EDUCATE: More than 100 people attended a climate briefing held in the Whitsundays last week.
EDUCATE: More than 100 people attended a climate briefing held in the Whitsundays last week. Contributed

Whitsunday climate talks pull big crowds

CORAL reefs are fragile and extremely vulnerable to the rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, a briefing at the Reef Gateway Hotel heard last week.

About 100 people attended the Whitsunday Climate Briefing and Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies professorial research fellow Morgan Pratchett spoke at the packed-out venue about the impacts of climate change, particularly rising ocean temperatures.

Dr Pratchett said climate change was the biggest threat to coral reefs, and to preserve them, the world must reduce their CO2 emissions.

"We're about one degree above the long-term average and there is global pressure to try and keep it below 1.5 degrees,” he said.

"We can only tolerate another point five increase, but the reality is we're going to sailing past that.

"They're (the coral) is already under significant duress, and if it gets to two degrees higher, it will be a pretty dire situation.

"Australia is lagging behind in meeting emissions targets and that even a point of a degree can have huge difference.”

CLIMATE: Dr Morgan Pratchett addresses the packed out room about the impacts climate change has on the world's coral reefs.
CLIMATE: Dr Morgan Pratchett addresses the packed out room about the impacts climate change has on the world's coral reefs. Contributed

Dr Pratchett said it's not just coral which would suffer with the continued rising temperatures, humans were vulnerable too.

"There is already evidence of massive casualties associated with the heatwave in Europe last year, which was clearly linked to excessive temperatures - it's already happening,” he said.

Cyclones and the crown of thorns starfish, which feed on coral, have been destructive to the Great Barrier Reef, and Dr Pratchett recognises that needs to be managed and acknowledged.

Reef Action Whitsunday spokesperson Tony Fontes said it was a "sobering” event.

"You read about the impacts of climate change on the reef but when you hear it from one of Australia's leading coral scientists, it is hard not to get depressed,” he said.

Community member Isabelle Silberling said the information presented by Dr Pratchett was interesting and informative.

"I'm so glad we could have someone of his calibre come to the Whitsundays to share his information with us,” she said.


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