Our current understanding of current and future impacts of global climate change on coral reefs is relatively limited. Understanding the mechanisms, ecological outcomes and economic ramifications of these impacts has been expressed in many forums as a priority for many nations. Achieving this understanding is critical if we are to understand the changes that have occurred and if we are to accurately project how the health of coastal areas might change as the earth experiences one of the most rapid periods of climate change in recent history. Gaining this information will be critical for planning strategies designed to minimise degradation of coral reefs and their socio-economic benefits they provide to reef-dependent communities. The latter is also important to understand the cost of climate change, especially in evaluating the relative cost of measures aimed at mitigating climate change. Our understanding will also be critical in assessing the pros and cons of different strategies as regards energy use and the adoption of new forms of energy.