Great Barrier Grief

28th March 2020

Whilst the world has been busy dealing with the coronavirus crisis, the Great Barrier Reef suffered the third mass bleaching event in just five years.

Coral reefs are immensely important ecosystems on our planet. They support about 25% of all marine life, and they're also the main source of food and income for about 1 billion people.

The reason why coral reefs are dying is the increasingly often ocean heat waves caused by climate change (source: NOAA).

Corals are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations and are suffering from rising ocean temperatures and acidification. It only takes 1 to 2 degrees Celsius to turn a healthy coral into a white skeleton, a dying coral. This process is known as “bleaching”. Bleached corals can recover if the water temperature cools, but with climate change, the oceans simply may not get a chance to cool again.

We've all experienced heat waves in the past few years. In fact, the past 5 years have been the hottest years on record. But what doesn't get talked about enough is that oceans experience heat waves, too. It makes sense. After all, oceans absorb 93% of the extra heat trapped inside the climate system as a result of the heat-trapping gases we've produced from all the coal, gas and oil we've burned since the dawn of the Industrial Era. Guardian published an article last year where they stated that

"The amount of heat being added to the oceans is equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night."

If you'd like to learn more about coral reefs, why they're so important, and what's been happening to them in the last few decades, I cannot recommend the Netflix documentary Chasing Coral enough. It's yet another living prove that a small group of committed citizens can make a difference. It's informative and powerful.

What we do in this decade will determine what will happen in the future. We need to do everything in our power to change the course towards not only a Green New Deal that focuses on energy, transportation, agriculture, and health care, but also a Blue New Deal* that focuses on the ocean.

And we can only do this together.

*Blue New Deal is a term coined by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, founder and CEO of the consulting firm Ocean Collectiv, and founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for coastal cities.