This article by GCRA’s Goreau and Hayes, published in Ambio’s 50th Anniversary Collection on the theme of Climate change impacts presents the first retrospective on global coral bleaching since the publication of their pioneering 1994 Ambio paper on predicting coral bleaching from satellite sea surface temperature anomalies. That paper was chosen as one of the most important papers published in the first 50 years of Ambio, the environmental journal of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The retrospective explains for the first time how action to protect coral reefs from global warming was blocked for political reasons, and how coral reef countries have paid the price in loss of ecosystem services.