The last wasteland. Antarctica remains a beacon of peaceful international cooperation.
Residents adapt well to cold and ice
China is intensifying its presence here. This raises concerns among Western countries.
The world’s southernmost continent could become a political battleground.
The short version
- China is building its fifth research station in Antarctica, expanding its presence on the continent. This raises concern in Western countries.
The summary has been prepared with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and quality guaranteed by Aftenposten journalists.
On November 1, a Chinese fleet including two icebreakers and a cargo ship set course for Antarctica. The goal is to complete China’s fifth research station here in 2024. 460 people were on the trip.
Antarctica is the last great barren land on Earth. A forbidden land of unique nature and vast resources, little affected by pollution. 90% of the ice on Earth is located here.
What is equally unique is that there are no bombs, grenades, nuclear weapons or military forces in Antarctica. Oil exploration and mining are also prohibited.
What will the Chinese do with five research stations here?
China’s footprint is getting bigger
No one owns Antarctica. The vast region is administered on the basis of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and associated agreements.
There are no permanent residents here. But an estimated 70 research stations house several thousand researchers and others during the summer. They don’t have to step on each other: If Antarctica were a separate country, it would be the second largest country in the world by area, after Russia.
Since 1985, China has built four research stations in Antarctica. The fifth, which is now under construction, is 320 kilometers away McMurdoMcMurdoMcMurdo is the largest community in Antarctica, with more than 100 buildings accommodating 1,258 people. All personnel and equipment destined for the Amundsen-Scott base in Antarctica pass through McMurdo. The station is a modern research station with a port, three airstrips and one helipad. The only ATM in Antarctica is also located here. Source: Wikipedia, by far the largest stop here. It is owned by the United States.
The United States and other Western countries are concerned about China’s growth in Antarctica. Not least of which is the construction of a space ground station in the new station. It can be used for both civilian and military purposes. The purpose is to secure communications for China’s network of polar observation satellites.
But the think tank CSISCSISCenter for Strategic and International Studies. He points out in Washington that the equipment could also eavesdrop on the activities of other countries in space. The site allows satellite data to be collected over Australia and New Zealand.
China He flatly refused All of which suggests that the country has ambitions other than civilian ones in Antarctica. China is by no means alone in such ground stations, as are, for example, the United States, Japan and Norway.
– China did not take responsibility
China poses no military threat in Antarctica now, although the use of the technology for civilian and military purposes is in question. This is what Ivan T. Bloom tells Aftenposten newspaper. There is also believed to be little evidence of violations of the Antarctic Treaty, which regulates conditions on the continent.
– But it is important to follow closely.
Bloom is one of America’s leading experts on the Arctic, Antarctic, and associated marine areas. He is now associated with the Polar Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.
Bloom believes that China’s presence and influence is relatively modest, but it is increasing.
Evan T. Bloom
American expert on the Arctic and Antarctica. Affiliated with the Polar Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.
He points out that the American presence is much larger than the Chinese presence. The Americans have better logistics, more staff, and operate the largest terminal. The United States has three stations operating year-round and the only station in Antarctica itself. Of the four companies in China, only two operate year-round. Soon there will be three.
– It is not the case that you draw the Chinese flag on everything as if they are in control. This is not the case. They did not take matters into their own hands, Blom tells Aftenposten.
Will the treaty hold?
Antarctica is governed by a group of 29 countries. Decisions taken at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) must be unanimous.
The next twenty years will determine whether the treaty system that has maintained peaceful cooperation will remain in place. It was fixed in one Analysis of Antarctica Established by the European Union.
The analysis shows that some of the biggest challenges facing the continent relate to Russia and China’s motivations for activity here. Great power rivalry may become more pronounced in Antarctica.
The threat of militarization and pressure to exploit mineral resources could threaten everyone Consensus systemConsensus systeman agreement. All decisions require consensus. .
Bloom points out that everyone has their own motivations.
– Russia, the United States, China and Norway: they all have their own political goals. There are many reasons to be in Antarctica. Research is perhaps the most important. But there are several reasons.
Magic year 2048
The 1998 Environmental Protocol made Antarctica a nature reserve for peace and science. All parties must protect the environment and ecosystems:
- Scientific research must be a priority.
- All activities must be evaluated based on the consequences for nature and the environment.
- Activities must be freely monitored.
The environmental protocol also bans all commercial extraction of minerals for 50 years.
But this does not mean that 2048 will be the year in which everyone can suddenly penetrate Antarctica with drilling equipment, as we should believe the polar expert.
– The ban is strong
The ban on mining and militarization is believed to be too strong.
-If no one does anything in 2048, the treaty system will continue as it is. Some may come and say they don’t like the ban. Then you can talk about it, but that doesn’t mean it will end.
Bloom points out that any country could actually say it does not agree to this and withdraw from the treaty.
-But the world can change. There may be pressure to open up mining or other economic activities. Then things can get difficult. But we don’t see any signs of that. All countries, including China, Russia and the United States, continue to affirm their support for the ban on mineral extraction.
No to new protected areas
One area where cooperation in Antarctica lags is resource management in the Southern Ocean. Russia and China have for several years banned new marine protected areas.
Another concern is the increase in tourism. More than 100,000 people now visit Antarctica annually. The majority are from the USA.
– It creates pressure. Bloom says that protecting marine environments and ensuring proper regulation of tourism are two major challenges.
Your Norwegian Dwarf will be as good as new
The major powers are not the only ones working to intensify their polar investments. The year-round Norwegian Troll Station, located in Dronning Maud Land, is facing a major upgrade. It is operated by Norwegian Polar InstituteNorwegian Polar InstituteA directorate affiliated with the Ministry of Climate and Environment. About 160 employees in Tromsø, Svalbard and Antarctica. The institute conducts natural science research, mapping and environmental monitoring in the Arctic and Antarctic. He advises the authorities, represents Norway internationally, and is the Norwegian executive environmental authority in Antarctica.. Norway is uniquely positioned by having territories in the Arctic as well as regional interests in the Antarctic. International interest in Norway’s polar roles is growing.
– The treaty’s work is based on consensus to ensure peace and stability in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, Camilla Bryke tells Aftenposten newspaper. She is the director of the Polar Institute, which is involved in a number of projects in Antarctica.
Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute
Research at Troll contributes knowledge to solving global climate and environmental problems. Brickey believes international research cooperation in Antarctica is working well.
“The Rings” is a large and exciting ongoing project. It arises in treaty cooperation. It’s about mapping the topographical line where land meets sea, under the ice sheet. Norway has intervened to address the violation, but is also cooperating with other parties. Brike says: China and Germany.
Knowledge of the coastline and melting ice is important to understanding the importance of Antarctica to the Earth’s climate.
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