Antarctica, the planet’s last great wilderness area, faces the latest threat, a consequence of our sins.
“Everyone has the right to live in pollution free environment,” says the United Nations
in the historic declaration of human rights at the conclusion of the 57th session in Geneva addressing the link between environment and human rights.
The threat to Antarctica comes from several sources all of which directly or indirectly are linked to human greed and selfishness which the international team of researchers, including a Texas A&M University researcher have chosen politely to call “human activity”.
Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt II,
professor of oceanography, who has been doing the research in Antarctica for the last 25 years, enumerates multiple threats to Antarctica, “from global warming, loss of sea ice and landed ice, increased tourism, over-fishing in the region, pollution and invasive species creeping into the area”. He, however, foresees the greatest threat likely arising from the “potential for oil, gas and mineral exploitation”
While the Antarctic treaty system that came into existence in 1962 adhered to by the 50 nations saved this region for the last 50 years, there is no guarantee that the Antarctic region can withstand the increased threat from climate changes and the human greed for natural resources.
Antarctica is the key to the global climate. It acts as a thermostat for the planet. According to Kennicutt, although it is clearly understood that Antarctica being the most sensitive region of the Planet is more susceptible to global warming impacts the consequence of which is transmitted across globally, yet we need to investigate further into how and in what ways the fate of our planet is linked to the disturbances in Antarctica.
Kennicutt is concerned that the Antarctic treaty, so long a barrier to threat may not be sustainable in future. Part of the reason oil and mineral explorations did not take place earlier is they were thought uneconomical, but with new technologies that make energy exploitation profitable, Kennicutt is apprehensive that the treaty may likely be challenged in years to come.
Yet another concern Kennicutt expresses is the melting ice from several areas of Antarctica which could lead to dramatic sea level rise across the world. He further adds that the first explorers to Antarctica more than 100 years ago would not believe the rapid decline of the region, if they could see it today.
There is near unanimity among scientists working in Antarctica over the alarming rise in temperature, which threatens the “population of penguins, whales, seals and a host of smaller creatures”. According to Lloyd Peck
, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey: “The sea temperature is going up in a way that wasn't predicted and this makes me more worried for the marine animals … A one-degree increase puts us into the region where the animals are pushed to one end of their biological, physiological and ecological capabilities.”
Animals living on the sea bed in Antarctic Peninsula are extremely sensitive to slightest temperature shifts.