Experts from around the world have banded together to assess the health of the planet.
University of Queensland researcher Dr Pedro Fidelman was a lead author on oceans and coastal policy for the sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6), launched at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi on 13 March.
The GEO-6 provides an independent assessment of the global state of the environment, effectiveness of policy responses to environmental problems and the possible pathways to achieve environmental goals.
Dr Fidelman, a Senior Research Fellow at UQ’s Centre for Policy Futures, said the findings will inform decision-making and action in response to the impacts of climate change on coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.
“Major environmental concerns about the impacts of human activities on the oceans include climate change, pollution and overfishing.
“Our mission was to synthesise data, information and knowledge to inform future decisions and actions on the environment, leading ultimately to positive change,” he said.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres said the GEO-6 is an essential check-up for our planet.
“It details both with the perils of delaying action and the opportunities that exist to make sustainable development a reality.”
GEO-6 was completed over 18 months and involved a collaboration of over 140 independent, global experts.
“We found that coral bleaching is one of the most dramatic and immediate impacts of climate change on oceans in recent years,” Dr Fidelman said.
Another finding was that resilience-based management can offset to some extent the impacts of climate change on coral reefs by tackling local and regional threats (e.g. pollution, sedimentation and overfishing).
“Resilience-based management requires a mix of policy instruments and management actions (e.g. regulation, incentives and education) relating to, for example, land use controls to improve water quality entering the reef system and spatial planning of marine protected areas.”
“But without international policies to curb carbon emissions, resilience-based management alone is unlikely to be effective, given the limits to the capacity of marine species to cope with fast warming ocean waters,” he said.
Funding was provided by the European Union and the governments of Italy, Thailand, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, China, Mexico, Denmark and Egypt.
The Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) is the flagship assessment report of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)