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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Code Blue for Australian oceans

AUSTRALIA’S oceans are in crisis, as extreme heat punishes marine life and raises the spectre of irreversible changes with profound consequences for all life on our planet, a new report has found.

The Climate Council’s Code Blue: Oceans in Crisis report, reveals the immense amount of climate-change induced heat currently being absorbed by the world’s oceans is equivalent to boiling the Sydney Harbour every eight minutes.

In addition, the Climate Council ran a highly targeted survey of 30 leading ocean scientists across five continents. All (100%) were ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned about climate-driven changes to the world’s oceans. Half (53%) said these changes were outpacing scientific predictions.

Overwhelmingly, these scientists agreed ‘rapidly phasing out fossil fuels’ is the single most important action governments could take to address ocean warming.

Report author and Climate Council’s Research Director Dr Simon Bradshaw said the science couldn’t be any clearer.

“Our oceans are in deep trouble, today the ocean is absorbing excess heat energy that’s equivalent to five Hiroshima bomb explosions every second, or enough to boil Sydney Harbour every eight minutes,” he said.

“As our climate changes, driven by rampant burning of coal, oil and gas, our seas are transforming before our eyes.

“More frequent and severe marine heatwaves are pushing coral reefs to the brink, ice sheets are melting at an alarming rate, ocean currents are slowing and seas are rising – the climate crisis is also an ocean crisis.”

Dr Bradshaw said the new report took the name code blue to mirror the code blue called in hospital emergency rooms, when a very serious life-threatening event is underway.

“We are calling a code blue for our oceans today, because this threatens all the species that inhabit them, the people who depend on them, as well as all life on land,” he said.

“Over the past few decades as the climate has warmed, the oceans have done an incredible job of protecting us by absorbing CO2 and an immense amount of heat, but there’s a limit to what they can take and we are close to crossing dangerous tipping points.

“We must scale up the use of clean energy like solar and wind, backed by storage, as quickly as we can so the use of coal, oil and gas is phased out – every step that cuts pollution will help secure our future.”

Tishiko King, a proud Kulkalaig woman from Masig in Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait Islands), marine scientist and one of the co-authors of the report said people know what is needed to protect our futures.

“Leaving fossil fuels in the ground, having the resources to adapt to our changing climate and ocean, and being able to access funds to address loss and damage,” she said.

“We have the opportunity to work together, First Nations, Pacific Island nations, non-Indigenous Australians and it starts by listening and understanding what we all have in common – the ocean is what connects us all together.’’

The Code Blue: Our Oceans in Crisis report can be viewed here.

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: First Nations artist draws international appeal and Police work with community for Crime Prevention Week.

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