Antarctic Treaty Nations Back Climate Science for 2007 Polar Year
EDINBURGH, Scotland, June 26, 2006 (ENS) - Climate change and its effect on polar environments and the upcoming International Polar Year 2007 dominated 10 days of discussions at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting that concluded Friday in Edinburgh.
Some 300 scientists and legal and political advisors from 45 countries that are Parties to the Antarctic Treaty agreed in the Edinburgh Declaration to give full political support and as much financial support as possible to International Polar Year scientific projects.
"As scientists from over 60 countries now embark on the final planning stages for this intensive burst of activity focusing on the polar regions, we, the Antarctic Treaty Parties, express our support for a successful International Polar Year," the declaration states.
In a keynote address Lord Triesman, British Minister for Overseas Territories, said, "The importance of Antarctica as a platform for science cannot be overestimated. As the effects of climate change become more evident, it will be to the Antarctic that we must continue to turn for possible answers - both to examine the pre-history of our planet locked up in Antarctic ice, and to monitor the very stability of that ice-sheet," he said.
"Sea-level rise, when it comes," he said, "will partly have its origins in the southern continent."
In their declaration, the Parties acknowledged the importance of climate science based on research in Antarctica and in the Arctic. "The polar regions are sensitive barometers of climate change, and we value their biodiversity. Their health is vital to the well-being of the Earth's systems and its inhabitants," declaration states.
Fifty years ago, the international scientific and logistical cooperation of the International Geophysical Year paved the way for the successful negotiation of the Antarctic Treaty. This Treaty has secured Antarctica as a continent of peace and science ever since.
The 2007-2008 International Polar Year builds on the historic achievements of the three previous initiatives which took place in 1882-83, 1932-33 and 1957-58.
It is a joint initiative of the World Meteorological Organization and the International Council for Science, that aims to provide better observation and understanding of the Earth's polar regions, and to focus the world's attention on their importance.
The treaty nations agreed to "champion the global importance of the polar regions in international forums."
The scientific data and information collected from the polar regions during the International Polar Year could contribute to future assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they said, pledging to support efforts to tackle climate change.
The treaty nations asked the the World Meteorological Organization and the International Council for Science to compile a report for the Secretary-General of the United Nations on key scientific findings of the International Polar Year.
"We believe such a report would be of value not only to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting but also to the Arctic Council and the global community more widely," they said.
"The Polar Regions are crucial to the stability of the planet," said Professor Chris Rapley, director of British Antarctic Survey.
"But while the Antarctic Treaty System ensures scientific cooperation and collaboration in Antarctica, and seeks to protect its environment, it will increasingly have to confront the impacts on the Antarctic of change outside its jurisdiction," Rapley said. "The forthcoming International Polar Year will provide the sound scientific underpinning for such policies and treaties."
Antarctic Treaty delegates were not able to agree on stricter environmental measures to protect the continent from tourist pressure, which is increasing year by year.
Most tour companies are members of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), which provided figures to the delegates in Edinburgh showing visitor landings have quadrupled since 1992.
During the 1992-1993 season, 6,704 visitors landed on some part of the continent. By comparison, during the 2005-2006 season, 26,245 visitors landed.
IAATO projects that during the 2007-2008 season, 28,826 visitors will come ashore in Antarctica.
Visitors are drawn by the opportunities to observe southern elephant seals, southern giant petrels and a variety of penguin species.
The 1994 Antarctic Treaty Meeting in Kyoto adopted strict guidelines for tour operators and scientists. Then, at last year's meeting in Stockholm, the delegates adopted a Resolution on Site Guidelines for Visitors to provide specific instructions on the conduct of activities at the most frequently visited Antarctic sites.
Visitors are asked to keep to specific walking paths to avoid trampling the fragile moss and lichen, and to keep their distance from the birds and animals to avoid disrupting their natural patterns of behavior. The tour operators limit landing times and number of visitors allowed ashore.
In 2006-2007, 80 Antarctica-bound outfitters are voluntary members of IAATO, which is based in the United States. The organization places regulations and restrictions on numbers of people ashore; staff-to-passenger ratios; site-specific and activity guidelines; wildlife watching; pre-visit and post-visit activity reporting; passenger, crew and staff briefings; previous Antarctic experience for tour staff; as well as contingency and emergency medical evacuation plans.
Still, at the Edinburgh meeting some delegates said they believe even stricter measures are needed to avoid damage to Antarctic ecosystems.
Delegates agreed to collaborate more closely with the Arctic Council, promoting cooperation between scientists for the benefit of research in the Antarctic and the Arctic.
|International Hydropower Association accused of excluding indigenous peoples and supporting Taib’s corruption USCC Releases Model Rule for Composting Operations ADA Carbon Solutions Announces New Hire of Vice President of Sales and Key Executive Promotions|