We all hear and read plenty about climate change and its future effects. Despite the fact there are still some people who insist climate change is not a problem (they are usually selling something, like fossil fuels or BS for a political campaign), it seems that every week brings more bad news about climate change occurring faster than projected. Some of the latest news has to do with killing GBR.
What does climate change really look like? It looks bone white in the case of the Great Barrier Reef.
The enormous coral reef is known for its vibrant colors and attracts tourists and divers from around the world. Whether people will still flock to see a dead, white reef remains to be determined. The economic loss from tourism should be terrifying to Australians (who also happen to be some of the worst carbon emitters per capita), but it should equally concern us all because it is a frightening sign of what is to come.
According to a recent study conducted by the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, 93 percent of the GBR already shows signs of damage from coral bleaching. Even so-called “super corals” that scientists thought would be more resistant to the effects of warming are dying. What is causing this sudden coral bleaching? Rising ocean temperatures.
Coral exists in a symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae live in the coral and are what gives coral its bright colors. The coral provides a home for the algae, while the algae in turn provide food for the coral. We get to enjoy the spectacular colors that are produced from this relationship. At least until we manage to kill the GBR and other coral reefs.
The problem arises from the warming oceans. As the ocean temperature rises, the coral expels the algae that it depends on to survive and to provide the color. The result is that the coral turns white, but it is also in danger of destruction.
Scientists have seen coral bleaching in the GBR before, but never of this magnitude. Terry Hughes, the lead researcher on this recent study, likened the damage to what might be seen if 10 cyclones were to hit simultaneously.
If there is any good news in the study it may be that not all of the GBR is damaged equally. More than half of the reef is described as being severely bleached, but some areas are not damaged to the same extent. Some recovery may happen as the waters around Australia cool for winter. The trouble is that Australia has just endured a record-hot summer and scientists do not know how quickly the water will cool. They also do not know how much abuse the reef can take before it dies for good.