New report was released this Thursday (June 5, 2014), World Environment Day. Warmer waters in the Indian and Caribbean are killing coral reefs.
Global warming is causing trillions of dollars in damage to coral reefs, exacerbating risks to small tropical island countries threatened by rising sea levels, according to a UN report released Thursday (June 5, 2014). .
Sea level rise for some Western Pacific islands was four times the world average, rising by 1.2 cm per year from 1993 to 2012 due to changes in winds and currents, according to the United Nations Environment Program Environment (UNEP).
The study, released to mark United Nations World Environment Day on June 5, points out that warming the waters of the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean was damaging reefs, killing the tiny animals that make up the corals.
"These 52 nations, home to over 62 million people, emit less than 1% of global greenhouse gases, but they suffer disproportionately from the climate change that global emissions cause," said Achim Steiner, the executive director of UNEP
"Some islands may become uninhabitable and others face the potential loss of their entire territories," the study said.
The loss of coral is causing a trillion dollars a year loss for nature-provided services, often considered free. Corals are nurseries for many types of fish, they help protect the coast from storms and tsunamis and also attract tourists.
A study last month estimated that every hectare of the world's coral reefs provides services worth $ 350,000 a year. A loss of 34 million hectares of coral since the late 1990s represents $ 11.9 trillion a year. "Corals ... are probably the most endangered ecosystems on the planet," said Robert Costanza of the Australian National University and lead author of the study.
The UN climate scientists panel said in March that there were warning signs that warm water corals were already experiencing "irreversible" changes. "Tackling climate change ... is absolutely vital to the survival of small island countries," Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference.
The report also points out that small islands could leverage abundant solar or wind energy to help reduce their fuel import bill, often between 5% and 20% of gross domestic product.
"We are doing what we can," said Marshall Islands Environment Minister Tony de Brum, pointing to solar investment plans. The Marshall Islands have the largest shark sanctuary in the world.