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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 6, 1999 - PACNEWS)---The vast majority of the central Pacific's reefs will be dead in 40 to 70 years unless projected levels of climate change are stopped, according to a report from the international environmental organization Greenpeace.

The report, "Climate Change, Coral Bleaching and the Future of the World’s Coral Reefs," predicts that the reefs of affected countries will be devastated in 40 years if fossil fuels are not phased out.

Island nations such as the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Palau and Samoa all experienced some coral bleaching last year.

"In less than a lifetime, all coral reefs around the world are expected to be devastated by coral bleaching, a potentially fatal condition which causes corals to lose their color and turn white," Greenpeace warned.

The report found if global temperatures increase as projected by Australia’s research organization, CSIRO, and Germany’s Max Plank Institute, coral bleaching would increase in frequency and intensity until it occurs all over the world by 2030 to 2070

The climate projection models are similar to those used by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that advises world leaders on climate change science.

"Coral reefs could be eliminated from most areas of the world by 2100," said the report’s author, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a marine biologist with the University of Sydney who has studied coral bleaching for 15 years.

"Our current understanding of coral bleaching suggests corals are not keeping up with the current rate of warming and they may be the single largest casualty of climate change.

"While they will not become extinct, their health and distribution may be severely compromised for at least 500 years unless climate change is stopped."

According to Angie Heffernan, Greenpeace Pacific climate campaigner, as global temperatures rise due to increases in greenhouse gases, more and more corals will die from coral bleaching.

"We must begin to phase out the causes of global warming, the burning of oil, coal and gas, in order to ensure the long-term survival of the reefs in the Pacific," she said.

Greenpeace has warned that the tourism diving industry, one of the fastest growing revenue earners for most island economies in the Pacific, may be at risk because of the coral problem.

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