Richard Vevers –
Last December, I went on a diving expedition in Indonesia to a place called Raja Ampat. It is at the heart of the Coral Triangle and the epicenter of coral biodiversity.
The reefs I saw there were immaculate. Healthy corals covered the reef for as far as the eye could see and the fish life was equally spectacular. However, this was a far cry from what I’d been witnessing for the last couple of years on other reefs.
I wrote a blog for Virgin Unite in June last year about my experience and how coral reefs were on the frontline of climate change. The third Global Coral Bleaching Event has been the biggest coral die-off ever recorded and our team has been on that frontline recording and revealing it wherever possible.
As the ocean continues to rapidly warm, coral reefs are dying at an unprecedented rate. Last year 22 per cent of corals on the Great Barrier Reef died. Now, less than a year after this massive die-off, the Great Barrier Reef is again facing widespread bleaching. The third Global Coral Bleaching Event, which has lasted longer than both the previous two events combined, is showing no sign of ending. We are rapidly losing this vital ecosystem, an ecosystem that supports a quarter of all marine life and half a billion people who rely on it for food and livelihoods.
People generally don’t realise the impact of climate change on the ocean. What is happening underwater is still very much “out of sight, out of mind” – we more easily associate climate issues with what we can see on land.
However, the reality is that 93 per cent of all climate change heat is absorbed by the ocean, compared with just 1per cent that is absorbed by the atmosphere. Climate change has heated the upper ocean about 1°C / 1.8°F in the last 100 years. 1°C might not sound like a lot, but to put it into perspective, imagine your internal body temperature increasing by that amount and never dropping back to normal. You’d be sick – chronically sick.
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