A full third of the Great Barrier reef was damaged in the coral bleaching event of 2016, according to a recent study in the journal Nature. The findings showcase just how vulnerable the reef is to climate change.
But in Australia, the question of what to do about that is far from settled. And Australians have yet to agree on how to balance a long-term strategy to save the reef against the short-term needs of an economy that relies on tourism — and fossil fuels.
“There’s kind of a smokescreen whereby governments are saying ‘we can fix this,’” without actually dealing with the root problem,” says James Cook University researcher and renowned coral scientist Terry Hughes. The only solution is to “deal with climate change. It’s the elephant in the room.”
VICE News visited the reef with Terry Hughes, who’s recently found himself pivoting toward climate policy, and spoke with a tourism representative who opposes Hughes’ views so strongly that he called the scientist a “dick.”
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