Updated: Dec 8, 2020
A report published by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has re-listed Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as "critical". As of last Thursday, the reef has been given the worst possible rating with the greatest threat being climate change. The move comes after an influx of tourists visiting the reef looking to holiday in this tropical paradise since the easing of COVID-19 border restrictions. The report also found that the Black Summer bushfires have also contributed to the reef's deuteration.
2016, 2017 and 2020 coral bleaching events have also negatively impacted the reef. Coral bleaching occurs when coral polyps expel algae that live inside their tissues. Normally, coral polyps live in an endosymbiotic relationship with these algae, which are crucial for the health of the coral and the reef. The algae provide up to 90 per cent of the coral's energy. Bleached corals continue to live but starve after bleaching. The main cause of coral bleaching is rising temperature waters; temperatures above 1 degree Celsius can cause bleaching.
Since 1995, the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its coral due to climate change.
The push for climate change is laughed at by the wealthy and taken seriously by the poor. Activists today are almost mocked for wanting change towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how we are looking after our carbon footprint. Donald Trump, the ex-president of the USA, was a fine example of this toffee-nosed bullying when he took on 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg. A series of tweets and open mockery posted by the president hailed Greta as “ridiculous” and needed to “chill”. This is how world leaders see climate change.
What’s the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef? It depends on if you are a glass half-full or half-empty person. The half-empty will address this situation as grim with little to no chance in seeing the reef restored, with over 50% of the reef dead and continuously dying, climate change will eventually have its day and kill the reef. The half-full could use this to their advantage and show the world the full devastation climate change is having, especially within Australia. If governments act fast and inform the public, people can and will reduce their carbon footprint if shown the way. We have ditched plastic bags and seen the error in the waste we are producing. Human beings are smart and if given the tools can live a carbon-neutral life with a few small changes.
With the reef being one of Australia’s main tourist attractions, it would seem unlikely the government would even consider shutting the reef off to the public. It provides much needed revenue for both local businesses and the economy. A sad reality as tourists diving the reef also contribute towards its destruction through carelessness. If reef diving businesses could formulate a new way of seeing the reef, this could ease some of its destruction. Inappropriate fishing use, water quality, terrestrial run-off, and pollution are other threats causing the condition of the reef to be compromised. However, should the reef perish, thousands of jobs would be at stake who solely rely on the reef for their livelihood.
We will not be given many chances to act on climate change. We are given real eye-openers with events such as the polar ice melting and reefs dying and still provoke little to no thought. As the corporations running the world get greedier, Earth, unfortunately, suffers the consequences. Governments should be more focused on changing the impact we are making on the world, not leaving it up to 16-year-old activists and everyday people to try to take a stand. A dark, dark day for climate change, but, one we can still come back from.