Climate crisis endangers reef off Australia's east coast
The Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast is to be included in the list of World Heritage in Danger. According to the report of scientists who examined the Great Reef on behalf of the United Nations, it is unfortunately clear that the damage to the corals is unbelievably great - despite a cold phase (La Niña phase).
The delegation visited the endangered natural wonder for ten days in March and examined it intensively. The largest coral reef on earth, which has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1981, is "exposed to major threats due to the effects of climate change and meets the criteria for classification as endangered", the team concluded.
The Great Barrier Reef is increasingly exposed to severe coral bleaching. There have been four major bleaching events since 2016 alone. "A new mass bleaching event occurred during the team's visit," the United Nations scientists explained. It was the first time ever that the mass phenomenon had occurred during a so-called La Niña phase, which is actually associated with cooler temperatures in the Pacific.
Inadequate protection measures for Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is in danger of losing its place on UNESCO's World Heritage List because of insufficient measures taken by the Australian government to protect it.
Unesco had already threatened to put the reef on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger in 2021. However, Australia's government was just able to avert this serious damage to its prestige through political pressure.
Despite unprecedented progress in science and practical conservation measures in recent years, the reef is "clearly affected by climate change factors", according to Eleanor Carter of the environmental organisation IUCN and UNESCO representative Hans Thulstrup. The reef's ability to recover from the effects of global warming is "substantially impaired". The two experts therefore recommend that the Great Barrier Reef be placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. In this case, there would be a risk that the reef would be removed from the UNESCO list.
The Australian strategy for the conservation of the reef lacks clear climate targets, Carter and Thulstrup criticised. Moreover, some promised protection measures were not fully implemented, especially with regard to water quality and fishing.
Great Barrier Reef massively damaged