Great Barrier Reef: Australia Unveils $500 Million Rescue Mission

Better late than never?


The Great Barrier Reef is dying at such a rapid speed that many environmentalists argue the effects are now irreversible. That doesn’t mean lawmakers are going to stop trying. The Australian government has unveiled a plan to rescue the Great Barrier Reef that is already setting a new record.

On Sunday, Minister of Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg said $500 million ($379 million in U.S. dollars) would be set aside in an attempt to reverse some of the damage caused by years of coral bleaching and climate change. This multifaceted rescue mission is now considered the largest single investment for reef conservation in the country’s history.

“We want to ensure the reef’s future for the benefit of all Australians, particularly those whose livelihood depends on the reef,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said of the plan. The new funding will be applied to coral restoration, new technology for underwater monitoring, improvement of water quality, as well as monitoring and defending against potential predators. Frydenberg also outlined ways in which the improvements will be measured to ensure goals are met.

Australia joins several new ventures to support the reef that were unveiled this year. On Monday, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a report that scientists have used the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology to genetically engineer a species of coral that was once abundant in the Great Barrier Reef. However, this development comes less than a month after scientists declared the reef’s level of devastation irreversible unless governments reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels.

Australia is considered one of the worst per-capita greenhouse gas polluters, due to the country’s coal usage. The epidemic of coral bleaching across the reef is due to rising water temperatures, which scientists argue will continue to be impacted by greenhouse emissions. However, the government’s new action seeks to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Australia doesn’t just have environmental reasons for protecting the World Heritage Site; nearly 64,000 jobs in the country rely on the Great Barrier Reef. Although Frydenberg didn’t say for sure if the government’s plan could revive the reef system, he insisted that the Great Barrier Reef is “remarkably resilient.”

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