The fight to save the Great Barrier Reef

Water pity: When its water heats up, coral turns pale, which is why the process is known as “bleaching”.

Can money alone save the Great Barrier Reef? The world’s largest living thing is shrinking fast. Australia, its nearest country, will invest huge sums to try to tackle this emergency.

What’s happening

The Australian government has pledged £275 million to save the Great Barrier Reef. The natural wonder faces many threats, not least warming waters caused by climate change, which destroyed almost a third of the reef’s coral in 2016. Species that rely on reefs, like fish, are suffering as a result.

Find out more

Tiny invertebrates known as corals join to form reefs, hard living structures found in seas across the world. Reefs are home to 25% of all sea life, including fish, whales and dolphins. If their water becomes too hot, they “bleach”, losing their colour and eventually dying.

The Great Barrier Reef is huge — it can be seen from space. Millions visit it every year. Yet many experts warn that it (and other reefs) will not last unless global warming is stopped. World temperatures have risen by around 1C since pre-industrial levels.

Australia’s money will fund research into climate change, monitor the reef’s health and kill coral-destroying starfish. Scientists are also looking at ways to regrow coral in labs, then transplant it into the reef.

Is this enough?

Some say…

Finally, some action! Coral has been bleaching for decades. With its record-breaking investment, Australia shows that it cares. Its scientists are exploring some very promising technologies, and companies like Google are getting involved too. Australia’s economy depends on tourism to the reef, so it will surely do everything it can to rescue it.

Others think…

Australia’s money will only go so far. Global warming will continue unless nations join forces to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is guilty here: it is the world’s biggest exporter of coal, which is not climate-friendly. If it is serious about saving the Great Barrier Reef, it must set an example by switching to green energy sources.

You Decide

  1. Is global warming the greatest threat to humanity?

Activities

  1. You have been given £275 million to solve a problem of your choice (it does not have to be related to the environment). Write a letter to your government explaining what you will spend the money on, and why.

Some People Say...

“We are a plague on the Earth.”

David Attenborough

What do you think?

Word Watch

Pledged
Promised officially.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, like insects or molluscs. They make up 95% of animal species.
Pre-industrial levels
Global temperatures before the heavy industrialisation of the 20th century.
Monitor
Observe over a long period of time.
Greenhouse gas
A gas, like carbon dioxide, that adds to global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Exporter
A country that sells a lot of something abroad is said to be an “exporter” of that thing.

Subjects

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