A GROUP of leading marine scientists have today written to Prime Minister Albanese with an urgent plea to heed the science and reject new coal and gas projects for the sake of the world’s coral reefs.  

The letter, signed by 14 international and Australian marine and climate scientists – including IPCC authors – draws attention to the most severe bleaching event in recorded history currently unfolding on the Great Barrier Reef. 

The scientists have rallied to make clear to the Prime Minister the severity of reef bleaching and have urged him to ensure Australia’s new, improved, national nature protection laws are passed before the end of this term of government. They say the new laws must thoroughly embed climate change considerations, so polluting projects are stopped at the source. 

This is the fifth mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef in nine years. Globally, the world’s coral reefs are undergoing the most severe mass bleaching on record.  

“We are extremely worried about what we’ve seen unfold here in Australia and globally this year. Climate change is the biggest threat to our reefs and it’s right here, right now. The reef’s long-term outlook is critically dependent on limiting global temperature rise – that means lowering emissions as fast as possible,” Professor Ove Hoegh- Guldberg, Professor of Marine Science at the University of Queensland, said.  

“What’s occurring on our Great Barrier Reef has been described as an ‘underwater bushfire’. The world’s oceans have experienced more than 365 consecutive days of off the charts heat. Our oceans are cooking and fossil fuels have lit that fire.” 

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said: “No amount of funding for reef restoration programs is going to address the underlying symptom of bleaching. We must cut emissions now. And that means no new coal and gas projects.” 

Climate Council Fellow and CEO Great Barrier Reef Legacy and Forever Reef Project Dr Dean Miller said: “Relentless pollution from coal, oil and gas has put enormous stress on the vibrant life of our mighty Reef through repeated marine heatwaves and mass coral bleaching. It’s critical that our immediate focus is on preventing further devastation. 

"When marine organisms that are perfectly adapted to ocean life find their habitat is inhospitable due to rising temperatures, we're alarmingly close to a point of no return. This latest global bleaching event—a dire warning for coral reefs worldwide—should concern all Australians. If we don't show real commitment to protecting our precious Reef and all the life that depends on it, this will be the first of many dominoes to fall.  

"The choice is stark: coral or coal. Future generations are counting on us to make the right decision, and we simply can't wait a second longer. The climate crisis demands action now." 

The government last month announced it will introduce legislation to create new agencies, Environment Protection Australia (EPA) and Environment Information Australia but has not set a timeframe for the implementation of the full Environment Law reform package.  

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