Scientists downgraded the Outlook for the Great Barrier reef

Australia downgrades outlook for Great Barrier Reef to 'very poor'

Great Barrier Reef health outlook downgraded to 'very poor'

Climate change is driving the demise of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, according to a government agency.

"Without additional local, national and global action on the greatest threats, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef's ecosystem will remain very poor, with continuing consequences for its heritage values also", the report says.

'However regardless of that with the correct mix of native actions to enhance the resilience of the system and world actions to deal with local weather change within the strongest and quickest manner doable, we are able to flip that round.

As's Sophie Lewis reported, the Great Barrier Reef - which stretches for more than 1,400 miles off the coast of Australia - has gone through four mass bleaching events due to above-average sea temperatures, in 1998, 2002, 2016 and 2017.

Some parts of the reef remained in good condition but many species - including dolphins, dugongs, sharks, rays and turtles - are being threatened.

The 2,300km-long Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, and it can be seen from outer space.

Environmentalists said the latest reef outlook put new pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his support for expanding production of coal, Australia's biggest export.

The Climate Council wants the federal government to do more to rapidly decrease emissions in order to protect the reef and the tourism industry.

The Great Barrier Reef's outlook has been downgraded from poor to very poor

UNESCO's chief of the Asia and Pacific region, Feng Jing, said the organisation was following closely the state of the reef and progress made in protecting it and would consider its status in July next year. You could liken the Great Barrier Reef to the Amazon Rain Forest when we are talking about them as potent symbols of the damage brought about by man-made climate change.

Scientists have been concerned about the health of the coral network for decades.

The prescription is clear, the scientists say: "Initiatives that will halt and reverse the effects of climate change at a global level and effectively improve water quality at a regional scale are the most urgent to improve the Region's long-term outlook".

"The Reef 2050 Plan is required to be revamped next year and must take climate change seriously and regulations to reduce farm runoff", he said.

Environmental groups, including the Climate Council and the Australian Conservation Foundation have called the report a sobering read, and have called for State and Federal government adoption of climate change policies.

The government insists it is meeting its emissions targets as set under worldwide protocols, including the Paris climate agreement, and argues that Australia's total greenhouse gas output remains far below that of major polluting nations.

The reef is estimated to be worth at least US$4 billion a year to the Australian economy - serving as a magnet for tourists and emblem of the country. That means moving on from digging up and burning coal and gas for our energy.

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