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State

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Antarctica

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None

Connections

Antarctica problems

Climate

Falklands

Resources

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 Climate

History

This continent is a fragment of the former supercontinent of Gondwanaland (South America, Africa, India and Australia). Its movement towards the south pole is probably one of the main causes of the present series of Ice Ages. It is tending to move away from the South Pole. When it does, perhaps the southern Ice Cap will disappear.

This continent has no permanent human occupants. James Cook circumnavigated it in 1772-5 proving that it was not connected to any other land. He did not see the land itself. Until it was first sighted by European travelers in 1820 it was unknown to any human society, though Maoris may have reached the pack ice in 650. The Portuguese may have sighted it during the 16th century but their records were lost in the Lisbon earthquake.

Exploration took place gradually during the period from its first sighting. This included the first visit to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen a Norwegian in December 1911, shortly followed by a British party led by Robert Scott in January 1912. During the colonial period several countries claimed parts of the continent, including: Britain, Norway, France, Chile, Argentina.

During the International Geophysical Year 1957 a number of scientific stations were set up on the territory.

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty forbids mining, for the time being. However, many nations have established "scientific" stations on the continent, probably to establish rights "in case". The ban on mining was renewed in 1992, but with some show of reluctance indicating that the major powers foresee that they will one day need the minerals.

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Politics

The political status is regulated by the Antarctic treaties of 1961, 1988 and 1992.

It was revised by the Madrid conference in 1992.

No state is to be sovereign so the former national claims are "in abeyance". However, in 2007 Britain and other states are making claims to the seabed in the hopes of looking for oil and gas - part of the response to the problems of peak oil. Thus, it seems likely that the major powers would ignore the treaty limiting exploitation of minerals.

Under the ice

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Economics

Probably there are no economic benefits to humans from Antarctica. However, as it regulates world climate it would be wise to avoid radical changes.

Oil, coal and other minerals are suspected to be there, as in the other fragments of Gondwanaland but the Antarctic treaties forbid their exploitation. It can be assumed that if oil goes into serious deficit, oil companies will try to get round these agreements.

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Green/Ecology

The hole in the ozone layer was first observed over this continent.

The ice is believed to control the world's climate, and especially the ocean currents. It is unknown whether a large proportion of the ice might melt if there is Climate Change. If it does, sea level would rise, perhaps seriously.

There are worries about the amount of wastes, including oil spills, being caused by the increasing number of "scientists" living at the various "research" stations. Some of these are affecting the wildlife, and in any case show modern civilization in a bad light.

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Human Rights

Climate effects

One degree
Sea ice tending to melt, loss of big ice shelves, glaciers speeding up. Already the speed of glaciers has been measured to have increased.

Two degrees
Danger West Antarctic Ice Sheet (that near the pensinsula facing South America) will collapse, undermined by rising sea temperatures. This would raise sea level considerably.

Last revised 6/12/11


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