According to a new report from Australia’s Climate Council, the loss of coral reefs as a result of rising sea temperatures would wreak havoc on the global economy. The report showed that the loss of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef would alone cost that region one million visitors annually, which would threaten 10,000 jobs and rob the economy of one billion dollars of revenue. The report estimated that the loss of coral reefs would cost a massive 1 trillion dollars globally.
Scientists have been forced to consider the loss of the coral reefs after the longest lasting global coral bleaching event on record, which began in 2014. The event has continued to affect reefs around the world, and many have been so far unable to recover.
According to the Climate Council’s Lesley Hughes:
“The extraordinary devastation being experienced on the Great Barrier Reef is due to the warming of our oceans, driven by the burning of coal, oil and gas. It would have been virtually impossible for this to have occurred without climate change.”
Hughes said the event should serve as a wake up call, and that discussions weighing the need for climate action against economic needs present a false dichotomy.
“This isn’t just an environmental issue. The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s greatest economic assets. It’s responsible for bringing in more than $7bn each year to our economy, while also supporting the livelihoods of around 70,000 people. A healthy Great Barrier Reef underpins the tourism industry and the jobs that it supports,” he added.
The report derived its own figures from a 2015 report that suggested that coral reefs support 500 million people globally.
Scientists have suggested the harmful bleaching events will become more frequent. Australian National University Professor Will Steffen said they will likely become more severe in Australia in coming decades, presenting a long term threat to the health of coral reefs.
“The only way to protect coral reefs in Australia and around the world is to stop greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is the caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef and we are lagging well behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to doing our part to effectively combat climate change,” according to Steffen.
“Emissions are flatlining in China and declining in the United States and in other OECD countries. In comparison, Australia’s emissions continue to grow. We’ve got to stop and then reverse this trend and we’ve got to do it now. There is no time to lose.”
The Climate Council report showed Australia’s carbon emissions had grown by 0.8 percent last year.