It’s official: scientists have confirmed that 93% of the Great Barrier Reef suffers from severe coral bleaching. The reef is deeply affected by climate change and coal.
Calling it “an environmental assault on the largest coral ecosystem on Earth”, scientists say that the results of their newest surveys are devastating. Bleaching ranges from severe to light in different parts of the reef, with the worst parts being the reef’s norther sector.
The results have caused 56 scientists to call on the Australian government to phase out coal, which is a huge cause of the bleaching. Bleaching occurs when coral is stressed by unusually high water temperatures or other environmental changes.
Professor Terry Hughes, the lead research scientist and head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, stated that “Between 60 and 100 percent of corals are severely bleached on 316 reefs, nearly all in the northern half of the Reef.”
— Terry Hughes (@ProfTerryHughes) April 19, 2016
The Australian government has so far been hesitant to ditch coal. They have even recently approved a new coal mine in Queensland, which will cause the country’s emissions to skyrocket.
Depending on how long the coral is subjected to these conditions, much of the coral could die due to the bleaching. As it is now, scientists are already seeing nearly 50 percent coral death.
Coral bleaching events in 1998 led to a death of 16 percent of the world’s coral. This time it may be worse.