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Coal-loving Australia vows to protect Great Barrier Reef ‘Utter Bulls**t’, critics say

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Coal-loving Australia vows to protect Great Barrier Reef ‘Utter Bulls**t’, critics say

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The Australian government said on Friday it would invest $700 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef, a natural crown jewel that is rapidly deteriorating due to climate change, but the plan has prompted a swift response from scientists and environmentalists who say the effort does little to address our warming world. .

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new funding would be spent over the next nine years, bolstering a $1.4 billion effort, called the Reef 2050 plan, through investments that would improve water quality , fight crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and invest in reef science. .

But the plan barely addresses the root cause of the Great Barrier Reef’s demise: rapidly warming waters linked to climate change. The landmark has been hit by five episodes of massive coral bleaching since 1998, including back-to-back events in 2016, 2017 and 2020 that left huge swaths of the structure sick or dead.

(Bleaching most often occurs when warmer-than-usual waters rest on delicate reefs, effectively baking coral polyps.)

Terry Hughes, a professor at the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said the plan amounted to “total bullshit”, calling it simply a band-aid “to protect fossil fuels”.

“Australia is lagging behind on climate change – still pushing for more fossil fuels, and scientists know we CANNOT ‘build a healthy climate resilient reef’ without tackling rising emissions “, he wrote on Twitter.

Australia’s Conservative government has drawn heavy criticism for its continued support for the fossil fuel industry, and a November report found 116 major coal and gas projects are in development across the country. The country’s emissions strategies are currently rated as “severely insufficient” by Climate Action Tracker, and Morrison has refused to update 2030 emissions reduction targets and has pledged to support the coal industry for them. “decades to come”.

“I make no apologies for defending Australia for our national interests, whether that be our security interests or our economic interests,” said Morrison, who faces an election later this year, in November at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow. “We have a balanced plan to achieve net zero by 2050, but we’re not going to make rural and regional Australians pay for it.”

Many scientists say, however, that 2050 will be far too late to stop runaway climate change, especially for already vulnerable structures like the Great Barrier Reef. Reef advocates also point to the 64,000 jobs directly supported by tourism along Australia’s coast.

(The $1 billion figure mentioned in the tweets below is in Australian dollars.)

Sussan Ley, the country’s environment minister, said on Friday that Australia was not “sitting on our hands” when it came to tackling climate change, and she brushed off concerns that the nation was not doing its fair share to address fossil fuel emissions. .

“Our focus for improving the long term prospects for the reef is on three key areas, one of them is reducing global emissions…but of course this is a global issue requiring a global response,” said she declared. Ley went on to say that critics are trying to claim that “Australia’s emissions are the only emissions responsible for the state of the reef, and that is clearly not the case.”

“We know we can help build a healthy, resilient reef in the face of climate change while doing our part.”

These statements have sparked frustration among opposition lawmakers, who have linked aggressive action on climate change with genuine protection of the reef.

The damage and continuing threats to the reef are so great that UNESCO, the United Nations body that monitors global areas of high significance, has threatened to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef to “endangered” status. This would have been deeply embarrassing, but the Australian government successfully lobbied to prevent this from happening in the short term.

A vote on the issue will take place later this year, after the Australian federal election.

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