Coral Experts Say Australia's $379M Great Barrier Reef Investment Won't Save It
In a lot of ways, coral reefs are like the rainforest—we've been told for years that they're fragile, beautiful, and essential to our planet, but that hasn't helped them survive. The rainforests may be gone within the next century, and now, despite a huge cash commitment by the Australian government to save the Great Barrier Reef, it too may be doomed.
Australia's multi-part plan involves cutting down on populations of crown-of-thorns starfish (which are known to feed on coral reefs), improving the quality of the seawater near the reef (partly by encouraging farmers to use less fertilizers), increasing monitoring of the reef's health, and trying to grow more resilient coral in laboratories.
There's a lot on the line for Australia here—the Great Barrier Reef creates about 64,000 jobs for Australians, and hundreds of miles of the Reef have become bleached over just the past two years.
Unfortunately, the $379 million plan ($500 million in Australian dollars) doesn't deal with the biggest issue of all: Rising sea temperatures.
According to Bill McKibben, an American environmentalist: "Science is well aware of what is killing coral on the Great Barrier Reef—it's the excess heat that comes from burning fossil fuels. If the Turnbull government was serious about saving the reef, they would be willing to take on the industry responsible for the damage."
That claim is backed up by Professor Terry Hughes, an author on a recent study that says the period of time coral reefs have to recover from "bleaching" events has shrunk to half the size it was before, due in large part to climate change.
According to a recent tweet by Hughes, commenting on Australia's plan, "killing a few starfish in Queensland" won't change the worldwide trend of dying reefs:
By this point, the damage to the Great Barrier Reef may be irreversible, no matter how much money we throw at it.
It looks like we're going to have to focus on the bigger picture.