Diplomatic Chill: Politics Trumps Science in Antarctic Treaty System

By Anne-Marie Brady, on , Feature

Tension is rapidly accelerating in Antarctic affairs on a range of issues, all of them relating to sovereignty and resources. The tensions include disputes over proposals for new marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean; renewed friction between the U.K. and Argentina over their overlapping claims in Antarctica; significant numbers of countries expressing an interest in exploring Antarctic minerals, despite a ban on mineral extraction; increasing numbers of states trying to expand their Antarctic presence, signaling both heightened interests and insecurities over Antarctica’s current governance structure; and escalating conflict between anti-whaling groups and the Japanese government over whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Combined, these tensions are putting increased pressure on the Antarctic Treaty and a body of subsequent international agreements known collectively as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) that have governed the Antarctic continent and Southern Ocean since 1961. ...

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