Mike Bloomberg’s New Frontier For Fighting Climate Change: Coral Reefs
Aug 12, 2017 @ 08:00 AM
Great Barrier Reef (2017), Photo Courtesy of 50 Reefs
50 Reefs, a $2 million initiative funded by Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and the Tiffany Co. Foundation, launched a platform on Thursday to take non-divers to the world’s biggest coral reefs — without getting them wet.
Instead of a pleasant journey of the oceanic world, however, the initiative reveals a world through 360° images on Facebook where corals from the Great Barrier Reefs to Cook Islands die rapidly and the species that rely heavily on them disappear.
While coral reefs support 25% of all marine life worldwide, they are estimated to have a value of at least $1 trillion, generating $300 to 400 billion each year through food, tourism, fisheries, and medicines, according to the Word Wildlife Fund.
50 Reefs says that 90% of coral reefs have been dying of overfishing, pollution and climate change, and will keep on dying in the next 30 years even with the Paris Climate Agreement in place.
The initiative is now taking its fight to Washington, D.C. to push for immediate action, despite the fact that President Trump declared in June that the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“I realized most of the issues underwater are big communication challenges,” says Richard Vevers, whose nonprofit Ocean Agency is now spearheading the 50 Reefs initiative together with the University of Queensland.
“The fact that people can’t see what’s going on underwater is a major issue,” he adds.
Having documented the biggest global coral bleaching (dying off) event in history in the past three years, Vevers came up with an ambitious but what he calls a “manageable” project that would allow him and his team to identify reefs that are least vulnerable to climate change and then get them to reseed.
“Corals are brilliant at essentially recovery once the environment they’re in is stabilized,” he says, “We are buying time so they can bounce back as naturally as possible.”
Upon hearing the concept of 50 Reefs, Bloomberg’s foundation reached out to Vevers in late 2016, and he showed the organization footage from his award-winning Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral, which debuted on the streaming service on July 14.
In a time lapse video, coral reefs faded from florescent pink to white, and then to dark brown. “Their flesh is becoming clear, and you’re seeing their skeleton,” Vevers describes. Bloomberg, who is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, is one of the largest ocean donors and donated $53 million in 2014 to address overfishing, a catalyzer of coral bleaching.
Climate change hits the oceans harder than anywhere else and coral reefs are the “frontline of climate change,” according to Vevers. “Ninety three percent of the heat goes into the ocean,” the activist says: The Great Barrier Reef lost nearly half its corals in 2016 and 2017. Yet, he sees this environmental catastrophe as an opportunity for humanity to bounce back as well. “We’ve always portrayed climate change and climate action as something negative,” he says, “That’s the wrong way of communicating it. It’s about the business opportunities and it’s about improving lives.”
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