The Grapevine

Climate Change Pushes Great Barrier Reef Southward Of Brisbane Coast

The Great Barrier Reef has long been the focus of many talks on climate change by the Australian Federal government. Just last May, 500 million dollars was assigned to save the world’s greatest coral reef system that was affected by two consecutive heat waves leading to mass coral bleaching, according to scientific investigations. Similar developments due to climate change are in the offing again.

This time, there are indications that the Great Barrier Reef is moving away from the equatorial heat to cope with the Pacific Ocean's rising temperature. The latest piece of research by U.K. scientists published in the Proceedings of Royal Society B was concluded after studying fossil records and simulation models, which said that the world’s greatest reef is moving southward of the coast of Brisbane.

The corals seem to be expanding, reaching out to the poles for some relief away from the heat. Referring to old fossil records, these scientists have eased the worries of Australians by recalling the ancient geographical past when ocean water experienced much higher temperatures than today. Researchers have also pointed out that the migration of the Great Barrier Reef took place at a slower rate thousands of years ago.

With that logic, they gave their assurance that this occurrence is not going to be rapid, but a slow one, over the course of a hundred years or so.    

GettyImages-971880802 Aerial view of coral banks, reef systems and the pacific ocean on November 20, 2015 at Great Barrier Reef, Australia. EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

The fossils collected and studied by the U.K. scientists are an enormous source of information to assess the impact of global warming on coral reef expansion and detraction in Australia. Another study done by Australians with the help of satellite images taken through Google Earth detected changes in the size of the 2,300 kilometres long coral reef. The new study corroborated this old one by comparing fossils with the old images.  

The wonder of the world that encompasses 900 islands and 2900 individual reefs is not easy to access in some places, such as the marine life and distant coral reefs. Satellite images could be of some help. 

Several warnings have been issued recently on the potential deterioration of this magnetic World Heritage site. One such report was prepared by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the central agency in charge of maintainenance on behalf of the government.

Quoting the report, a story was published by The Sydney Morning Herald, which said that the wonder might collapse indefinitely if the Earth got 1.5 degrees hotter, thus hugely contradicting assurances provided by scientists.

The issue has become somewhat of a burning hot topic with Australia heading to national elections soon on May 18. None of the leading political parties are concerned with the coral reef affected by the burning of coal and production of carbon dioxide.

The strongest opposition, the Labor party, is more concerned with renewable energy and cutting emissions than protecting this natural wonder.