Life Support Needed For Coral Reefs

By Stephen Leahy

FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 8 (IPS) – Coral reefs need to be put on “life support” if they are to survive climate change, but their ultimate survival is dependant on major reductions in fossil fuel emissions, say experts.

“We’re going to hear lots of bad news about corals in the next few decades,” Rich Aronson, president of the International Society for Reef Studies, told 3,000 scientists, conservationists and policy makers at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Monday.

Climate change is making the ocean too warm and too acidic for most corals species to survive beyond the year 2050, many marine scientists now believe.

“The situation is serious to the point of desperation,” Aronson told IPS in an interview.

Past and present carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels have already altered the oceans, leading to declines in corals in many areas. This trend will continue for decades even if it were possible to eliminate all emissions today, scientists say. Current emissions are running at eight to nine gigatonnes a year and rising, resulting in dramatically altered oceans where few of the current coral species will be able to survive.

“This is a pivotal moment. We must act strongly and immediately if we are to have coral reefs as we know them,” Aronson said. Continue reading