You don’t have to travel far from the sprawling convention center that’s staging the UN climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to see what’s at stake. This coastal resort town is fringed by an ecosystem seemingly facing worldwide cataclysm from global heating – coral reefs.
As negotiators haggle over an agreement that may or may not maintain a goal to restrain global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the nearby corals face a more brutally unyielding scenario.
Even if the 1.5C limit is kept, more than 90% of worldwide reefs will be destroyed by severe aquatic heatwaves with the more likely temperature increase of 2C, meaning all coral formations will face their doom. We face the “stark reality that there is no safe limit of global warming for coral reefs” as Adele Dixon, a researcher at University of Leeds’ School of Biology, put it after unveiling this grim research earlier this year.
A coalition of coral conservation groups have used the Cop27 summit in Egypt to express alarm over “catastrophic losses” in coral cover – half the world’s reefs are thought to have died in the past three decades – and call for radical action in a decade they call “the last chance for a turning point in favour of coral reef survival”. Governments must speed up efforts to expand marine protected areas, cut water pollution and restore corals, the coalition has demanded.