With the recent massive bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef as a result of climate change, the Ocean Elders wrote to Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull to stress the need for his leadership in moving away from fossil fuels. The letter, signed by HSH Prince Albert II, HM Queen Noor, Ted, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Rita Colwell, Nainoa Thompson, Graeme Kelleher, Captain Don Walsh, Jackson Browne, and Sven Lindblad, called on Prime Minister Turnbull to “to do your utmost, as soon as possible, to establish national emission reductions consistent with limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees of global warming, the target of the 2015 Paris climate summit, and shift national energy policy to phase out coal, the leading contributor to Australia’s emissions, and become a renewable energy based nation.”
Dear Prime Minister,
We, the Ocean Elders, are deeply alarmed about the rise in global temperatures, due mainly to the burning of fossil fuels, and the consequent severity of coral bleaching in the vast northern stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. A strong El Nino event is partly to blame, but scientists agree that by far the most powerful force behind this tragedy is global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
Australia’s Reef is a global icon; a reef like none other. Its grandeur and beauty are breathtaking. Its outstanding universal value is held in trust by the Australian Government, on behalf of all humanity.
Recent reports have revealed that 95% of the reefs along the northern 1,000 kilometre coastline are almost all severely bleached and half the corals could die in the next month. Up until now, these reefs have been in very good condition, unlike the southern two thirds of this World Heritage site, where coral cover has declined by a shocking 47-78%. The scale and intensity of this bleaching event is unprecedented. It is further evidence of the impacts of accelerated global warming on the Earth’s fragile ecosystems. Coral reefs are the most conspicuous evidence of global warming. They toll a warning bell for all ecosystems on Earth.
The warning signs are growing more obvious year by year. NASA revealed that February 2016 was the hottest month on record, by a shocking margin. Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research in Germany, said “We are in a kind of climate emergency now”.
We believe it is clearly in the world’s and Australia’s national interest that prompt, decisive and effective action be taken to arrest the causes of global warming. As the custodian of the Great Barrier Reef on behalf of all humanity and future generations, we urge you as Prime Minister of Australia to do your utmost, as soon as possible, to establish national emission reductions consistent with limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees of global warming, the target of the 2015 Paris climate summit, and shift national energy policy to phase out coal, the leading contributor to Australia’s emissions, and become a renewable energy based nation.
We hope it is not too late to save the Great Barrier Reef, but the window is closing fast. Of course, Australia alone cannot achieve this, but your leadership is crucial. The moral decision to save the Great Barrier Reef rests in your hands. In writing this open letter, we note that when you were Leader of the Opposition, you supported the policy of putting a price on carbon. We sincerely hope that you still have the conviction and determination to pursue a policy which reduces the use of fossil fuels, for the sake of humanity and the biosphere.
The Ocean Elders