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Posted by Nikki Anderssen in Climate Change, Conservation, Nature, Pollution, Science & Technology, 8 Mar 2014

By the time today’s teenagers are panicking about having turned 30, most of the Great Barrier Reef could be destroyed.

According to a new report from researchers at the University of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is in serious trouble. It’s the Earth’s largest living structure, and marine scientists say climate change could bring irreversible damage unless immediate action is taken.

University of Queensland reef researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg says,

If we don’t increase our commitment to solve the burgeoning stress from local and global sources, the reef will disappear. This is not a hunch or alarmist rhetoric by green activists. It is the conclusion of the world’s most qualified coral reef experts.

Lead researcher and biologist Selina Ward wrote the new report “Lights Out for the Reef” and highlighted climate change-related impacts. Of particular concern are rising sea temperatures and increasing levels of carbon dioxide which lead to ocean acidification.


The Great Barrier Reef is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

Last year UNESCO warned the Australian government the status of the reef could be downgraded due to several dozen local and federal projects that have the potential to cause further destruction to the reef. UNESCO says the site may be reclassified as a “World Heritage Site in Danger” unless “urgent and decisive action” is taken to preserve the environment surrounding the reef.

The List of World Heritage Sites in Danger is “designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.”

But so far, that warning doesn’t appear to have been taken seriously by Australian decision-makers. Since the warning was given, several threatening projects have received the green light by Australian authorities, such as increased dredging for the world’s largest coal port along the Queensland coastline.

Coral reefs provide essential protection for coastlines erosion and stormy seas, they filter and improve water quality and reefs support some of the greatest biodiversity on Earth. Humans are reliant upon the reefs to thrive within island communities and yet, human actions are threatening their existence now more than ever.

According to a report from Australia’s public broadcaster, ABC Science, conditions are looking even bleaker elsewhere.

Although the best-protected reefs in the world, on the Great Barrier Reef, are the closest to pristine, they are also one-quarter to one-third of the way along the path to ecological extinction.

Reefs in the western Atlantic have declined more severely than in Australia.

This isn’t just bad news for Australia, but for all islands surrounded by reef systems. While the Great Barrier Reef has been studied and observed by top scientists for decades, many other vital reef systems are just beginning to alert the attention of scientists, and show that recent waves of widespread degradation could be impossible to reverse.

At least, for “hundreds if not thousands of years“.

This year’s EARTH HOUR is dedicated to the Great Barrier Reef. Events will take place around the globe on March 29. Learn more about local events, including opportunities to visit the Great Barrier Reef with other participants, in this video:

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