Increasingly frequent coral bleaching events show the need to take urgent action on climate change to protect The Great Barrier Reef

Press release - 4 January, 2018
SYDNEY, January 5 2018 - An alarming new study published today in Science warning that large-scale coral bleaching events could start occurring every year highlights the urgent need for serious action to fight climate change.

Mass bleaching events that previously took place every 25-30 years before the 1980s are now occurring around once every six years, and that bleach-free window could shrink dramatically in the coming years, the study warns. [1]

“This study is another damning piece of evidence that climate change is putting huge ecosystems at critical risk,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Campaigner Alix Foster Vander Elst said.

“We are already seeing climate change impact the Great Barrier Reef, which has suffered consecutive years of mass bleaching events killing at least 29 per cent of its shallow-water corals and affecting up to two thirds of its corals overall. [2]

“Australia’s fossil fuel addiction is warming our planet and its oceans. The Australian government must finally listen to scientists’ warnings and take immediate steps to meet and exceed our Paris Agreement targets. That means transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, as quickly as possible.”     

The study, whose lead author is Terry Hughes, head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Science Studies at James Cook University, analysed more than 100 tropical reefs around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef after it suffered its back to back bleaching events.

Only six of the reefs surveyed avoided bleaching events, which suggests the world is already approaching a scenario in which every hot summer, with or without an El Niño event, has the potential to cause bleaching and mortality at a regional scale, the study said.


Notes to editors:

Photo and video from 2017’s bleaching event can be found here. (Select photos to add to lightbox, create account, download lightbox using 'actions' tab.)


[1] Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene



For interviews:

Martin Zavan, Greenpeace Australia Pacific Media Campaigner

0424 295 422