Australia left out of the UNESCO report on climate change threat to world heritage sites.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Last week UNESCO (United Nations Educational and Science Cultural Organization) released a report, looking at the affect global warming is having on 31 different sites in 29 countries. Any mention of Australia, The Great Barrier Reef in particular, was cut from the report. The initial report contained extensive research outlining the affect climate change is having on The Great Barrier Reef, and the threat that Coral Bleaching is imposing on its very existence. Before the report was published, the Environment Department urged the Australian ambassador to UNESCO to have any mention of Australian sites removed. The Environment Department believed that mentioning the impact climate change is having on Australian ecosystems could jeopardize the tourism industry that is based around areas such as the Barrier Reef. The department issued a statement outlining why Australia was cut from the report “The department expressed concern that giving the report the title ‘Destinations at risk’ had the potential to cause considerable confusion.” The department went on to outline that by labelling the reef as a ‘Destination at Risk’ could muddle the issues of world heritage sites and risks arising from climate change and tourism. The decision to remove Australia from this report has raised concerns from members of the public, as well as politicians and environmental experts. Larissa Waters, the Greens Senator from Queensland, said that it was “unbelievable that the response of global warnings about the future of the reef is simply to hide the evidence”. This report comes at a crucial time in the security of the Barrier Reef, studies show that approximately one-third of the northern area of the reef has already died due to enormous amounts of coral bleaching that has occurred over recent years. Experts are blaming this extensive coral bleaching on the extreme El-Nino weather conditions of the past 12 months. Abnormally warm water temperatures cause the coral to release photosynthetic algae. The coral cannot survive without the algae, causing the reef to be destroyed.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, outlined the seriousness of this situation “”The key threat to the Great Barrier Reef is climate change – the government has recognised that many times.” Professor Hughes went on to urge the Queensland Government to start taking climate change seriously and to reconsider the impact coal mines are having on Australia’s environment.


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