How Does the Law Work in Antarctica?
Print this article
Font Size
How Will the Law of Antarctica Affect the World's Future?
View ArticleView Article Comments
As previously mentioned, the international scientific community essentially governs Antarctica today. So far, this system has been fairly successful and peaceful. However, most countries have only viewed Antarctica as a location for scientific research. The extreme climate conditions of Antarctica have made it nearly impossible to utilize the continent in any other way. This may all change in the future, and the Antarctic Treaty and international agreements between cooperating nations in Antarctica may be put to the test.

In 1991, the Madrid Protocol was signed by the consultative member nations of the Antarctic Treaty. It sets the principles under which environmental protections in Antarctica are to be regulated. It also includes a ban on all commercial mining for at least fifty years up until 2041. In the next half century, as the world’s population increases, energy becomes more of a concern, and technology improves, Antarctica may become a hotbed of interest in human and energy development between competing nations.

At the time of the signing of the Madrid Protocol there was no real commercial interest in mining or oil exploration. Antarctica's weather, ice, distance from any industrialized areas, and dangerous conditions made mining too expensive to consider. Reliable authorities have estimated that it would cost approximately $100 US dollars per barrel to commercially extract oil from Antarctica. On January 2, 2008, for the first time in history, oil prices per barrel exceeded $100 US dollars. It is estimated there are up to 100 years worth of oil in Antarctica.

Coal has also been found in two regions in Antarctica - the Transantarctic Mountains and Prince Charles Mountains. The coal found thus far near the Transantarctic Mountains was of low quality because of its high moisture and high ash content. But coal by the Prince Charles Mountains was better and could likely be exploited.

Countries are also constantly improving in green technology like wind and solar power. The potential for wind and solar power development in Antarctica could be enormous. However, scientists and engineers would have to overcome great obstacles to develop green technology that could withstand the climate and be efficiently exported. While the potential for green technology is there, perhaps only necessity will ever induce action. Until then, the current legal system in Antarctica will likely be safe.

Next, we’ll look at some final points to consider about Antarctica.