Summary …

The loss of coral reefs caused by rising sea temperatures could cost $1 trillion globally, a report from Australia’s Climate Council has projected, with the loss of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef alone costing that region 1m visitors a year, imperilling 10,000 jobs and draining $1bn from the economy.

The longest global coral bleaching event on record, which began in 2014 and has affected some reefs in consecutive years, has given reefs little chance to recover, and should be a “Wake-up call” to act to save the natural and economic assets, the Climate Council’s Lesley Hughes said.

The $1 trillion figure for the value of the world’s coral reefs is derived from a 2015 report led by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, which found that worldwide, reefs supported 500 million people across 50 nations.

The cooler water temperatures brought by Cyclone Debbie are expected to offer Queensland reefs some relief from the bleaching events of 2016 and 2017, though this is expected to be only temporary, and could be offset by the physical damage caused by the Category 4 tropical cyclone.

“The only way to protect coral reefs in Australia and around the world is to stop greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is the caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef and we are lagging well behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to doing our part to effectively combat climate change.”

This week the Australian Research Council’s centre of excellence for coral reef studies released the results of its latest aerial surveys, which assessed 800 individual reefs.

Announcing new measures last month – including offering financial incentives to farmers who reduce nitrogen and sediment run-off into the reef – environment minister Josh Frydenberg said the government was working with local communities to improve the reef’s health and maintain it for future generations.

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