Today Cairns residents staged an action to highlight the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef and the North Queensland economy, drawing attention to the urgent need for leadership in reducing carbon emissions and investing in climate adaptation measures.
This event was part of an international day of climate action that sees thousands of climate actions take place around the world.
“The Great Barrier Reef supports an amazing diversity of marine animals and plants and is a national icon of great importance," says Col McKenzie, Marine Tourism Consultant and board member of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators. "It also draws many visitors to this area, and is vital to North Queensland’s tourism industry. We already live in a climate of extremes and will suffer if those extremes are pushed even further by climate change.”
Sarah Hoyal of the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre says we face a climate emergency.
"The most effective way to protect the Great Barrier Reef, and many other important ecosystems, is to reduce carbon emissions by at least 40% on 1990 levels by 2020. Our leaders need to act immediately on this issue, and commit to significant emissions cuts at Copenhagen in December.”
"There is grave concern among local residents, tourism operators, visitors, and international organisations about the future of the Great Barrier Reef, as the implications of climate change for coral reefs become apparent," Sarah Hoyal says.
“The climate is already changing. Ocean temperatures are increasing and oceans are acidifying. These factors are stressing already fragile coral reef ecosystems, which are now at further risk of coral bleaching and eventual decline.
"The economic viability of our community is at grave risk without immediate and significant cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions. If world leaders fail to commit to significant emissions cuts at Copenhagen in December 2009, the Great Barrier Reef, along with many other ecosystems, will be at risk of dying out, and with it the loss of a significant portion of the North Queensland local economy”, says Col McKenzie.
Some relevant facts...
- The Great Barrier Reef supports around 6,600 species of flora and fauna including 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 species of molluscs and 400 types of coral.coral.
- It is now widely accepted that human induced climate change is causing global average temperatures to rise. Ocean temperatures have already increased, and oceans are acidifying as temperatures rise – which will result in an increased frequency of coral bleaching events.
- Regional tourism is worth $2.4 billion per annum to the Far North Queensland economy, and directly employs over 20,000 people while indirectly generating thousands more jobs in areas such as service and supply, real estate, building and retailing.
- For the majority of visitors to north Queensland, a trip to the Great Barrier Reef is a highlight of their visit, and approximately 1.9 million tourists and 4.9 million recreational visitors make a trip to the Great Barrier Reef each year.
- Any threat to the health of the reef, is a direct threat to the vital tourism industry of Far North Queensland. This international day of climate action (on October 24th 2009) is organised by www.350.org; an independent organisation that promotes a maximum target of 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is deemed to be an achievable target that will minimise climate change risks to species and ecosystems. For the duration of human history until about 300 years ago the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 275 ppm. Current atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is 389 ppm, and rising by about 2 ppm every year.