Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Great Barrier Reef: an unmitigated disaster - if only the Australian public knew...

Sou | 8:48 PM Go to the first of 4 comments. Add a comment
Here is the video from the Climate Council, with Tim Flannery, Amanda McKenzie and Dean Miller on the disastrous bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

Graham Readfearn has written about how Ben Webster at the anti-environment newspaper, The Australian, tried to downplay the disaster.

How can people like that live with themselves? Their only reward is getting promoted on climate conspiracy blogs like WUWT (archived here), where deniers can't wait for the reef's total destruction. (There was even a recent WUWT article by Jim Steele who as usual misreported science to argue that coral bleaching is a good thing! He can't wait for the sixth major extinction.)

The most serious bleaching event on record

According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA):
AIMS Chief Executive John Gunn said there was no doubt this was the most serious bleaching event to hit the Reef on record, and that it was related to a combination of warming of our planet’s oceans and a major El Niño.
It's reported that 25% of the coral has not just been damaged, it has died. If 25% doesn't sound a lot, how about one quarter? And that one quarter isn't evenly spread. The GBRMPA put some numbers on the damage:
Based on the results of in-water surveys to date, the average coral loss within each management area is:
  • 50 per cent in the Far Northern Management Area (from the tip of Cape York to just north of Lizard Island)
  • 16 per cent in the Cairns–Cooktown Management Area (Lizard Island to Tully). (Note: Surveys around Lizard Island were conducted in March. More recent reports indicate mortality levels are likely to be higher in this management area.)
  • 3 per cent in the Townsville–Whitsunday Management Area (Tully to Mackay)
  • 0 per cent in the Mackay–Capricorn Management Area (Mackay to Bundaberg).
Those numbers aren't just bleaching. They are mortality numbers. Dead coral! The GBRMPA article has more:
...based on our combined results so far, the overall mortality is 22 per cent — and about 85 per cent of that die-off has occurred in the far north between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island, 250 kilometres north of Cairns.

The authority is hopeful that the less damaged areas down south will recover quickly. It won't be known for some time how the northern areas will fare. If bleaching events happen more frequently (as has been happening) then we're probably going to lose a lot of the reef over coming decades, because there won't be enough time for it to recover.

Here is a map so you can see where the impact is worst. Port Douglas, a favourite holiday destination for viewing the reef, is down the bottom of the red zone, about an hour north of Cairns.

Map showing the different zones of the Great Barrier Reef. Source: GBRMPA

Australia's reefs aren't the only ones at risk. Below are two maps from NOAA's coral reef watch program - the weekly alert. The first is the reefs at 90% threat level, and the second at 60% risk of bleaching:


  1. Seems like lowered regional sea levels because of the El Nino could also be a factor.

  2. For months I've been noting that the growing El Niño would cause a devastating bleaching event, and when it manifested to the extent that it did it became apparent that it would cause the death of a large portion of the Reef. Not only that, but seeing the degree of destruction and accounting for the warming in the pipeline given the absolute minimum further emissions of carbon that will occur, it's clear to most marine ecologists that the end of the century will see a significant portion (and probably a majority proportion) of the Reef permanently destroyed.

    That the Australian can publish patent propaganda such as this, in order to delay mitigation so that vested interests can transiently accumulate even more obscene wealth than they have now, is surely a crime against humanity and against nature.

    Make no mistake, the best that we can do it so save some of the reef. Without profound global action within the life of the next Australian parliament the Reef is likely doomed to see out the century as a scattering of remnant local colonies.

    The future will loathe and despise us for this destruction, and that of so many other ecosystems and ecological functions, that we're simply too selfish and arrogant to address.

  3. this bleaching disaster has been heavily reported in the British press, (or at least the rational press - BBC etc et al)

    A big article in the Guardian about it this week

  4. https://www.acf.org.au/our_court_case_to_protect_the_reef
    Awaiting results of Australian Conservation Foundation's days in court vs Australian Government (a proxy for big coal).

    Great Barrier Reef is a rather big climate canary for Australia. Just to show how (politically) sensitive it is, the Australian Government pushed UNESCO to erase a whole chapter about in a new publication about world heritage areas threatened by climate change.

    Evidence burial and erasure is a standard Australian Government Ploy. Australia is also erased from world maps that show potential asylum seeker destinations.

    We can claim to have the worlds most deluded environment minister, Mr Greg Hunt.

    As goes the reef, so will go agriculture productivity, and lots of property damage, plus lives lost with more extreme weather events. Some rich climate change deniers still own lots of coastal beach front real estate, now dashed by recent eastern coast storm plus king tide erosion. Colloroy surf clubhouse ruined, and quite a few beach back-yards.


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