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Climate change ignored in Great Barrier Reef protection plan

In Australia, a new plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef is being hammered for failing to account for climate change. Creative Commons: Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011

In Australia, a new plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef is being hammered for failing to account for climate change. Creative Commons: Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011

The Australian government’s Great Barrier Reef protection plan has sparked outrage amongst top scientists for failing to account for climate change.

In a formal response to the protection strategy released by the Australian government, the Australian Academy of Science states that the plan is “inadequate” for restoring or maintaining the reef. In particular, Academy criticised the lack of recognition of the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The government strategy’s overarching vision is to maintain the reef’s status of Outstanding Universal Value as an World Heritage Area up to 2050.

In a statement made on Tuesday, Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and an academy fellow said:

This is a plan that won’t restore the reef, it won’t even maintain it in its already diminished state. There’s nothing in the plan on addressing climate change. The science is quite clear that you can’t keep the Great Barrier Reef in good condition if you’re going to develop huge coal reserves. We are already on our way to 2°C warming, and unless Australia cuts back on carbon dioxide emissions we won’t have much of a Great Barrier Reef left.

The Reef 2050 provisions include a 50% reduction in nitrogen and 60% reduction in pesticides flowing onto the reef by 2018.

The Academy of Science argue that the plan fails to address issues of poor water quality, and the continued expansion of coastal ports and fishing.

The coral cover of the reef has declined by 50% in the last 30 years.

UNESCO, which recently threatened to place the Reef on their “in-danger” list, will make a final decision regarding the site’s status early next year.

According to the Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt, the plan was based on the “best available science.”

Mr Hunt said “We have a clear plan and a strong commitment to ensure the reef is healthy and resilient—and we are making strong progress.”

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