Fate of coral reefs

We need to act fast to curb our carbon dioxide emissions or we could be condemning tropical coral reefs to extinction, at an economic cost of nearly £600,000 per hectare in some areas. This is the warning given by environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev in the video interview above.

Pavan explains that carbon dioxide emissions are causing a two-fold problem for tropical coral reefs. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide can be dissolved in water, making the oceans more acidic. The reefs are vulnerable to this increasing acidity, as well as temperature changes.

We have already lost 20% of the Earth’s tropical coral reefs and the rate of loss is increasing. If levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere go above 350 parts per million (0.035%) then the oceans will become too acidic for tropical corals, says Pavan. It would  mean a loss of livelihood for 500 million people.

About Pavan Sukhdev

Pavan Sukhdev has long-standing interests and experience in environmental economics. From 2008-2010, while a senior banker at Deutsche Bank, he was seconded to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to lead the agency’s Green Economy Initiative, which includes The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study (TEEB), the Green Economy Report and the Green Jobs report.

Cartoon image of a stegasaurus disappearing through closing door

The first collected specimen of Theobroma cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, is kept in the Museum.

Research on reefs

A coral reef near the Seychelles

Two big coral extinctions have taken place in the past 25 million years, when many species of coral died out. Museum scientist Ken Johnson studies these extinctions to find out what they can tell us about the way coral reefs will respond to climate change today.

Find out more about his work and the effects of climate change on the oceans.

Extinction of coral reefs