Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Climate change dire for Coral Triangle

  • Adam Morton
  • The Age, May 13, 2009

ABOUT 100 million people living on Australia's doorstep could be forced to leave their homeland due to climate change this century, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by the environment group WWF, found Australia will have a key role in avoiding ecological and humanitarian disaster in what it calls the Coral Triangle - the marine area including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.

Drawing on more than 300 published studies, it estimates that failure to take effective action on climate change will diminish the food supply drawn from the area's coasts by up to 80 per cent.

University of Queensland marine scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, one of 20 scientists to work on the report, said under the worst-case scenario the ecology of the region would be destroyed by rises in ocean temperature, acidity and sea level.

"Poverty increases, food security plummets, economies suffer and coastal people migrate increasingly to urban areas," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said. "Tens of millions of people are forced to move from rural and coastal settings due to loss of homes, food resources and income, putting pressure on regional cities and surrounding developed nations such as Australia and New Zealand."

Even under a best-case scenario, the report found the region will lose coral and have to deal with higher seas, more frequent storms, droughts and less food from coastal fisheries. The report, to be launched today at the World Oceans Conference in Indonesia, calls for large cuts in greenhouse emissions and international financial support for the region's environment.

WWF Australia conservation manager Gilly Llewellyn said it was in Australia's interest to invest early to help avoid the worst-case scenario.

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