More than 2,000 coral reef scientists have sent a letter to the Australian government pleading for it to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Warning that Australia is perceived as a “laggard” on climate action, the letter was sent Saturday after the conclusion of the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, which was held in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Addressed to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, it was sent on behalf of the International Society for Reef Studies, which represents more than 2,500 coral reef scientists, managers and policy makers.
The letter, which was forwarded to Mashable Australia, warns that coral reefs around the world are threatened with “complete collapse” in the face of climate change. “As a result of reef destruction, a quarter of all marine species are at risk and the associated economic losses will expose hundreds of millions of people to decreasing food security and increased poverty,” the letter explains.
Under stress from increased water temperatures and pollution, coral reefs are threatened globally due to an ongoing coral bleaching event. Coral bleaching occurs when coral expels the algae that lives in its tissue. The loss of this algae, which give it colour and nutrients, makes it more vulnerable to disease and pollution. Severe or repeated bleaching can kill coral reefs.
The northern section of the Great Barrier Reef has been particularly hard hit by the bleaching event.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently warned the ongoing coral bleaching event would impact U.S. reefs in the second half of 2016 and into 2017, “with no signs of stopping” globally.
According to the letter, Australia has shirked its responsibilities as steward of the Great Barrier Reef under the World Heritage Convention, particularly by allowing port dredging and shipping of fossil fuels in the reef area.
In April, the Queensland government approved the lease for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, which will be one of the world’s largest. In an email to Mashable Australia, Robert Richmond, convener of the Symposium, said this was “like bringing gasoline to a house fire.”
“This action ignores and and is inconsistent with the best science from Australian and the rest of the world’s best researchers,” he said. “While the ISRS is not a political action group, and the ICRS is not a political meeting, it is impossible and irresponsible for our members to sit on the sidelines and ignore policy decisions that are clearly and irrefutably wrong.”
The scientists call on the government to end support for coal exports and stop the approval of new coal mines. The letter also urges the Australian government to “lead-not-follow” on protecting the fragile natural icon, as well as tackling global climate change.
Source : http://mashable.com