• In India, Lakshadweep is the perfect example of how coral islands are formed and how the corals nurture marine life and also the people who depend on them.
  • Corals, and the atolls and lagoons they form, are now in grave danger from global warming.
  • In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s largest body of climate scientists and experts, dropped a bombshell in a special report called Global Warming of 1.5ºC.
  • The report painted a grim picture of the impacts of climate change if earth’s temperature continues to rise.
  • It said rising temperatures would result in increasing floods and droughts, more intense cyclones and hurricanes, and more wildfires.
  • It also predicted that coral reefs would suffer a mass die-off by as soon as 2040, just 22 years away.
  • For coral colonies that have taken millions of years to form, it’d be a tragedy of epic proportions that would affect millions of islanders across the world.
  • Coral reefs would decline by 70-90% with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (more than 99%) would be lost with a rise of 2°C compared with preindustrial times.
  • To save coral reefs, the Coral Reef Alliance has urged action on two fronts — swiftly and drastically lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and effectively reducing local stresses to reefs and atolls.
  • Without effective action on both fronts in the next 20 years, we could be facing a world without functional coral reefs.
  • The effects of losing coral ecosystems would be terrible, to say the least.
  • A quarter of all marine life depends on coral reefs, and over 500 million people worldwide rely on coral reefs for food security, economic well-being and cultural identity.
  • The Coral Reef Alliance says that tourism and fishing derived from coral reefs are estimated to be worth $375 billion every year.
  • Coral reefs are essential to protect island communities from strong sea waves, erosion and tropical storms.
  • Unfortunately, most coral reefs are already in a state of decline.
  • A combination of rising ocean temperatures due to global warming and localised threats has resulted in the loss of 50% of reef-building corals in the past 30 years.
  • This has placed an estimated one-third of reef-building corals at the risk of extinction.
  • In Lakshadweep, the corals suffered a disaster in 1998, when close to 90% of the reefs were destroyed.
  • The very shape and structure of the corals in the archipelago has changed, and by 2017, only 11% of the reef cover in Lakshadweep was left.
  • It had shrunk by as much as 40% in just 18 years.
  • This has had an adverse impact on marine biodiversity that is vital for the livelihoods of the islanders.
  • But most importantly, it is necessary to restrain global warming if we were to save coral islands such as those in Lakshadweep.
  • It is in this context that the United Nations climate summit, ironically held in the coal mining town of Katowice in Poland, assumed importance.
  • It was expected that national governments will agree on a set of rules to implement the historic Paris Agreement, which aimed at keeping global temperature rise to well below 2°C.
  • However, it needs a lot of funding to combat climate change and mitigate its effects on various ecosystems, which include coral habitats.