Hour of darkness shines a light on our precious reefs | WWF Malaysia

Hour of darkness shines a light on our precious reefs

Posted on 27 March 2008

Kuala Lumpur
– This weekend will see countries in the Coral Triangle region participate in Earth Hour – a global initiative by WWF in which cities around the world will switch off their lights for one hour to show their support for action on climate change.

As we count down to Earth Hour, WWF is calling on governments, businesses and communities to think about how they can help protect one of the planet's natural treasures most threatened by climate change - coral reefs.

The most diverse marine life in Malaysian waters lie within the Coral Triangle. It is also the world's centre of marine life and is a dazzling region that provides a livelihood for millions of coastal people. It supports an extraordinary range of marine life which in turn supports highly valuable industries such as tourism and fisheries.

Cities in the Coral Triangle countries of Fiji, Indonesia, and Philippines will be switching off lights for the Earth Hour.

Studies have shown that coral reefs worldwide are disappearing at about 2% a year - around five times faster than the world’s rainforests. They are becoming even more vulnerable in a warming world.

Climate change is recognised as the greatest long-term threat to coral reefs. Projections show that sea and air temperatures will continue to rise, oceans will become more acidic, intense storms and rainfall become more frequent and ocean currents will change. Coral bleaching is likely to increase in its severity and frequency as a result of very high sea temperatures.

Sabah experienced some coral bleaching events during the 1997/98 El Nino. This event saw a large number of coral deaths throughout the Coral Triangle. In Palau, bleaching during the same period saw their tourism industry lose about US$9m in earnings. With Sabah’s corals being a major tourist attraction, and tourism being one of state’s highest foreign exchange earners, coral bleaching poses severe problems.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Latest scientific data indicates that keeping global average temperature rise below 2 degrees centigrade will give corals their best chances of survival. So reducing individual, business and national carbon footprints are vital to give reefs their best chance.

“Malaysia is part of WWF’s Coral Triangle programme which aims to protect the rich marine life that sustains the coastal communities and national economies of the region,” said Dr Dionysius Sharma, CEO of WWF-Malaysia.

Coral bleaching and increases in extreme weather events both affect the biodiversity and resource base on which many of our communities depend. It is important that we link the reduction of these impacts with day to day changes that people around the world can make in terms of actively reducing their carbon emissions and consumption.

By supporting Earth Hour and addressing energy consumption, individuals and businesses will help reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

When you switch your lights off this weekend, think about the future of this amazing ecosystem and possible long term commitments to help protect it.

Editors note:

For further information, please contact:
Angela Lim, Communications Officer, Climate Change Strategy, Coral Triangle Network Initiative,
Tel: +60-88-262-420, Email: alim@wwf.org.my

Justin Woolford, Communications Cordinator, Coral Triangle Network Initiative,
Tel: +41 223649430, Email: jwoolford@wwfint.org