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'Unprecedented' Bleaching Damages Two-Thirds Of Australia's Great Barrier Reef (bbc.com) 130

An anonymous reader writes: Unprecedented coral bleaching in consecutive years has damaged two-thirds of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, aerial surveys have shown. The bleaching — or loss of algae — affects a 1,500km (900 miles) area of the reef, according to scientists. The latest damage is concentrated in the middle section, whereas last year's bleaching hit mainly the north. Experts fear the proximity of the two events will give damaged coral little chance to recover.
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'Unprecedented' Bleaching Damages Two-Thirds Of Australia's Great Barrier Reef

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  • by Chris Katko ( 2923353 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @03:15AM (#54205133)

    ...by the amount of willful blindness in Australia's government.

    I mean, I thought for sure, once serious, real, things started dying on the planet, people would start caring. But I'm proven wrong every year.

    • by gravewax ( 4772409 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @03:24AM (#54205151)
      In the scheme of things there is sweet fuck all the Australian government can do about it. The main contributing factor is ocean temperature changes, Australia trying to affect that in any significant way would be like trying to put out a bushfire by pissing on it.
      • by vlad30 ( 44644 )
        Australian government hires an American Elvis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] to piss on bushfires
      • Another contributing factor is the nutrient rich runoff from fertilised fields. This feeds phytoplankton. These are the primary diet of Crown of Thorns starfish larvae so more survive to adulthood. Then they switch diet and eat coral. Nothing eats them.

        • by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @04:35AM (#54205283)

          And every time someone mentions agricultural runoff (specifically from sugarcane), the lobbyists hit up the national party, and we're all reminded that natural resources and agriculture are untouchables.

          No, it can't be the farmers, they're all "generational custodians" who couldn't possibly do anything harmful to the environment.

          Apologies to those farmers who actually give a crap.

          • It is not farmers or agriculture per se.

            It is the american system, where a farmer is the others farmer enemy and needs to drive the other one out of business to buy his land to get a "little bit more land" to be able to sell his crops for a little bit less but can sell more in mass. Dictated by the big food corporations, who try to pressure every farmer to sell a little bit cheaper and hence a part of them goes bankrupt the surviving go into debt and buy the land, or new investors found new farms.

            Look how b

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Besides don't think of the reef as dying, so much as the living skin relocating to another region. The reef in it's current locations has died many times before, in fact is has been hundreds of metres above sea level as a coastal land formation and proof of that is in coral cores. The amount of living coral will reduce dramatically as it colonises new locales and when sufficient properties of the rich and greedy have gone underwater and something is done, in a century or two, the living coral will return.

      • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @08:32AM (#54205989)

        Um, Australia is the biggest coal exporter in the world by quite a margin, so there certainly is something it could do - i.e. stop exporting coal.

        Australia has over a 3rd of the global coal market. It wont stop of course though, because money. If only they'd start utilising that desert for renewables, or start using their massive uranium reserves by pushing research into cleaner nuclear, or offering some of that uninhabitable territory for underground nuclear waste disposal instead.

        Bit of a wasted opportunity really, but hey, change is hard.

        But make no mistake, Australia could single handedly collapse the supply of coal, pushing it's prices up to be unaffordable and forcing a move to renewables, nuclear, and gas, which all avoid to a large degree the warming problem.

        Australia is literally selling out it's national heritage and it can only blame itself.

        • by Burz ( 138833 )

          Aside from coal exports, there is something to be said for actually setting an example. And Australia, at the behest of Rupert Murdoch's go-to-war-over-CO2 media empire, has set a bad one.

      • by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @09:51AM (#54206319) Homepage

        There's plenty they could have done, and plenty they still could do. They could have started reducing emissions decades ago when the scientific evidence first became clear, and they could have invested in a world-leading solar industry instead of still more open-pit coal mines. They could also have given the Reef Marine Park Authority the funding and authority it needed to *effectively* deal with declining water quality, instead of the lip service it gets now, and at least reduced the huge additional stress on the Reef from agricultural run-off.

