In June 2022, the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Sydney and Dutchlink Sydney welcomed Dr Chris Roelfsema, Associate Professor at The University of Queensland to the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. Dr Roelfsema presented a lecture on ‘Maps Connecting People To Help Save Reefs’. The theme of the lecture indicates the priority that the Netherlands government gives to combatting the consequences of climate change, worldwide. The role of Dutchman Chris Roelfsema in preserving reefs in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere is essential and for that reason important to highlight.

Dr Roelfsema has devoted his life to mapping and saving reefs globally. Originally from Drenthe in the Netherlands, he is passionate about monitoring the health of our reefs, and involving everyday citizens in scientific monitoring through initiatives such as Reef Check Australia and Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. Dr Roelfsema explained the work he and his team are doing in validating and global habitat mapping of reefs with the Allen Coral Atlas, as well as work his team is doing in Australia on monitoring the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

Climate change is the single largest threat to the health of reefs, with changing ocean temperatures causing mass coral bleaching and changing the population habits of the Crown-of-Thorns starfish that cause serious damage to stony corals. Dr Roelfsema urged the audience to make small changes in their own lives to reduce their impact on the environment – such as riding your bike more, being a flexitarian and reducing energy consumption.

This is – once again – the hottest decade in human history. Global warming poses grave threats to our environment, health, security, economies and livelihoods. Science has made clear the world must set significantly higher ambitions. The future cost of inaction is simply too high. Together, we must take bolder action at the same scale as the climate crisis itself. The Netherlands government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 49% by 2030 when compared to 1990 levels, and a 95% reduction by 2050.

Dr Chris Roelfsema with Consul-General Frank van Beuningen right and Dutchlink President Bert Bardoel left