Climate change remains the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, following unprecedented back to back mass coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 driven by severe marine heatwaves, according to the Climate Council.
It comes after the Federal Government announced a $500 million package to tackle water quality issues, such as agricultural runoff as well as the culling of the crown-of-thorns starfish.
Climate Councillor and ecologist Professor Lesley Hughes said water quality and the crown-of-thorns starfish both pose serious risks to the reef, but addressing these issues alone would fall short of protecting the Great Barrier Reef from its single biggest threat.
“These measures will only be effective if the Federal Government simultaneously commits to tackling climate change, the root cause of mass coral bleaching and reef mortality,” she said.
“The only surefire way to protect the Great Barrier Reef is to tackle climate change. Intensifying climate change is driving rising ocean temperatures with deadly consequences on the largest living structure in the world.”
“If we do not do something to address the root cause of the problem, then the Federal Government’s $500 million measures are nothing more than a golden bandaid.”
The burning of fossil fuels, including coal and gas, has led to consistent rising of greenhouse gas pollution in Australia, with levels rising each year since 2015.
“If the Federal Government was serious about preserving our international icon for future generations, it would focus on the real issue and what is really killing our reef.”
“This is not just an environmental issue. Without adequate protection from further coral bleaching, Australia’s multi-billion dollar tourism sector, along with more than 64,000 jobs are at risk,” she said.
“The solution to this problem is here. Australia must ramp up its transition to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy and storage technology, while moving away from our polluting fossil fuel past.”
Source: Climate Council