Climate change has begun to wreak so much havoc around the globe that references to the phenomenon have started to pop up in the most unlikely of places. The latest instance: The newest entry in the Pokémon franchise features a creature based on dead coral that was “wiped out” by sudden global warming.
The Pokémon, a coral-like being known as Corsola, first appeared in the 1999 generation of the flagship games and has appeared in various versions ever since. But this month’s highly anticipated games in Pokémon Sword and Shield feature a new variation of the creature specific to the generation’s Galar region in the Pokémon world.
The Galarian version of Corsola is bleached white, mouth in a frown and is now a “ghost”-type Pokémon.
“Sudden climate change wiped out this ancient kind of Corsola,” a description of the Pokémon, which is found exclusively in the Shield version of the game, reads. “This Pokémon absorbs others’ life-force through its branches.”
The Pokémon Co. International declined to comment on its decision to include a creature linked to climate change.
The company has regularly included bizarre creatures with links to the real world as it has expanded the compendium of Pokémon to more than 800. There are beings based on bags of trash, melted candles, ice cream cones and an anthropomorphic ring of keys.
But the inclusion of a coral Pokémon based on the planet’s endangered sea life is a bleak new frontier.
The planet’s coral reefs are in a dire state, spurred by runaway climate change researches have urgently warned must be stopped. As much as half of the world’s coral has disappeared since 1980, and a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that climate change is heating the oceans so dramatically that the planet is changing in “unprecedented ways.”
Corals become bleached under stress as the colorful algae that live inside them leave, often when water temperatures become too hot. The coral is left ghostly white but can often fully recover. But if temperatures remain too high, the creatures are effectively cooked to death, leaving mass graveyards just beneath the surface of the ocean.
Recently, mass bleaching events have hit structures around the globe with increased regularity, prompting scientists to toll alarm bells about the future of coral reefs.
The planet’s most iconic reef system, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, has been struggling for years after back-to-back mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. The events left large swaths of the reef dying or dead, and scientist likened the episode to an underwater apocalypse.
Things have not improved in recent years. The federal agency that oversees the reef downgraded its outlook for the structure from “poor” to “very poor” in August, warning that climate change was dramatically escalating and had become the “most significant threat” to the region’s long-term stability.
“Without additional local, national and global action on the greatest threats, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem will remain very poor, with continuing consequences for its heritage values,” the report, written by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, stated. “The window of opportunity to improve the Reef’s long-term future is now.”
UNESCO, the United Nations’ body that oversees the planet’s most iconic sites, is set to determine the Great Barrier’s future status as a World Heritage Site next year.