The Great Barrier Reef is not only the world’s largest living structure, now currently assaulted by coral bleaching episodes that threaten its very existence.
It’s also valued at a staggering AU $56 billion ($42 billion), according to Deloitte Access Economics in a report commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
'Too Big To Fail'
The figure makes the Great Barrier Reef “too big to fail,” according to the foundation’s director Steve Sargent as reported by HuffPost Australia.
According to the landmark report released Monday, June 26, in Australia, the reef contributed AU $6.4 billion to the Australian economy in financial year 2015 to 2016, as well as $3.9 billion to Queensland’s economy alone. It also employs 64,000 Australians, and if all of them lost their jobs today, the state would see its highest rate of unemployment in 25 years.
The Great Barrier Reef provided $6.4 billion to the country’s economy in the same period, meaning for every $200 of wealth created there, $1 came from it. The reef also exceeded the total income generated by many small nations, from Greenland and Fiji to East Timor and Vanuatu.
"No single Australian natural asset contributes as much in terms of brand and icon value to international perceptions of Brand Australia as the Great Barrier Reef," the report stated.
A massive bleaching event, however, struck the world heritage site in 2015 and continued to inflict damage on coral reefs across the globe. Scientists announced earlier this month that the massive event seemed to be ending, yet it’s still too early to celebrate.
Global warming is deemed the most urgent of its concerns, leading to two mass bleaching of the poor reef in as many years and the devastation of huge portions of the 350,000 square kilometers of corals.
No. 1 Culprit In Reef’s Destruction
The report used economic modeling to arrive at the figures and was based on six months’ worth of analysis. It comprised a survey of 1,500 Australians and international respondents from 10 nations that discovered how people valued the reef for numerous reasons, such as tourism and the belief that Australians wouldn’t be the same without it.
The study offered an intimate glimpse into the contribution of the natural wonder not only to the tourism sector but also to a country and global marine biodiversity as a whole.
And what’s to blame for its “inevitable” decline? According to Professor Will Steffen of the Climate Council of Australia, the top culprit is no other than the burning of fossil fuels by humans.
"The science is absolutely clear — continuing to mine, drill and burn coal, oil and gas will kill the Great Barrier Reef over coming decades," Steffen warned.
The council has called for the Queensland and federal governments to retract support for the controversial Carmichael mine, which would deliver coal to India directly across the vulnerable reef and pump 4.7 billion tons of carbon and other emissions into the atmosphere.
The Great Barrier Reef is ultimately deemed “priceless” in its own uniqueness by the report authors. Sargent hoped that the report findings would drive everyone to do their share to protect the reef’s future “as citizens, as business leaders and across all levels of government.”
Last month, Australia hosted a summit attended by over 70 global marine experts working on a blueprint on how to best tackle threats to the reef. Potential solutions being eyed included the development of coral nurseries, boosting the culling of crown-of-thorns starfish, as well as intensifying monitoring systems and priority sites for restoring corals.
On June 3 too, UNESCO pushed for accelerated efforts for saving the reef, hitting the current pace of programs as ineffective in its long-term salvation.