If you have been lucky enough to snorkel around a coral reef you will know what marvellous places they are. They are homes to about a quarter of all marine life and are an invaluable source of shelter for breeding and spawning fish and crustaceans. Reefs also serve a valuable carbon dioxide absorbing function both directly and indirectly by protecting shorelines thus enabling trees like mangroves to grow. They also absorb a lot of wave energy, particularly important when events like Tsunamis are involved.
Last week the World Conservation Union (a body made up of 83 countries, 110 government agencies, 800 NGOs and more than ten thousand scientists) reported their findings, having studied coral reefs. 2005 was the warmest year ever recorded. The land and the seas were warmer than ever and there were more hurricanes in the Caribbean which were more violent than ever. 2005 was the year of Hurricane Katrina that devastated Louisiana and Hurricane Wilma that caused greater more violent damage to parts of Mexico.
As well as having to cope with harsher more violent weather caused by human carbon dioxide emission, these fragile eco systems are being damaged by careless human activity. The slightly warmer seas cause bleaching of coral – the process under which they die and turn white. The World Conservation Union fears that we will lose many coral reefs in the next few years, not only by climate change but also by inappropriate tourism which generates pollution and over fishing in these places. Given time, the reefs may adapt to climate change, but if the pace of change is too fast we shall lose them all.
Warmer seas kill coral and this is simply one example of how global warming is rapidly making the world a less pleasant and more extreme place in which to live. As humans our behaviour causes an impact on our climate, most scientists believe to be true to a 90% degree of probability.
The behaviour that causes this is the relentless uncontrolled burning of fossil fuel and other carbon dioxide creating activities, which are happening faster than the earth can neutralise. We know how to deal with the problem, but it the solutions involve expense and very hard work. I wonder whether any politicians will have the courage to do what is necessary.