Foreign Minister Julie Bishop
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Scientist rejects Bishop's reef claims

A LEADING coral reef scientist has refuted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's claim climate change is not threatening the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor Terry Hughes, of James Cook University and a leading member of the Academy of Science, said Ms Bishop's claim was contradicted by the government's own reports.

On the ABC on Thursday, Ms Bishop rebuked United States President Barack Obama for saying climate change was threatening the reef.

In a speech in Brisbane, Mr Obama said climate change threatened the reef and he hoped one day his grandchildren would be able to visit it.

Ms Bishop said on Sky News on Friday that she did not believe the reef was in danger from climate change - a tense issue as the World Heritage Committee prepares to next year consider listing the reef as "in danger".

But Mr Hughes said among the reports that had highlighted climate as the key risk to the reef's future was the government's own 2014 Great Barrier Reef Outlook report.

That report found climate was "the most serious threat" facing the reef, and highlighted port development, poor water quality and sediment run-off as other key threats to the reef's future.

Mr Hughes said Ms Bishop's comments seemed to show that the Australian Government was "belatedly" concerned about the potential listing of the reef as a World Heritage site "in danger" next June.

"They seem to be getting more serious as the dialogue from UNESCO has been increased, by releasing the Reef 2050 plan earlier this year," he said.

"But the scientific community was astonished at the plan as it virtually ignores climate change, and the scientific consensus is the plan as currently drafted is unlikely to prevent further decline."

While the government has pledged to ban dumping of dredge spoil in the marine park, Labor has made a similar pledge for the wider World Heritage Area.

But Prof Hughes said if the overall management of the reef was not improved, it would make little difference.



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