Let’s educate ourselves on geopolitical Antarctica

By Musfirah Hasan

The driest, windiest and coldest continent on the earth attracted a lot of researchers from different fields to fulfil their passion. The highest temperature can reach as high as only 9℃ during summer and the lowest temperature was measured at -93.2℃ latest in year 2010. Geographers, meteorologist, climatologists, marine biologists, astronomers and astrologists are spending years to study the Antarctic.

A number of countries such as United States, Russia, South Korea and China opened their research stations here at Antarctica and devoted their life to study about the ice sheet, the animal that are living in Antarctica, the minerals, the climate, and even to study the space as the interior of Antarctica offers the clearest view of space from Earth.

Located at the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctica covers approximately 20 percent of the hemisphere. Seven nations including New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Chile and Argentina claim their territories at different parts of Antarctica. However, in 1961, Antarctic Treaty was established and concluded that the region remain politically neutral and no claim of territories can be made to exclude the territories that have been claimed by the seven countries before 1961.

As for now, there are 52 states that have signed the treaty which represents about 80 percent of the world’s population. The objectives of the treaty are to keep Antarctica demilitarised as a nuclear-free zone so that it is used for only peaceful purposes, to promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica and lastly to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty.

The coolest region now is governed under the Consultative Nations of the Antarctic Treaty where the annual meeting named Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) takes place in any one of the countries that plays an active role in Antarctica. Also known as consultative parties, only 29 countries have the voting rights and make decisions about Antarctica.

These countries, including the seven nations, are Netherlands, Finland, Ukraine, Poland, Brazil, Bulgaria, Italy, Peru, Spain, South Africa, United States, Federal Republic of Uruguay, German Democratic Republic, Sweden, India, Germany, China, Korea, Japan, Belgium, and Republic of Ecuador.

In terms of doing research for peaceful purpose, the researchers are studying about the past and future of Antarctica that can affect the world globally. The advanced in technology allowed the scientists to explore and predict the effect of Antarctica’s climate on world population. One of the important issues is the greenhouse effect that causes global warming. The greenhouse gasses need to be reduced or the ice sheets in Antarctica will continuously melt resulting in the increase of the sea level which can be dangerous as the land will be submerged.

A Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) provides objective and independent scientific advice to the ATCM on issues of science and conservation affecting the management of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean as well as the role of the Antarctic region in the Earth system. Recent SCAR biennial meeting that was held at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) Malaysia in August also focusing on the past and the future of the ice sheets.

Professor Robert De Conto from University of Massachusetts-Amherst United States said that each individual should be aware about the environmental changes including the political issues revolving Antarctica as it affects the whole world. For the last fifteen years, his research were focusing on the climate of Antarctica, the dynamic of ice sheets and the sensitivity of the ice sheets. All three need to be observed as any changes will affect the sea level.

To think that a land far away from us will not affect us is wrong. Recently, lots of natural disasters happened in many parts of the world. Even it is only the beginning of October, several natural disasters and extreme weather conditions were reported such as flood in South Australia, storm in Jamaica and Haiti, Hurricane Matthew in US east coast, and Typhoon Chaba in South Korea.

The faraway land continues to gain interest from many countries either for political or educational purpose. The land has become the symbol of climate change and scientists and policymakers are giving more attention to protect the Antarctica for the future of global population and mankind. ***

Pictures:

https://www.nsf.gov/geo/plr/support/southp.jsp

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