About Antarctica

Kerstin Langenberger

Antarctica —including the surrounding Southern Ocean—covers ten percent of the Earth’s surface and plays a vital role in maintaining the conditions which enable life to flourish.

Antarctica is vital to maintaining climatic and ecological stability
The cold water that wells up from the ocean depths along the Antarctic convergence nourishes vast blooms of photosynthesising phytoplankton, which is consumed by the teeming krill populations on which whales and fish feed. The phytoplankton also helps stabilise Earth’s climate by absorbing large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere before sinking to store it on the ocean bed. The Southern Ocean drives the global circulation of ocean currents and absorbs a disproportionally high percentage of the total heat and carbon absorbed by all oceans.
Diverse Antarctica
The Antarctic Treaty System isn't enough to safeguard Antarctica
The Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) has reserved Antarctica for peaceful purposes, promoted scientific collaboration and protected it from mining, militarisation and nuclear contamination, since 1959. Despite the ATS, the threats to Antarctica are increasing. Climate change is accelerating the melting of ice on both land and sea, and increased fishing, tourism, and oil and gas exploration, all pose significant risks. The levels of sea ice are at record lows, ocean currents are weakening and temperatures are increasing (in some cases up to 40°C above average).
Scientists warn that rapid environmental governance responses are necessary to halt and reverse these alarming trends, but the ATS alone cannot meet the challenge. The ATS doesn’t have the power to address climate change because activities outside the treaty area cause it. Decisions are made behind closed doors and must be made by consensus, which means that any of the State parties can block progress — as has happened to initiatives to expand marine protected areas.
Antarctic Treaty System
Time to stand up for Antarctica's rights

Antarctic Rights is working to build worldwide support for the adoption and implementation of an Antarctica Declaration. The draft Declaration calls on all nations and international bodies to recognise Antarctica as an independent legal entity with the right to be represented in decision-making that affects it —such as climate change negotiations— and to regenerate and evolve free of human disruption. It is vital that we protect Antarctica, not only to safeguard the species that live within it, but also to maintain the living conditions of humanity and other species throughout the world. Our role as humans is to act with appropriate humility, respect and consideration in relation to Antarctica. The Declaration will give expression to this perspective.

The Antarctic Rights initiative is part of a rapidly growing global Rights of Nature movement transforming how humans relate to Nature. Over 200 laws and policies that recognise Nature’s rights already exist in nearly 40 countries. For example, the Constitution of Ecuador, and laws in Aotearoa / New Zealand recognise that rivers, mountains, and forests are not property to be exploited, but legal subjects which humans have a legal duty to respect and protect.