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‘Bleach blob’ talk of Paris during global climate talks

A "BLOB" of warm water is headed for our Great Barrier Reef in a global coral bleaching event, but scientists aren't sure what the impacts will be.

University of Queensland's Global Change Institute Healthy Oceans program manager Dr Tyrone Ridgway said it's only the third time a major global coral bleaching event has occurred.

He said in 1998 the Great Barrier Reef was hit by one, and 5-10% of coral cover was lost.

The Reef dodged a global bleaching event in 2010, but Dr Ridgway said the current "blob" of warm water was headed from Hawaii and likely to hit the Central and Southern areas of the reef hardest.

"This warm water is slowing making its way across the Pacific and it's scheduled to hit the Great Barrier Reef in January," he said.

"It's not possible to say how much of the Great Barrier Reef will be affected."

Dr Ridgway's research colleague Dr Ove Hoegh-Guldberg has been discussing the bleaching event in Paris during global climate talks.

"He was there briefing certain governments and major parties in terms of the impacts of increased carbon dioxide emissions on coral reefs," he said.

Dr Ridgway said the outcome of the talks, in which participating countries agreed to hold global temperatures to a maximum rise of 1.5C, was a positive outcome for reef health.

Whitsunday tourism company Ocean Rafting owner Jan Claxton said she was concerned about the impact coral bleaching could have on tourism. She said the impacts of global warming could threaten the Reef and, consequently, the region's economy.

"I'm worried about the coming bleaching event, definitely, but more to the point I'm worried about our future," she said.

"This is just the beginning of the future. With climate change, this is going to occur more and more. Maybe it won't impact us this year, but what about the next and the next?"

Topics:  mackay paris reef


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