Climate Change Working Group


At the 18th U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting in 2007 in American Samoa, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force adopted a resolution on climate change, which calls for the formation of a Climate Change Working Group to specifically focus onimpacts to coral reefs from climate change.

Climate change, in particular, increases global air and ocean temperatures and threatens coral reef ecosystems. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II Summary for Policymakers noted with very high confidence that corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have a low capacity to adapt. The report also concluded that sea surface temperatures are projected to increase and could result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality. Climate change may also threaten corals through decreasing resistance to disease, rising sea levels, increasing storm damage, and declining seawater pH. As the pH of ocean waters decline, the anticipated decrease in carbonate ion availability can slow the growth of corals, increasing reef erosion and compromising reef resilience. The loss of coral reefs could adversely affect coastal economies through reductions in fisheries, shoreline protection, and tourism. Island communities, in particular, are dependent on local resources for their livelihoods, and are especially vulnerable to changes in coral reef ecosystems that may occur as a result of climate change.

The Task Force has a history of specifically addressing the issue of climate change and its impacts on coral reef ecosystems. Specific to climate change, the Task Force has passed four targeted resolutions highlighted below, and developed Climate Change Local Action Strategies in two of seven jurisdictions.

Charges to the Climate Change Working Group:

  • Develop a toolbox of management actions to minimize the potential risk to coral reefs associated with climate changes, building on A Reef Manager's Guide to Coral Bleaching;
  • Improve understanding of the potential impacts of, and management responses to, ocean acidification;
  • Expand education and outreach efforts to include climate change and its impacts on coral reefs;
  • Identify and engage in cooperative efforts with other climate-focused groups such as the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, across Federal, State, and local governments, academia, and nongovernment organizations; and
  • Report through the Steering Committee to the Task Force on the above actions.