A recent study has found that all of the world's coral reefs could be gone by 2050. If lost, 500 million people's livelihoods worldwide would be threatened.
The World Resources Institute report, "Reefs at Risk Revisited," suggests that by 2030, over 90 percent of coral reefs will be threatened. If action isn't taken soon, nearly all reefs will be threatened by 2050. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states, "Threats on land, along the coast and in the water are converging in a perfect storm of threats to reefs."
The AFP suggests that these threats include overfishing, coastal development, pollution, and climate change. Warming sea temperatures lead to coral bleaching, a stress response where corals expose their white skeletons. In 2005, the Caribbean saw the most extensive coral bleaching event ever recorded, often attributed to rising ocean temperatures. CO2 emissions are also making the oceans more acidic. Because of the rising acidity levels, some scientists claim we will see conditions not witnessed since the period of dinosaurs.
Lauretta Burke, one of the report's lead authors, feels that quick action could help save the reefs. She encourages policymakers to reduce overfishing and cut greenhouse gas emissions. If action is not taken though, millions of people will suffer. Shorelines will lose protection from storms -- a Time Magazine post suggests that up to 90 percent of the energy from wind generated waves is absorbed by reef ecosystems. If reefs are lost, coastal communities will lose a source of food security and tourism.