of the day, even though large portions of the reef are most certainly irreversibly damaged, the Great Barrier Reef is more resilient than many may give it credit for. Given the right care and attention, those sections of the coral, and the plethora of life that call them home, can be saved and coaxed back from the edge. It is true that it is not over yet, but it is getting perilously close to the final hour. More needs to be done, but crucially, more can be done to help it but we can not waste a moment more.  

The reef is one of the natural wonders of the world, and it would be a tragedy to lose it. Greens MPs/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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