One fifth of our coral reefs have been lost worldwide, and could be completely wiped out in 30-40 years according to a new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN):
"It's not just climate change -- which raises ocean temperatures and increases seawater acidification -- which is damaging reefs. In some parts of the world overfishing, pollution and invasive species are proving equally harmful.
Scientists are warning that reef destruction will have alarming consequences for around 500 million people who rely on coral reefs for their livelihood.
"For many developing countries like Sri Lanka and countries in East Africa the percentage of damage is much worse. Sometimes three times as high in some places," said Professor Olof Linden from the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden.
"In these areas we have local effects like dynamite fishing and other destructive fishing techniques combined the threat of coral mining, unmanaged tourism and all kinds of pollution from agriculture."
But overall the biggest threat to reef survival is climate change.
"The most destructive climate event to impact the coral reefs so far," said Linden, "was the 1998 El Nino which caused major coral bleaching and disrupted ecosystems all over the planet."
Scientists say reefs have recovered somewhat from those bleaching events. But the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, coupled with coral disease and human effects, have slowed their recuperation.
Coral reefs not only provide an income and food for those who live near them, but are also effective natural barriers against storm surges.
Despite the report's pessimism, researchers see some encouraging signs. Forty-five percent of the world's reefs are currently in good health and the hope remains that damaged reefs can recover and adjust to the changing conditions.
"We must focus on helping corals to adapt to climate change and on diverting people away from destructive practices such as overfishing," Linden said.
It's encouraging that 45% are in good health? That shows how bad things are. Yet while the effects of climate continue to impact the world in ways no sane person could deny, we still have people like James Inhofe touting his fake list of scientific dissenters from the AGW consensus, and ignoring data like this:
It is also worth pointing out again the flaws in the cooling-since-1998 argument. That argument is a classic in unscientific cherry-picking. See the highest red spike in the graph? That's 1998, a year who's temperatures were buoyed by a strong El Nino to be much higher than otherwise expected. This is, of course, why the AGW deniers always refer to this year. Prior to 2008, their cooling hypothesis would have failed with either 1997 or 1999 data, and still fails with 1996 or 2000 data. In any case, 2008 is still warmer than any year prior to 1995, and the trend line remains high. No denier theory uses all of the data, which is why it qualifies as unscientific crankery.