17 Oct 2021

2100: Mass extinction: Earth’s last coral #OurClimateFutures

This video is part of Our Climate Futures – a project which takes real science to forecast what impacts and changes humanity may face as the climate crisis unfolds. This is not a news story. At least not yet.

The year is 2100 and climate targets have been met. But that doesn’t mean devastating impacts on biodiversity have been completely avoided, as scientists announce that wild coral is extinct.

Experts warn that even meeting climate targets by limiting global heating will bring devastating consequences for nature.

One example is the threat to coral reefs. The unique species are dying out at alarming rates even now, vulnerable to both ocean acidification and the heating of the water itself.

The UN’s climate science body, the IPCC, said in 2018 that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C could wipe out 70-90 per cent coral reefs globally, while limiting it to 2C would make them virtually extinct.

Experts sometimes call coral reefs the ocean’s version of a canary in the coal-mine, as they’re so sensitive to changes humans find hard to notice. They aren’t just a beautiful sight, but coral reefs house countless other marine species and support hundreds of millions of people around the world – by providing food and jobs in tourism and fishing.

What may happen to this species is the tip of a melting iceberg. The IUCN says that in 2021, 38,500 species are under threat – with climate change a major driver.

Watch the video above to hear from experts on the science behind the story. Or find out more about Our Climate Futures here.