Limit global temperature increase to 1.2 degrees to save Great Barrier Reef

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An expert panel has urged countries around the world including Australia to limit the global temperature rise to 1.2 degrees if we intend to save the Great Barrier Reef’s biodiversity,

While there has been a lot of deterioration due to the already increasing temperatures, the expert panel has said that to prevent further damage, we need to limit the increased in global temperatures by 1.2 degrees.

In their report, the scientists highlighted the fact that the Great Barrier Reef’s unprecedented bleaching events over the past two summers had killed “close to 50 per cent” of the corals over the entire reef, and they called for climate action.

The report urged countries around the world to set global emission reduction targets so as to secure an average temperature increase of no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, or even less to protect current reef biodiversity.

At the end of 2015, almost 200 nations in Paris agreed to keep temperature increases to between 1.5 and 2 degrees to curb the impact of more frequent extreme climate events, such as more potent storms and fiercer heatwaves as the planet heats up. However, the expert panel said the Paris pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions were inadequate – including Australia’s – putting the world on a warming course of as much as 3.7 degrees. That is about four times the increase so far, which has already led to several major bouts of coral bleaching.

Coral reefs are among the most prominent “early movers” in terms of ecosystems stressed by rapid warming. Many coral species expel the algae that provide them with most of the energy and their often brilliant colours once certain temperature thresholds are exceeded for a sustained time. Corals that survive can have reduced reproduction, hindering their recovery and leaving the reef vulnerable to another heat spike.

The expert group recommended the Australian government continue to support programs that reduce other stresses on the corals, such as reducing high-nutrient run-off from Queensland farms. The report said the government should identify key species that support the reef’s ecology and target interventions “at scale … and with urgency” to support these creatures.

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