In news to absolutely no one - except apparently the Australian Federal Government - the Great Barrier Reef looks set to be listed as "in danger" by the UN World Heritage body, UNESCO.
The response from our Federal Government was lacklustre at best. Environment minister Sussan Ley said that the announcement was politically motivated. "Clearly there were politics behind it; clearly those politics have subverted a proper process."
It is truly baffling that representatives of our own government can make a claim like this when the current status of our Great Barrier Reef has been so widely reported across the scientific community and in the media.
The reality is that the Australian Federal Government has not met key targets around water quality in order to help the Reef survive. And even our own Reef authority downgraded the outlook of the Reef from 'poor' to 'very poor' in 2019. So, this really should not be news to anyone, at all, anywhere.
Our Government's response to climate action has been widely criticised and not gone unnoticed by the major political powers of the world. It has been suggested by Labor foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong that this may have been the reason why US President Biden snubbed Scott Morrison at the G7 summit.
With all this in mind, here are some not-so-fun facts about our current state of affairs:
- Australia has not committed to strong climate action - we have not signed up to a net zero emissions by 2050 like many other nations. In fact, we have not updated our climate goals since 2015, despite the Government claiming they made an update in December 2020.
- Climate change has been definitively linked to warming seas, thus the health of our Reef - warming ocean temperatures caused by our excessive production of carbon emissions have caused coral bleaching events. Even more insidious is the changes to the pH of ocean water caused by carbon in the air, which affects the ability of marine life to make skeletons.
- Agriculture and deforestation has also been definitively linked to the health of our Reef - increased fertilisers, pesticides and sediment runoff into the ocean reduces water clarity, inhibiting food webs and prevent coral growth.
- The Federal Government gave approval to Adani to set up a coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef - a project that will contribute to carbon emissions. Also, Adani has a history of spilling coal contaminated into fragile eco-systems. If this happen to our Reef, it will add to water clarity issues, water temperature and water pH issues.
It paints a grim picture. One that certainly seems to justify the UNESCO recommendation that the Great Barrier Reef is a world heritage site 'in danger'.