Inaction will sign the Great Barrier Reef's death warrant
MACKAY residents could face a "double climate threat" as a new report identified the region as one of the most "vulnerable" in the country.
In a report released yesterday the Climate Council said climate change would create more intense heatwaves, and more frequent tropical cyclones and flooding in the region.
Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said the Dawson, Capricornia, Leichhardt, Herbert and Kennedy electorates faced a "double climate threat" and were highly vulnerable to both flooding and tropical cyclones.
The Mackay region was also highlighted as more at risk of severe and frequent heatwaves. The report said the region could endure heatwaves that lasted 72 days by 2090.
The Climate Council report found the sunshine state was the most vulnerable in Australia, claiming it was paying a "heavy price" for worsening extreme weather and had already borne 60% of the total economic costs of extreme weather in Australia from 2007 to 2016.
"We are seeing more extreme weather right across the Sunshine State, putting lives, homes and industries at risk," Ms McKenzie said.
"This is extremely costly and has catastrophic impacts on homes and businesses. It is likely that Queenslanders in high risk areas will increasingly find insurance premiums too expensive."
The report's findings are a "punch to the jaw" for Whitsunday-based independent diving instructor Tony Fontes.
When Mr Fontes first swam in the waters in Whitsunday in 1978 he said he described the Great Barrier Reef as "incredible, pristine, awesome and indestructible".
But four decades later, he said "you can't apply the word indestructible any more".
"Despite its great size and diversity - you can see it's vulnerable," he said.
Issues like water quality and invasive pests, like the crown of thorns, have hurt the Whitsunday reef, but Mr Fontes said "climate change is the big one".
The Climate Council report warned that a 2C increase in the temperature would "sign the death warrant of the Great Barrier Reef".
The report said the marine heatwaves of 2016 and 2017 had resulted in a mass bleaching event that "ultimately led to the mortality of about one third of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef".
While the damage was concentrated in the northern reefs, Mr Fortes said he was "terrified" the same destruction could ravage his patch of reef at home.
"The Whitsundays has escaped those bleaching events," he said "(But) the future of the reef is in the balance".
Despite living at ground zero of the climate emergency, Mr Fontes said many tourism operators had "wasted time" denying the impact to the reef.
"We've had our head in the sand for too long," he said.
With much of the Whitsunday region employed in tourism, Mr Fontes said he could understand "why a tourism operator would feel threatened".
With Climate Council saying the reef contributes $3.9 billion to Queensland's economy each year, Mr Fontes said tourism operators should be one of the loudest voices in the climate change debate.
"It's time to stand up and make our voices heard," he said.
A small glimmer of hope has emerged in Climate Council report, as it found Queenslanders were embracing solar energy in "record numbers".
One third of Queensland homes have installed solar panels, more than any other state or territory in Australia, it said.
With more large-scale solar farms under construction than any other state, the report said north and central Queensland was undergoing a "renewable energy construction boom".
The report highlighted five active renewable projects in Collinsville, as well as the Clermont solar farm and Middlemount solar farm, which were yet to be completed.
Despite fears a push towards renewable energy would displace mining jobs, the report said the global demand for solar panels, batteries and electronics would result in the world turning to Queensland for its mineral assets.
"There are more opportunities and benefits than risks and costs for Queensland's economy from a global and local shift to net zero emissions," the report said.