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Government must address emissions reduction in any moves to save Great Barrier Reef

Alex Lavelle comments in the Brisbane Times (29.5.17) on the increasing incidence of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, arguing that state and federal governments need to act immediately to reduce the impact of carbon emissions and warming ocean temperatures.

‘As claims and counterclaims swirl about the health of the Great Barrier Reef, it can be difficult to know what to believe. A good starting point is listening to Terry Hughes, the director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and listed last year by the journal Nature as one of the 10 people who matter most in science.

‘Professor Hughes, who regularly surveys the reef, last week stunned his Twitter followers by saying 49 per cent of shallow corals had died after two summers of bleaching.

‘This figure was given preliminary endorsement by Russell Reichelt, the chief executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. He noted there had also been an increase in cover in the south in recent years, but added: “It is difficult to say this without sounding like I don’t think the problem is serious. I certainly do”.

‘If anything, serious is an understatement. The loss of half of the reef’s shallow water corals is a global-scale catastrophe. It may have potentially serious ramifications in the years ahead for about 70,000 people who rely on the reef for their livelihoods.

‘It is linked to inflated water temperatures that scientists have tied to escalating greenhouse gas emissions. As The Age revealed, an expert panel advising the government on how to implement its plan to protect the reef says it must be re-drawn to include a focus on cutting. We agree. So far the Turnbull government has demurred.’

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