Our oceans are critical to human health and wellbeing. Without them, we simply cannot survive. But due to global warming, the future of our oceans is on a knife edge. 


The fourth global mass bleaching event was confirmed, the second in ten years. This is the fifth mass bleaching event the Great Barrier Reef has experienced in just eight years, and the 2024 event is feared to be the most widespread and damaging to date.

“The coral crisis is a climate crisis. We must act urgently to stop burning fossil fuels or we will lose coral reefs worldwide.” - Pepe Clarke, WWF Oceans Practice Leader.

Read the full story here.

Ocean ecosystems recycle nutrients, regulate greenhouse gases and provide livelihood and sustance to millions of people around the world. With the right management, these processes can be sustained. However, if our oceans overheat it has dire consequences.

Our oceans and coasts are also some of Australia's major tourist attractions. The Great Barrier Reef alone contributes over $6 billion annually to Australia's economy. If we don’t urgently and dramatically reduce Australia’ greenhouse gas emissions, not only could we lose some of our greatest natural assets, but we also risk the future of our coastal communities.

To protect our oceans, we have to take two serious steps right now: address the root causes of global warming that are placing our marine environments at risk and prepare for a changing climate.

Impacts of global warming on our oceans

The Great Barrier Reef has been under significant heat stress – experiencing five mass bleaching events in just eight years and the 2024 global coral bleaching event is feared to be most widespread and damaging to date.

But it’s not just the Reef that is being impacted. The drastic temperature increases we are now witnessing may have a catastrophic impact on our iconic marine wildlife. Significant changes to species’ growth, development and behavioural patterns, along with impacts on food availability and changes in suitable habitat are already being seen.

Warmer temperatures also result in the expansion of the water's mass, which causes sea levels to rise. This leads to more erosion, threatening low-lying islands and coastal cities.

We can already feel the impacts of global warming, and these will continue if we fail to take serious climate change action now.

Useful resources

Causes of global warming

The most visible impact of global warming in our oceans is coral bleaching. When we mine and burn coal, we produce dangerous greenhouse gas pollution that causes our planet, including our oceans, to heat up. If the water stays too hot for too long, our vulnerable corals lose their colour (bleach) and often die.

Coral bleaching is the ghostly face of climate change. And in 2024, we are witnessing one of the worst coral bleaching events to ever hit the Great Barrier Reef.

It is possible to give our Reef a fighting chance but only if we rapidly reduce our greenhouse emissions and shift to clean, renewable energy. The window to save the Reef is closing and we need to act fast.

What we're doing

A green turtle (Chelonia mydas) having a rest at Lighthouse Bommie= Great Barrier Reef
© Mike Ball Dive Expeditions / WWF-Aus

Regenerative Saltwater

Regenerative Saltwater is WWF-Australia’s plan to protect oceans and species in the southern hemisphere.

Our vision is for Australia to become a global leader in protecting oceans and species that sustain ecosystems and communities.

We are rallying to unite key southern hemisphere countries to create safe passages for marine wildlife, support coastal communities and protect 100 million hectares of ocean.

Regenerative Saltwater
© Shutterstock / Circotasu / Constantin, © Pond5 / CleverArts / WWF, © Bluebottle Films / WWF-Australia, © WWF-Australia, © WWF-Australia / Virtual Connexion

Regenerative Sky

To save the species, places, and communities we love, we must do everything possible to keep global heating at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Regenerative Sky (Climate) is our program of work to build a healthy and resilient net-zero world. Our vision is to support Australia to become a global leader in securing a healthy climate powered by communities, nature and renewable energy.

Read our climate strategy