It has long been clear that climate change hurts coral reefs. The colorful ecosystems provide animal habitat and protect coastlines, and they are sensitive to the harbingers of human-caused climate change: rising sea levels, warming waters, worsening storms.

The next decade will be make-or-break for the world’s reefs, an international group of coral scientists warn. In a new report, they say humanity has a last chance to save coral reefs from disaster.

The report is the work of the International Coral Reef Society, which includes reef experts from over 65 countries. They paint a terrifying picture of a world without coral reefs.

“Without significant efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions,” they write, “all tropical coral reefs will experience annual severe bleaching.”

This will affect animals and humans alike, harming reef-based tourism and destroying the food chain. About 25 percent of all marine life have reef habitats.

If humans want to right the ship, the researchers suggest, they’ll need to commit to reducing global climate threats, improving local conditions like legal protections and management techniques, and invest in restoration.

Even if humans get on the path to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the researchers say, only 30 percent of coral reefs are projected to survive. Those reefs could possibly be used to reseed other reefs in the future.

“The window for opportunities to act both on coral reef adaptation and on climate change mitigation will soon close for good,” said David Obura, a coral reef ecologist who is one of the paper’s contributing authors, in a news release. “We need a massive increase in commitment now and even more in coming years.”

The scientists say they want the report to influence two big international conferences setting global priorities for climate change and biodiversity.

“More than anything we need everyone to act, including us scientists,” Obura said.

To read the report, visit