Great Barrier Reef report


Climate change impacts on the Reef


The cumulative impacts of climate change and other stressors on the Reef - such as unsustainable local development, ocean pollution, and shipping - are considered likely to challenge the resilience of the Reef into the future. Climate change is the biggest threat to coral reefs globally, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting that coral reefs would decline by 70-90% with global warming of 1.5 degrees. 5 The GBRMPA has called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, acknowledging climate change as being the greatest threat to the Reef and coral reefs worldwide, stating that if the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions continues, this will continue to cause the health of the Reef to decline, and that strong global action to curb climate change is needed urgently to give the Reef the best chance of survival. 6

Average sea surface temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef have warmed by about 0.6 degrees since the 1950s. 7 When water is too warm, corals expel algae causing them to become smaller and turn completely white, known as “coral bleaching”. Rising temperatures has triggered five major coral bleaching events on the Reef - in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2016 and most recently 2017, with 2016 leading to record levels of coral bleaching. Loss of corals further reduces the abundance of marine species and other Reef-associated organisms, including marine plants, mammals and birds. 8


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