The recent United Nations (UN) climate change report intentionally left out reference to the Great Barrier Reef.

No mention regarding the current status of the Great Barrier Reef and Australia's other world heritage sites were included in the report of UN regarding climate change. The exclusion was reportedly made after the Australian government expressed fears that it might have a great impact on the tourism of the continent.

The original report has a chapter discussing areas of Tasmanian and Kakadu forests and the Great Barrier Reef, but after the Environment Department released a statement saying that they do not appreciate the inclusion of Australia's world heritage sites in the report, the chapter was omitted.

Australia's Environment Minister Greg Hunt, according to the statement, was not aware of the issue.

Major Case Study

Climate Council Head and Australian National University Emeritus Professor Will Steffen, who conducted the Great Barrier Reef scientific assessment, was dismayed by the exclusion because he believes Australia is among the major case studies in the UN report.

Steffen said that while the Great Barrier Reef is among the world heritage sites, it is also one of the most at risk to suffer from global warming, so it should be included in the report on climate change.

Steffen went on to say that his understanding of the report is to present the information globally and not to purposely subject the area for negative attacks, particularly that the areas in question are among the most stunning places in the world.

Destinations At Risk

A spokesperson from the Environment Department explained that the concerning part of the report was the chapter on "Destinations at Risk." The title could cause confusion among potential tourists, as the World Heritage Committee has just excluded the Great Barrier Reef from the endangered list six months ago.

"Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of world heritage properties impacted on tourism," said the spokesperson.

But Steffen contends that the terminologies were different. He explained that the exclusion in the endangered list includes technicalities, but it does not mean that the Great Barrier is not at risk. Ocean acidification, mass coral bleaching and global warming threaten the reef.

An earlier Tech Times report on the Great Barrier Reef presented that as much as 93 percent of the site is affected by massive coral bleaching caused by climate change.

Steffen added that if the Australian government wants to lure in tourists, they must do something about the viability of the reefs and other world heritage sites — trying to mask the problem will not solve it. The government must recognize climate change and step up efforts to mitigate it.

The report is a joint publication of the Union of Concerned Scientists, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations Environment Program.

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