Amid a global pandemic, another disaster was unfolding early this year beneath the ocean waters off the coast of Australia. Thanks to climate change, surface water temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef had hit record highs. The habitat had already suffered mass bleaching events caused by high water temperatures in 2017 and 2016, with the latter being the worst ever recorded, killing 22% of corals in the massive reef. By this April, the new damage was clear: the reef had endured the most widespread bleaching event ever recorded, as corals expelled the symbiotic algae that serve as their food source and give them their color.
With a quarter of all ocean fish depending on reefs during their life cycles, scientists say we urgently need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to preserve the essential habitats. “Unfortunately we aren’t acting quick enough on climate change, and that leaves a real problem for coral