The Great Barrier Reef warnings that Australia tried to hide have now been published

The chapter warned that the natural wonder is ‘deteriorating’ because of ‘multiple threats’ – but it then disappeared from the official report following objections from the Australian government

Andrew Griffin
Friday 27 May 2016 11:35
The Australian government said that the warnings – which advised that tourism could collapse along with the reef – would be bad for encouraging people to visit
The Australian government said that the warnings – which advised that tourism could collapse along with the reef – would be bad for encouraging people to visit

A damning report about the Great Barrier Reed that Australia demanded was pulled from the internet has been leaked online.

The chapter was written by climate experts for a Unesco report on tourism and climate change, and describes the ways that the natural wonder is under threat. But after pressure from the Australian government it was removed from the official report – which now doesn’t mention the Great Barrier Reef at all.

The deleted report stressed both the beauty of the reef and also pointed to the threats – mostly from climate change - that are destroying large parts of it. Almost all of the reef is now “bleached” – when warm water expels algae and turns it white – and researchers have said that half of it is dead or dying.

The report – written by Adam Markham from the Union of Concerned Scientists – pointed out simply that the site was at risk from global warming and that its future is at risk.

But Australia said that it had removed the report because concern about the natural wonder appeared to be discouraging tourism.

“Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of world heritage properties impacted on tourism,” a spokesperson for Australia’s environment department told The Guardian.

Now Unesco’s ‘World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate’ leaves out all mention of one of the world’s biggest tourist and natural heritage sites, apparently after Australia’s Department of Environment objected to the section. It means that Australia is the only inhabited continent on the planet that isn’t mentioned in the report.

The report explicitly addressed the impact that tourism can have on the reef – noting the positive economic effects such activity has but also the damage that it can do.

“Tourism infrastructure, along with other coastal developments, can cause habitat degradation and damaging pollution and sediment run-off,” the report – posted online at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ website – concludes.

But it also notes that climate change, which will bring it warmer sea temperatures and changing weather patterns, poses the biggest threat to that tourism economy.

Strangely, the report concludes with a positive assessment of some of the ways that the Australian government has responded to the threats. It notes that strategies have been developed to try and save the reef – in large part so that the tourism economy that has developed around it can be saved.

“The most recent strategy from the Australian government, the Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability plan addressed this issue head on and has been designed to ‘ensure the Great Barrier Reef continues to improve on its Outstanding Universal Value every decade between now and 2050 to be a natural wonder for each successive generation to come’,” the final paragraph of the report notes.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments