The largest living structures on Earth and the millions of livelihoods which depend upon them are at risk, the most definitive review yet of the impact of rising carbon emissions on coral reefs has concluded.
If world leaders do not immediately engage in a race against time to save the Earth’s coral reefs, these vital ecosystems will not survive the global warming and acidification predicted for later this century. That is the conclusion of a group of marine scientists from around the world in a major new study published in the journal Science on Dec. 13.
The rise of carbon dioxide emissions and the resultant climate warming from the burning of fossil fuels are making oceans warmer and more acidic, said co-author Harvell, which is triggering widespread coral disease and stifling coral growth toward “a tipping point for functional collapse.”
The scientists argue that rising global CO2 emissions represent an ‘irreducible risk’ that will rapidly outstrip the capacity of local coastal managers and policy-makers to maintain the health of these critical ecosystems, if CO2 emissions are allowed to continue unchecked.
“This crisis is on our doorstep, not decades away. We have little time in which to respond, but respond, we must!” says Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the Science paper, The Carbon Crisis: Coral Reefs under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification.