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Coral bleaching occurs when sea temperatures rise and kill algae that are the source of color and food for most corals around the globe – and a new study shows that there could be mass bleaching by 2056 if current greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. Researchers used data from the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to demonstrate that unless significant measures are taken to reduce emissions, annual mass bleaching could occur in 74 percent of coral by 2045. The results of the NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies report were published in the journal Nature Climate Change this week.

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Coral reefs in parts of the western Indian Ocean, French Polynesia and the southern Great Barrier Reef, have been identified as temporary refugia from rising sea surface temperatures,” Ruben van Hooidonk, Ph.D., from the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) at the University of Miami and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, told Science Daily. Instead, they are likely to experience annual bleaching by 2056 based on data taken from current climate models.

However, widespread cuts in greenhouse gas emissions could stall annual coral bleaching events by approximately two decades in 23 percent of coral reefs, which researchers say should be a strong incentive to take control of runaway emissions.

Via Science Daily