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Australian environment minister admits climate change threat to Great Barrier Reef



Australia’s environment minister has admitted that the Great Barrier Reef is in danger, after a troubling report warned that the unique ecosystem is already being affected by climate change.

The Australian government’s own Outlook Report 2014, published earlier this week, found some positive trends improving the reef’s fortunes.

Since the last report was published in 2008, pollutants entering the reef have been measurably reduced and some species have recovered slightly after significant declines, including the iconic humpback whale and loggerhead turtles it said.

However, the report added, “The greatest risks to the Great Barrier Reef have not changed.

“Climate change, poor water quality from land-based run-off, impacts from coastal development and some remaining impacts of fishing remain the major threats to the future vitality of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Climate change was said to be already harming the reef, while the report said warming is “likely to have far-reaching consequence in the decades to come”.

Climate change may cause sea temperature rise, which can lead to mass coral bleaching, gradual ocean acidification and more intense weather events.

After reading the report, Greg Hunt, the federal environment minister, said, “The basic position I think is this; that what you see when you read the reports today is a mixture of pressure and progress, and the pressure is real. I don’t think we should understate that.”

In an interview with ABC, he added that there were “some real negatives to be honest”. 

The Australian government has recently faced much criticism for its stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef.

The UN’s world heritage committee has delayed a decision about whether to list the site as endangered because of threats it faces around pollution and urbanisation. 

This comes as the government has approved a controversial new coal mine, which will require the dumping dredged sediment for a new port terminal in the reef’s waters.

Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia via Flickr

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Further reading:

Climate change is the biggest threat to Great Barrier Reef

Australia approves $16m Carmichael coal mine despite environmental concerns

Unesco decision on Australian Great Barrier reef protection delayed until 2015

Deutsche Bank refuses to finance Great Barrier Reef coal port

Australia announces plan to protect Great Barrier Reef