Aerial view of coral banks, reef systems and the Pacific Ocean on November 20, 2015 in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is suffering widespread and severe coral bleaching due to high ocean temperatures two years after a massive bleaching event, a government agency said Friday.

The report from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, which manages the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, comes three days before a United Nations delegation is to assess whether the reef’s World Heritage List should be lowered due to the ravages of climate change.

“Weather patterns in the coming weeks will be critical in determining the overall extent and severity of coral bleaching in the Marine Park,” the authority said.

Bleaching has been observed throughout the Marine Park — it is widespread but variable, across multiple regions, ranging in impact from mild to severe,” the authority added.

The reef has suffered significantly from coral bleaching caused by unusually warm ocean temperatures in 2016, 2017 and 2020. The previous bleaching damaged two-thirds of the coral.

The environmental group Greenpeace said the severe and widespread coral bleaching during a La Niña weather pattern associated with cooler temperatures in the Pacific Ocean is evidence of the Australian government’s failure to protect coral from the effects of climate change.

“This is a clear sign that climate change caused by the burning of coal, oil and gas threatens the survival of our reef,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate Impacts campaigner Martin Zavan said in a statement.

Last July, Australia received enough international support to delay an attempt by UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, to downgrade the reef’s World Heritage status to “at risk” due to damage caused by climate change.

But the issue will be back on the World Heritage Committee’s agenda at its next annual meeting in June.

A UN delegation will inspect the reef’s health next week.

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