Climate change is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs around the world. The effects of climate change, such as increasing temperatures leading to coral bleaching, are already being seen on the Reef.
The effects are likely to have far-reaching consequences for the ecosystem, marine life, the Reef's universal value as a world heritage area, and the communities and industries that depend on the Reef.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found species and ecosystems around the world are already significantly affected by climate change. The IPCC has also warned the Great Barrier Reef could experience annual coral bleaching events by mid-to late-century under current rates of ocean warming.
The latest coral bleaching event increases the urgency for the world to implement the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep average global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and preferrably below 1.5 degrees.
What is climate change?
It is now certain the climate is changing at an uprecedented rate. The main cause of climate change is an increase in greenhouse gas emissions driven by human activities including burning fossil fuels, agriculture, and land clearing.
Higher concentrations of greenhouse gases (particularly carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere results in more heat being trapped, increasing average global temperatures. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at a concentration unprecedented within the last 800,000 years.
How will climate change impact the environment?
Many aspects of the marine environment are affected by climate change, including:
Climate change policies review
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority recently provided input to the Australian Department of Environment and Energy on the climate change policies and review discussion paper. The Authority's submission reinforces the importance of Australia leading global efforts to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan
The Australian and Queensland governments' Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan provides an overarching framework for protecting the Reef and boosting it's resilience. It draws on our 25-year management plan and the findings of our Outlook Report to provide the most up-to-date information on the Reef's health and management. A mid-term review of the plan is currently underway.
Great Barrier Reef Summit
Following unprecedented back-to-back coral bleaching on the Reef, the Marine Park Authority brought together 70 leading marine experts for the first Reef Summit.
The key objective of the summit was to develop a blueprint for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and its partners in response to mass bleaching and cumulative impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. An important part of this was to develop resilience initiatives focusing on coral reef habitats. The blueprint is currently in development.
A Vulnerability Assessment: of the issues that could have far-reaching consequences for the Great Barrier Reef.
Current Conditions: Environmental and climatic forecasts for the Great Barrier Reef