Threats to the Great Barrier Reef

Writing for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sara Philips has come up with a clever blog post about the coal-carrying Chinese ship that recently ran aground on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. While this incident caused physical damage and polluted the water with oil and toxic paint, Philips correctly points out that, in the long run, the real threat to the reef comes primarily from the continued burning of fossil fuels, especially of the sort that the ship’s cargo comprised. Indeed, coral reefs are some of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems, where climate change is concerned. They are threatened both by rising temperatures and from the way in which carbon dioxide emissions make the oceans more acidic.

If Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is serious when he says that he takes “any threat to the Great Barrier Reef fundamentally seriously,” he should redouble his efforts to reverse Australia’s weakening commitment to climate change mitigation domestically, and its harmful international role as a major coal exporter.

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