“If we can hold global warming to 1.5 degrees global average warming then I think we’ll still have a vibrant Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
The study found the corals adapted to have a higher heat threshold if they had survived a previous bleaching event, but the gap between bleaching events has shrunk, giving the reefs less time to recover between each episode.
Australia, which last week said it would not back a pledge led by the United States and the European Union to cut methane emissions, needs to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Hughes said.
“The government is still issuing permits for new coal mines and for new methane gas deals and it’s simply irresponsible in terms of Australia’s responsibilities to the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
The Great Barrier Reef is comprised of more than 3,000 individual reefs stretching for 2,300km (1,429 miles). The ecosystem supports 65,000 jobs in reef tourism. Globally, hundreds of millions of people depend on the survival of coral reefs for their livelihoods and food security.
“If we go to 3, 4 degrees of global average warming which is tragically the trajectory we are currently on, then there won’t be much left of the Great Barrier Reef or any other coral reefs throughout the tropics,” Hughes told Reuters.