        Instead, they've repealed our price on carbon, declared that "coal is good for humanity", green-lit even more coal mines, and approved a massive expansion & dredging operation for a coal export port right in the middle of the Reef's coastline (overruling the GBRMPA and even changing the law to allow themselves to ignore expert advice). And to cap it all off, last year they censored any mention of the Reef from a UNESCO report on World Heritage Tourism Sites at Risk (on the ironic grounds that it might affect tourism) - just as the 2016 bleaching event was killing off an unprecedented 67% of the coral in the Reef's northern third.

        Even this extensive damage may have recovered somewhat, given 10-15 years of benign conditions, but a fourth bleaching event the very next year has crushed any hopes of that - the question now is whether we'll lose most of the middle third as well. But hey, at least the government has made sure we'll have coal for our tourists, if not coral.

    • Our government is going through a major innovation frenzy at the moment in the hope of inventing the steam engine.

    • Algae don't vote, so why would a government care?

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      The problem is timescale. It's really hard for political systems to react to things that are more than a decade away. In democracies it's a challenge to react to things that are going to happen after the next election.

      Things that don't happen quickly, and when once they happen can't be fixed quickly, are almost always ignored.

    • Let me sadly fix your logic for you.

      ...once serious, real, people with influence started dying on the planet, people with influence would start caring and doing something.

      Caring doesn't matter if the people in control don't.

  • by tezbobobo ( 879983 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @04:13AM (#54205243) Homepage Journal

    ...then you're already too late.

    • ...then you're already too late.

      No it's not. But it will be soon. There are still many beautiful areas of the reef. But if you're going to see it, I wouldn't put it off.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @05:46AM (#54205465)

    "We gotta do something or the corals will be dead!"
    "The corals are fine, look, they're thriving."

    "The corals are gone, everything's dead!"
    "Well, then we can as well continue when it's too late to change anything anyway"

    • The corals are just pining for the fjords.

    • "The corals are fine, look, they're thriving."

      My personal favourite was the numbnuts politician who "proved" that the coral reef was fine by going to one of the few places where there was no bleeching and proceeded to pick up a lovely beautifully coloured coral and bring it up to the surface for a photo op. ... likely killing it in the process.

      Same the guilty: Pauline Hanson, head of the climate denying One Nation party.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The coral reefs are only the START. Trump has been in office for 3 months and has already caused the total extinction of the human race! [cnn.com] And he hasn't even broken out the nukes yet!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is a series of problems that exist at many levels.
    - World population is still growing
    - There are business reasons to look the other way
    - There are political reasons to look the other way
    - Much of the problem exists at a compounded micro level which means that each person contributes to the problem but doesn't feel they could contribute to the solution no matter what we do.
    - Human consumption is at a level which is frightening.
    - Recycling barely has any impact because we simply make too much crap we don

  • by jlf278 ( 1022347 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @09:21AM (#54206175)
    looks at the barrier reef as 2/3 dead. An optimist looks at the barrier as 1/3 struggling to stay alive.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "But the reefs! The ice! The bees! It's all propoganda by liberals for their global warming bs!

  • This Watts Up With That article (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/04/05/falling-sea-level-the-critical-factor-in-2016-great-barrier-reef-bleaching/ [wattsupwiththat.com]) gives a much better explanation and addresses the claims that climate change is the reason.
    • Ah yes, an 8th grade biology teacher and denialist who's probably never even seen the Great Barrier Reef, writes a blog article speculating that the peer-reviewed scientific evidence from one of the foremost Reef scientists is all completely wrong, because... other reefs have in the past been bleached by different causes. And you think this is a "better explanation" why, exactly?

      As usual, denialists can't scrape up any evidence that could survive peer review, so they spend their time denying the evidence th

  • Bleaching is normal to some extent. Corals recover if they get a break. Problem here is they get 2 years - back to back of high temperature bleaching which lowers the chance of recovery.

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