Australia wanted tourists to forget climate change is a thing. It backfired.
Climate denial doesn't look good on you, Australia.
It's difficult to overstate the amazingness of the Great Barrier Reef.
Thousands of sea creatures and an array of colorful coral types call this natural Australian wonder home.
Like this curious little fella.
So it makes sense that tourists are drawn from across the globe to see the reef — the largest structure created by living organisms on Earth.
Great Barrier Reef tourism pours billions of dollars into Australia, so keeping travelers interested in its pristine sights is a pretty big priority Down Under.
Unfortunately, the Australian government was willing to sweep a catastrophic problem facing the reef under the rug in order to keep this booming industry afloat.
Climate change has already caused "serious and lasting damage" to a sizable portion of the reef, with coral bleaching — a process caused by temperature influx that calcifies and potentially kills coral — destroying as much as 35% of the reef in certain regions, a new report found.
But Aussie officials would rather not remind the public of these grave threats if it means their tourism numbers might drop.
According to The New York Times, the Australian government requested that UNESCO and the United Nations Environment Program remove the Great Barrier Reef from the (not-so-great) findings of a new environmental report, "World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate."
The UN and UNESCO complied.
In fact, all mentions of any habitats in Australia — including Kakadu National Park and the Tasmanian forests — were nixed from the report, according to The Guardian.
“Australia is the only inhabited continent that is not featured in the report,” professor Will Steffen of the Climate Change Institute at Australian National University told The New York Times. “Information is the currency of democracy, and the idea that government officials would exert pressure to censor scientific information on our greatest national treasure is extremely disturbing.”
Australia has to have some justifiable reason for pressuring the UN into quietly leaving it out of the report, though ... right?
The country's Department of the Environment told The Guardian that an earlier working title of the report — "Destinations at Risk: World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate" — would cause "considerable confusion" to the public in regards to the real dangers facing the reef.
It also argued the report would promote “negative commentary" on the reef and affect tourism. Which, OK, that might be true, but should one country's revenue from tourism really be a consideration for the United Nations Environment Program? Like ... at all?
Yeaah, the Internet doesn't think so either.
Australia's attempt to downplay the threats of a warming planet illustrates why fighting climate change can be such an uphill battle.
Curbing global temperatures isn't easy. Shifting energy sources, establishing new protective regulations, fighting back against the interests of the world's wealthiest corporations, and, yes, sometimes allowing some damning reports to be published if it means spurring positive change — that's really tough stuff.
But if Australia wants to keep its tourist-magnet flourishing tomorrow, it needs to take on a dire reality facing its waters today.