Australia pulls Great Barrier Reef damage warnings ‘to protect tourism’

Warnings about the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef have been scratched from a major report in case it hits tourism. The details were pulled by the Australian government, which said it would send out the wrong message about the state of the reef, which is said to be in danger from warming seas. “The department expressed concern that giving the report the title 'Destinations at risk’ had the potential to cause considerable confusion,” a Department of Environment spokeswoman said. The move has angered climate scientists who said they were not warned their contributions would be removed from the Unesco report, released on Friday.

Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of World Heritage properties impacted on tourism

Department of Environment

Last month, Australian scientists said just 7% of the Great Barrier Reef has been untouched by mass bleaching and much of it was at risk of being destroyed. Bleaching, which occurs when the water is too warm can cause coral to calcify and turn white. Will Steffen, a climate scientist at the Australian National University, who had been asked to contribute to the report, was dismayed to discover on Friday that all references to Australian heritage sites were missing. “The science is really well known, that’s not a problem at all so it’s nothing new to the tourism industry. It’s nothing new to the scientific community at all. So it’s really hard to see what’s so provocative in that report,” he said.

I don’t understand it at all. I think it was a very balanced report. There was nothing in that report that was not already known

Climate scientist Will Steffen