Tourism to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, worth billions to the Australian economy, could be all but wiped out due to climate change, according to a new research report commissioned by a panel of world leaders that includes Scott Morrison.
The report, on the impacts of climate change on the ocean economy, says that ocean dependent industries, worth up to $2.5 trillion a year to the global economy, are at risk of being devastated by climate change, unless action to limit global warming is rapidly undertaken.
Australia’s reef tourism industry was identified as particularly vulnerable and its value could decline by as much as 94% by the end of the century due to the impacts of global warming.
The paper has been commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, of which the Australian prime minister is a member, with report authors detailing the “chilling” impacts that climate change is set to ravage on the Earth’s ocean environment.
The report, which has been launched to coincide with the COP25 international climate talks in Madrid, found that there were three core industries that will be significantly impacted by global warming, including wild capture fisheries, marine aquaculture and coral reef tourism.
“Only now are we starting to comprehend the full force that unabated global heating will unleash on our key ocean industries – and it is chilling,” report co-author and distinguished professor at the University of California, Steve Gaines said.
“To avert an impending economic crisis, widespread devastation to communities, hunger and resource conflicts in coming decades, we must urgently restore ocean health. That means taking rapid and ambitious action to curb climate change, while easing the other enormous pressures we put on the ocean. Fortunately, bold actions today could have dramatic benefits for most countries.”
Australia ranks amongst the top five countries globally for the value of its reef tourism industry, following Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico and Thailand. Combined, reef tourism is worth $35.8 billion to the global economy annually.
The analysis estimated that Australia’s reef tourism, which a Deloitte report estimated contributes A$6.4 billion a year to the Australian economy and supports 64,000 jobs, could be reduced by as much 94% under the most extreme global warming scenarios, by the end of the century.
Even under a more moderate scenario, Australian reef tourism could suffer a 42% decline by 2100, following a 14% decline in the level of coral cover across Australia’s reefs.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that economic losses due to the impacts of climate change on oceans could reach $428 billion a year globally by 2050, and almost $2 trillion a year by the end of the century.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said that the Australian Government should take heed of the report, which they have co-commissioned through the high level panel, given the threat global warming poses to the Great Barrier Reef and the tourism industry it supports.
“This Morrison Government-sponsored report finds if climate change is allowed to accelerate it would lead to a 94 per cent decline in Australian coral reef tourism revenue by 2100,” ACF’s campaigns director, Dr Paul Sinclair said.
“Even under a very conservative scenario, where global temperatures increase by less than 2 degrees by 2100, Australian coral reef tourism revenue is predicted to plummet by 42 per cent.”
“Reef tourism is the backbone of many Australian regional communities. Tourism to the Great Barrier Reef generates billions of dollars each year. If we keep polluting our atmosphere, oceans will keep copping it – and humans will too,” Sinclair added.
“Australia has so much to lose. We love the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef and our other beautiful coral ecosystems. We love beaches, fishing and water sports. We need to protect these with urgent climate action.”
The Coalition government has taken a ham-fisted approach to protecting the Great Barrier Reef and has been an enthusiastic supporter of increasing Australia’s coal and gas exports, including the shipping of the fossil fuel products through the Great Barrier Reef.
Ahead of the 2019 federal election, Scott Morrison told the launch of the Liberal Party’s election campaign that former environment minister Greg Hunt had ‘saved the reef’, crediting Hunt for ensuring the Great Barrier Reef was taken off the ‘endangered list’.
This was a claim discredited by climate scientists, who said that no such listing ever existed, and who have consistently criticised the Morrison government for its lack of action on climate change.