The director of Titanic and Avatar, James Cameron, has issued a blunt warning about the future of the Great Barrier Reef, saying that unless things change, the reef will die.
Cameron, who devotes most of his life outside of film production to deep sea exploration, told journalists in Sydney on Monday that reef bleaching, such as that seen on the Great Barrier Reef, is an "inevitable side effect of climate change".
"The heating, even a few degrees, can cause the symbiotic algae in coral to depart and coral bleach, and then it becomes an unhealthy reef system, and then it ultimately fails," he said.
"This is something that if we don't course correct with regards to the carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere, it's going to become an inevitability. The Great Barrier Reef will die, it's that simple."
Cameron's comments are echoed by scientists around the world. Most recently a study in Nature journal found that one third of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef were damaged in a bleaching event in 2016, and more bleaching occured in early 2017. The report found that coral reefs throughout the tropics will continue to degrade over the next century "until climate change stabilises".
Cameron, who is in Australia to launch a new Challenging the Deep exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, said that although the deep sea was his passion, humanity would be better focused on the ocean closer to the surface.
"I think those deeper ecosystems have survived for millions of years, and will survive millions of years longer," he said. "It's that thin skin of life up near the top of the ocean we need to put our focus on now.
"We need to think not about saving the ocean by going into the ocean more, but we need to think about saving the ocean by how we behave here on the land."
Cameron said that means focusing on how people grow and consume food, and how we recycle, pointing to his 5,000 acre farms in New Zealand and Canada as an example of how he is trying to live a more green life.
He said that the ocean is already the dumping ground for waste.
"The ocean has become the toilet of human civilisation," he said
"Between our consumption from the ocean and our waste cycle into the ocean, we have pretty much condemned the ocean to a highly degraded state, if not utter doom if we don't acknowledge that and course correct."
The Australian government allocated close to $450 million in funding aimed at protecting the Great Barrier Reef in the federal budget in May, but questions have been raised about how the small foundation was awarded the grant without any tender process.
Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Josh Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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