Australian Pipeline Threatens the Great Barrier Reef

Australian Pipeline Threatens the Great Barrier Reef

Clara Albacete '19, Assistant Editor

Earlier this year the Australian government announced a plan to build a natural gas pipeline that would lie within the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef. This pipeline would provide a great threat to the hundreds of endangered species living in that area of the reef. Some of these species are: green sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, saltwater crocodiles, and dugongs. The pipeline is being funded in part by the US government, causing the arousal of activists to go to court on the matter. However, some of the US loans have already been paid back, so the country does not have much leverage to call for any changes from the Australian government and companies.

To make matters worse, for the past two years the Great Barrier Reef has perished due to coal mines and other fossil fuel discharges, causing it to undergo “bleaching”. The massive Queensland Adani Mine, a $16 billion coal mine is one such threat to the reef that starts construction this year. While this project is sure to provide many jobs and bring people out of poverty, it will also create vast amount of pollution and use a lot of groundwater, further damaging the Great Barrier Reef.

On a different angle, damaging the Reef would actually be extremely damaging to Australia itself, as tourism rates would go down and the country could lose an estimated $1 billion and 10,000+ jobs. While coal mining employs 20,000 Australians, services with the Reef employ 70,000 Australians. All-in-all, destroying the Reef with these coal mines and pipelines would be a lose-lose situation for Australia and the ocean.

As if these threats aren’t enough, the Great Barrier Reef continues to be drastically threatened by climate change. Climate Council’s Leslie Hughes states, The important thing for coral reefs is that 90 percent of that extra heat is being absorbed by the oceans.”

“That ocean being a heat sink means that the impacts of climate change are being felt first and foremost by those highly sensitive marine systems like coral reefs.” With the additional bleaching caused by humans, the Reef is seeing a lot of damage and parts have even died. The upside is that the Reef can recover– however to do so it needs several years of no damage, which, if the coal mine and pipeline pull through, will not be possible.