Friday, October 14, 2016

Has the Great barrier Reef died?

The Great Barrier Reef, one of the wonders of the natural world, has been badly affected by increases in ocean temperature and acidification of the oceans brought about by increased carbon in the atmosphere.

In May, researchers found that more than a third of the coral in northern and central parts of the reefs was dead, and 93 per cent of individual reefs had been affected by a condition known as coral bleaching, in which higher water temperature causes the algae who live in a symbiotic relationship with the coral to release too much oxygen. Although we depend on this element, it a very reactive substance - one of the most powerful "reducing agents" known - and is poisonous to coral in excessive quantities. There is a good description of how bleaching works here.

Food and travel writer  has written an Obituary for the Great Barrier Reef which may, however, be at least someone premature.

Certainly there is agreement among scientists that the reef is in serious trouble.

Professor Tim Flannery, who visited the reef in September, told ABC of the reef that

"If it was a person, it would be on life support."

But the majority of scientists have stressed that while the Great Barrier Reef, like most coral structures around the world, is under severe stress, it hasn’t quite snuffed it yet.

“This is a fatalistic, doomsday approach to climate change that isn’t going to engage anyone and misinforms the public,” said Kim Cobb, a coral reef expert at Georgia Tech, to the Guardian.

“There will be reefs in 2050, including portions of the Great Barrier Reef, I’m pretty confident of that. I’m put off by pieces that say we are doomed.”

There is a lot of controversy about exactly how serious the threat to the reef is, and various scientific and other interests have strong opinions about it, as you can read here.

I think it is important to continue the debate in the hope of getting at the truth - not everything that every environmentalist says is right.

Equally the idea that we can burn as many carbon compounds as we like and dump ever-increasing amounts of energy and carbon into the environment without ever experiencing any consequences is beyond ludicrous and many of those who deny every suggestion that humans may have influenced our climate appear to be living in a fantasy world.

The evidence continues to mount that climate change is happening, that at least some of it is influenced or affected by human actions, and that we need to be very careful about the impact we are having on our environment.

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