Half of the Great Barrier Reef has died since 2016 and scientists say it's a direct result of climate change.
Coral lives in a symbiotic relationship with algae. Algae converts energy from the sun into food that feeds and nourishes the coral. When water temperatures rise the algae vacates, causing the coral to 'bleach' and eventually die. The results can be devastating. The bleaching spreads across miles of reef, transforming once spectacular ecosystems into barren wastelands.
"People often ask me, will we have a Great Barrier Reef in 50 years or 100 years?" says Terry Hughes, the director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. "And my answer is, yes, I certainly hope so – but it's completely contingent on the near-future trajectory of greenhouse-gas emissions."
The Paris climate agreement of 2015 set a goal to prevent the globe from warming by two degrees Celsius. Since the Industrial Revolution the global average temperature has risen one degree, causing most of the world's reefs to bleach three to four times since the 1990s.
The world is currently not on track to reach the Paris agreement's goals, and the United States' recent withdrawal from the agreement marks an enormous setback.
If we're unable to stop rising sea temperatures, many of our coral reefs will be destroyed for centuries to come.
Hope lies ahead with organizations such as the Coral Reef Alliance devoted to the health and preservation of reefs. Find out how you can help below.