Despite overwhelming scientific data suggesting the Great Barrier Reef is at risk of another huge bleaching this coming summer, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee chose not to add it to its list of places “in danger,” and experts are wondering why.
The committee said the Australian government had achieved “significant progress” but the reef was still under “serious threat” from pollution and climate change during its meeting on Monday in Paris.
The committee further stated that “sustained action to implement the mission’s priority recommendations is essential to improve (its) long-term resilience,” and it requested that the government provide an update by February 1—during the peak of Australia’s summer.
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia should not be added to a list of global heritage assets that are “in danger,” according to the UNESCO heritage council of scientific experts. The committee emphasized that water pollution and global warming continue to pose a “serious threat” to the 2,300-kilometer (1,243-mile) network of corals, the largest in the world.
Australia, which has lobbied for years to keep the reef off the endangered list since doing so may result in losing its heritage designation and have a significant negative impact on the tourism industry, may be relieved by the committee’s decision.
The approach of El Nio, a natural climatic fluctuation that normally has a warming influence, is predicted by climate forecasters to likely result in even hotter waters, thus experts think there is little chance of a significant improvement in only six months.
“Current global emissions policies put us on track for about 2.7 degrees (Celsius). So, with our current policies and current emissions, we’re very clearly on track to see at least a 99% decline in global coral reefs, and if that doesn’t scream the reef’s in danger, then I’m not sure what will,” said Reid.
UNESCO requested Australia to provide a progress report on its efforts to decrease pollution and fishing-related hazards in February of next year. Furthermore, Reef experts are worried that this summer’s expected El Nio climatic system may increase the likelihood of another widespread bleaching disaster on the reef.
The succession of bleaching episodes in 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2022, the latter of which happened for the first time during a La Nia year, are of the highest concern, according to the UNESCO assessment.