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Public Knowledge About Polar Regions Increases While Concerns Remain Unchanged

February 9, 2012 Comments off

Public Knowledge About Polar Regions Increases While Concerns Remain Unchanged
Source: Carsey Institute (University of New Hampshire)

The authors of this brief conduct the first comparative analysis of the polar questions that were part of the National Opinion Research Center’s 2006 and 2010 General Social Survey. Developed by scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs, these questions covered topics such as climate change, melting ice and rising sea levels, and species extinction. The authors report that the public’s knowledge about the north and south polar regions significantly improved between 2006 and 2010–before and after the International Polar Year. In addition, respondents who know more about science in general, and polar facts specifically, tend to be more concerned about polar changes. More knowledgeable respondents also tend to favor reserving the Antarctic for science, rather than opening it for commercial development.

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Country Specific Information: Antarctica

March 27, 2011 Comments off

Country Specific Information: Antarctica
Source: U.S. Department of State

Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest, and most isolated continent on Earth. The extreme climate limits the presence and activities of humans in Antarctica. The persistent cold (even during the austral summer), the limited precipitation (which qualifies much of the continent as frozen desert), the frequent overcast skies, the severe winds, and the succession of storms over the ocean and coastal areas help explain why Antarctica is the only continent that has never had a native human population.

Although seven countries maintain claims to Antarctic territory, which the United States and most other countries do not recognize, and others maintain a basis of claim, the Antarctic Treaty (signed in Washington in 1959) freezes the status quo. There is no “Antarctic government,” as such. Rather, the governance of the continent flows from the Antarctic Treaty and its associated instruments, such as the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting convenes each year to allow the Parties to confer on issues relating to the governance of activities on the continent. Currently, 48 countries, representing some 4.3 billion people (ca. 62% of the world’s population), are Parties to the Treaty.

Antarctica’s popularity as a tourist destination is growing. More than one-third of all ship-borne tourists visiting Antarctica are American citizens and almost half of all Antarctic tourist expeditions are subject to U.S. regulation because they are organized in or proceed from the United States. The Department of State is responsible for informing other Treaty Parties of non-governmental expeditions to Antarctica organized in or proceeding from the United States.

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