The disappearing Great Barrier Reef could be irreparably damaged within 25 years unless more is done to reduce carbon emissions, warns a major UN report.
Speaking in Sydney on Monday, lead authors of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said the effects on Australia’s economy, society and population were already being felt with potentially devastating impacts a “very real and immediate” danger.
Professors Lesley Hughes and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg claim Australia has experienced a near one degree Celsius temperature rise over the past 100 years and faces a further rise of up to 5C over the next century unless carbon emissions are quickly reduced.
Just an extra 1C in temperature, a strong possibility based on current data – will result in more intense heatwaves, droughts and cyclones, further rising sea levels and less rainfall in Australia, the experts said.
Longer term there’s the strong possibility of irreparable damage to the Great Barrier Reef – about half of which has already disappeared over the past 27 years.
“If we get a rise of two degrees, the prospect for the Great Barrier Reef is very, very poor,” said Prof Hoegh-Guldberg, a University of Queensland marine biologist.
“It is clear that failing to act is simply not an option.”
The UN-led IPCC report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was produced by 309 authors and editors from 70 countries and backed by governments around the world.
The latest major update on the impacts of climate change was released in Japan on Monday.
It says the threat from climate change can be decreased if governments and companies are prepared to take bolder action against carbon emissions and prepare for future risks.
Prof Hoegh-Guldberg and Prof Hughes agreed tougher action was needed to reduce CO2 emissions around the globe.
Prof Hoegh-Guldberg conceded that the report would have its critics but stood by the language used in the report, which he said should be interpreted as “alarming but not alarmist”.