Why is Antarctica a fragile environment

Antarctica, being the last unexplored and unexploited continent on earth is largely untouched and not a contributor to the global warming. Its harsh environment has remained unchanged through millenniums. It is considerably large, about double of Australia’s size, and is covered by a thick sheet of ice. The ice acts as a reflector which makes most of the sun’s heat bounce back leaving the continent cold (-57 deg Fahrenheit) The continent of Antarctica is home to a uniquely beautiful and harsh environment that makes it the coldest place on earth.

All this may soon change as the desire to explore and mine the natural resources of the planet is gaining momentum. Ever since the 1950s scientists have been setting up research stations and exploring the continent, often at huge personal risk. By late 1950s some twelve countries established their bases in Antarctica. The world sat up and took notice. The SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctica Research) was formed with the US, Norway, Chile, France, Argentina, U.K., Australia, Russia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Belgium, as members. Poland and Germany joined later. The objective of this committee is to share the research and findings and also consider the issue of climate change.

In 1980 however large deposits of valuable resources such as oil, coal and natural gas were discovered and this has led to a debate on whether to exploit these reserves or not. The debate is pertinent because Antarctica has a huge influence on the climate of the world and the slightest disturbance can have a huge, detrimental impact on the world climate. For example, if just the west Antarctica’s ice sheet melts, the sea level world wide could rise about 20 feet resulting in wide spread flooding in the coastal regions and devastation. It is a valid fear that any thoughtless tampering with the untouched Antarctic environment could lead to increasing the already upset environmental health of the world.

In 1991 a 50 year moratorium was imposed on the use and exploitation of Antarctica’s natural resources, however there is a valid fear that economic and political pressures could lead to nations disregarding it. The global demand for energy keeps rising and this may lead to opening up of Antarctica for oil exploration. If so, the repercussions will be severe as it will cause chaos in the fragile environment of the world.
blog comments powered by Disqus