Global Coral Bleaching Event Threatens Reefs as Study Projects Trillions in Climate Losses

Coral reefs face devastating bleaching, costing $38 trillion annually by 2050. Climate change poses an urgent threat, underscoring the need for global action to reduce emissions and protect these vital ecosystems.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Global Coral Bleaching Event Threatens Reefs as Study Projects Trillions in Climate Losses

Global Coral Bleaching Event Threatens Reefs as Study Projects Trillions in Climate Losses

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has verified the world is undergoing the fourth global coral bleaching event on record, threatening coral reefs that are vital for tourism, coastal protection, and potential medical treatments. This comes as a new study published in the journal Nature projects annual climate-related losses could reach $38 trillion by mid-century, resulting in a 19% reduction in global per capita income.

Coral bleaching occurs when stressed coral expels the algae that are its food source, which can lead to the coral's death if the bleaching is severe and long-lasting. NOAA reports that bleaching-level heat stress has been widespread across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean basins in 2023 and 2024, with mass bleaching confirmed in regions including the Great Barrier Reef, Caribbean, Brazil, and Red Sea.

Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the Earth's surface but are home to 25% of known marine species. They play a vital role in protecting coastal habitats, absorbing carbon dioxide, and sustaining the livelihoods of over 1 billion people. The global coral reef tourism industry alone is valued at $36 billion. However, climate change is causing ocean waters to warm, leading to more frequent and severe coral bleaching events. The current event is the second worldwide bleaching in the last 10 years, with the previous one lasting from 2014 to 2017.

Why this matters: The loss of coral reefs would have devastating consequences for marine biodiversity, coastal communities, and economies that depend on reef tourism and fisheries. Climate change poses a critical threat to these essential ecosystems, underscoring the urgent need for global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit further warming.

The economic toll of climate change extends far beyond the impact on coral reefs. The Nature study, led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, finds that even with drastic emissions cuts starting today, the world is already committed to climate-related damages of around $38 trillion yearly by 2050, with a likely range of $19-59 trillion. This equates to a 19% reduction in global per capita income.

The study predicts the poorest countries and those least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions will endure income losses 60% greater than higher-income countries and 40% greater than higher-emission countries. South Asia and Africa could see lost income percentages of about 22%, compared to around 11% in Europe and North America.

The findings emphasize the need for immediate and drastic emissions reductions to avoid even larger economic losses in the second half of the century, which could reach up to 60% of global average by 2100. While some economic damages over the next 25 years are largely locked in, the researchers stress that <a href="https://www.stltoday.com/news/nation-world/business

Key Takeaways

  • NOAA confirms 4th global coral bleaching event, threatening vital ecosystems.
  • Climate-related losses could reach $38 trillion by mid-century, 19% income drop.
  • Poorest countries face 60% greater income losses than higher-income nations.
  • Coral reefs cover <1% of Earth, home to 25% of marine species, support 1B livelihoods.
  • Urgent need for drastic emissions cuts to avoid larger economic losses by 2100.