Should the present ban on exploiting the resources of the Antarctic be maintained?
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Antarctica is a pristine and unspoilt continent of great scientific value. In particular, it has a ...
Antarctica is a pristine and unspoilt continent of great scientific value. In particular, it has a critical impact on the world's environment and ocean systems. This means that it must be left undisturbed, in order to allow further study of such critical international issues as climate change, ozone depletion, long-range weather forecasting and the operation of marine eco-systems (crucial to sustainable fishing). It is also essential to ensure that a polluted Antarctica does not undergo changes (e.g. melting of its ice caps, a break-up of its ice sheets) with a potentially disastrous global impact.
Antarctica is huge and almost completely unpopulated - only the coastal fringes have any animals or plants. Well-regulated economic exploitation of its resources need not ruin it and could provide valuable raw materials and a boost to the world economy. \
In any case, by far the greatest impacts on the Antarctic are external, e.g. the impact of CFCs on the ozone layer over the south pole, global warming, the effects of whaling and pollution on the marine environment. Compared to these global influences, limited exploitation of Antarctic resources under strict environmental regulation will not make a significant difference.\
Antarctica presents an alternative to a world dominated by political disputes, economic exploitatio...
Antarctica presents an alternative to a world dominated by political disputes, economic exploitation and environmental destruction. Placing the southern continent in the care of scientists and out of reach of both politicians and multinational corporations has ensured it can be preserved unchanged for future generations. This provides a model and a precedent for future international cooperation and global efforts to save the planet.
There is a danger in allowing a scientific elite to set the global agenda, without regard to either economic logic or democratic accountability. If the Antarctic can help to provide additional resources for a rapidly growing world population, then we should be able to have an intelligent debate about the costs and benefits involved. In any case, scientific research does leave a footprint in Antarctica, for example the ice road the Americans are planning to blast and bulldoze through the continent to the bases at the South Pole, or the waste products of the many scientific bases on the continent.
There are many reasons why oil and gas exploration should not be allowed in the Antarctic. Firstly,...
There are many reasons why oil and gas exploration should not be allowed in the Antarctic. Firstly, proven and probable reserves of oil and gas are still rising faster than global consumption, so there is no economic need to exploit any hypothetical Antarctic sources. Secondly, as the continent is already suffering as a result of global warming, our priority should be to find renewable alternatives to fossil fuels rather than to continue our dependence upon them. At a practical level, the cost of exploration and production would be completely uneconomic, especially given the hostile climate and the serious iceberg threats to offshore rigs, tankers and pipelines, as well as the very deep continental shelf. There would also be a serious danger of pollution, both from the increased human presence in this fragile environment, and from oil spills.
Oil and gas exploration should be allowed, both on the Antarctic continent and in the southern ocean surrounding it. Although current technology would not enable exploitation of any reserves at economic prices, future technological advances and rises in the price of fossil fuels may change this equation. Once, deep water extraction from the hostile North Sea or Arctic Oceans seemed impossible, but now these are taken for granted. Our prosperity depends upon cheap energy from fossil fuels, and it would be wrong to risk this by an arbitrary decision to declare the Antarctic off-limits to exploration, especially given the continuing scepticism of many about claims of global warming.
Antarctica must be protected from mineral exploitation and the 1991 Protocol upheld. There are no k...
Antarctica must be protected from mineral exploitation and the 1991 Protocol upheld. There are no known mineral deposits on the continent, so the argument for exploitation is highly speculative, but it is nonetheless dangerous. Even just exploration would greatly damage the delicate environment, both physically and by greatly increasing the number of people disturbing the landscape and eco-system. Actual mineral extraction, with its spoil heaps, pollution, processing facilities and transport infrastructure would be hugely destructive. Politically, placing an economic value upon Antarctic claims would renew dangers of territorial conflict that have been frozen since the 1961 Treaty, and risk the whole system of international cooperation falling apart.
The Antarctic Protocol of 1991 should be amended to allow for the possibility of mineral prospecting. The failed CRAMRA Convention of the late 1980s would have allowed for this possibility subject to strict regulation and the agreement of all treaty nations; reasonable conditions which were rejected by environmental purists. Geological analogies with other continents suggest that several very valuable minerals may be present in Antarctica. If multinational companies are prepared to pay high prices to treaty governments for concessions, why should we turn down this source of revenue? Almost all mining activity would be underground, so it would be little affected by the harsh environment and likely to have little adverse impact upon it.
Fishing is at present allowed under the 1991 Protocol, and has been increasing in recent years as ov...
Fishing is at present allowed under the 1991 Protocol, and has been increasing in recent years as overfishing is exhausting other global fisheries. Although much about the marine eco-system of the southern ocean is still unknown, it is clear that overfishing could quickly damage it, and that any recovery could take decades. At present limits are set according to our current understanding of fish stocks, but there is a great deal of illegal activity by boats from a variety of nations, so the situation is not under control. Even legal fishing can do great damage - thousands of seabirds die each year as a result of longline fishing. Not only should we not relax the Antarctic fishing regime, we should probably seek to tighten it further; the less legal fishing is allowed, the easier it will be to spot unlicensed activity.
Fishing provides a crucial source of protein, especially for the relatively poor, and the Antarctic oceans are underexploited compared to all other fisheries. Quotas for different species are set very low by scientists sticking to very conservative precautionary principles, and could in most cases be greatly expanded without risk of overfishing. Indeed, increased catch limits would remove much of the incentive for illegal fishing, and might reduce the pressure on other, less well-protected fisheries elsewhere. If fish stocks are found to be under pressure, then quotas can be reduced once again.
Access to Antarctica should be restricted to those with a serious scientific purpose. Perhaps 27000...
Access to Antarctica should be restricted to those with a serious scientific purpose. Perhaps 27000 tourists are expected in 2004, mostly on cruise ships which call at Antarctic sites for just a few days, but this number is rising rapidly and some visitors are now undertaking adventurous activities such as ski-hiking, scuba-diving, snowboarding and mountaineering. Unchecked, this influx of people is greatly increasing the problems of waste management and their activities are having a negative impact on the coastal environment and its wildlife. Adventurous tourists will also need to be rescued by the authorities, diverting resources from science. The more vessels visiting the continent, the greater the chance of catastrophic oil spills or for rogue operators to neglect proper waste management (both already problems in the Alaskan cruise industry). Overall, tourism will create a precedent for economic exploitation that may make it harder to defend the unique status of the continent in the future.
Tourism should be greatly expanded to allow as many people as possible to visit this unique environment. Antarctica should be for all of humanity, not just for an elite few scientists who seek to deny others access while simultaneously demanding huge sums of money for their research projects. Revenues from tourism could in any case be taxed in order to offset the cost of scientific research. Tourism could also promote environmental aims, as it would educate visitors about the importance of Antarctica and so help to influence environmental policy in many countries around the world. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators operates a strict code of practice to prevent damage to the environment.
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