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Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg - Monday on Australian Story

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Eighteen years ago Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg created controversy with a report predicting the demise of many of the world’s coral reefs by the middle of this century. 

At the time his projections were met with scepticism and he was accused of needless alarmism.  But since then his overall predictions about the impact of climate change on coral reefs have proved correct.

Current scientific projections are that 90 per cent of the world’s coral reefs will be dead by 2050. But Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and his team at The University of Queensland believe it’s not too late to act.

He’s now at the forefront of a bold new plan funded by overseas philanthropy to save the remaining 10 per cent of coral reefs from extinction.

Embargoed until this Friday, the announcement will lay out an ambitious global strategy to protect the world’s remaining reefs from the perils of increased sea temperatures, bleaching and other weather-related damage.

The full story behind the plan will air exclusively on Australian Story on Monday 27 February.

“At the moment there isn’t a global plan for reversing the decline of the world’s coral reefs. It’s crazy.”– Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

After last year’s mass coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, Professor Hoegh-Guldberg and his team feel the time has run out to argue about the politics of climate change and fossil fuels.

“To continue in the current leadership vacuum is to ignore an overwhelming body of evidence that demonstrates that everything we depend on and hold dear will be stripped away, potentially exposing our nation to catastrophic conditions.”

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg has been captivated by the ocean and coral reefs since childhood.

“I used to play with the fish my mother used to bring home from the markets in the bathtub and then they’d be washed off and cooked for dinner. The sea has always been this magical place and I’ve never been far from it. Just a quirk in my DNA.”

He vividly remembers the first time he saw the Great Barrier Reef as a small boy. It was 1969 and he was with his Danish grandfather.

We went snorkelling and I saw my first butterfly fish. It was amazing. After that I got more and more interested in the ocean.”

Years later his mission to have the science behind climate change understood by the general public has led to some powerful allies.  

It’s easy enough to imagine the ostrich-like capacity of any of us, when we see something we don’t like to stick our head in the sand… Well, Ove doesn’t do that.”– Sir David Attenborough

He’s a very high energy bloke and a bit of a ratbag. He has his enemies. He’s put everything he can into this battle to getting science understood. And he’ll keep knocking down doors.” – Graeme Wood, entrepreneur and philanthropist

With early signs this week that the northern sector of the Great Barrier Reef may be starting to bleach again, Into Hot Water provides a timely overview coupled with a strong personal narrative of a scientist’s passion to protect the reefs he loves so dearly.

Australian Story, Monday 27 February, 8 pm, ABC TV & ABC iview