S. Africa launches Antarctica Season to encourage greater cooperation in scientific research
South Africa on Wednesday launched the 2019/2020 Antarctica Season in Cape Town to encourage greater cooperation in scientific research on the continent.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, South African Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy said Antarctica plays an important role in the global climate system, providing an area in which scientists are able to study and understand natural processes that affect the planet.
View of a glacier at sunset at Chiriguano Bay in South Shetland Islands, Antarctica on November 7, 2019. [Photo: AFP/Johan Ordonez]
The Antarctica Season launch coincided with the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctica Treaty by 12 nations on December 1, 1959.
This treaty, which highlights the ability of diverse nations to work together to address global concerns, effectively became the first nuclear-arms non-proliferation agreement and the first instrument to govern all human activities in a region beyond sovereign jurisdictions.
Two research areas that can contribute to further collaboration in the region are the development of goal-orientated marine management practices and methods, and research to understand the impact of human activities in Antarctica, according to Creecy.
Initiatives in the region can be supported through enhancing public awareness and outreach programs, and facilitating the mainstreaming of Antarctic education and research projects in higher education institutions to strengthen research capacities, said Creecy.
She said research must be extended to include applied and emerging sectors, and support for science and logistics gateway services for all countries active in Antarctica, and relevant government departments and institutions, need to be optimized.
"I believe that there is immense scope for scientific and technological collaboration that may lead to ground-breaking innovations with broad application," the minister said.
Given the harsh, unforgiving Antarctic environment, there is probably no better product testing facility in the world," she added.
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean environments are special outdoor laboratories that provide a barometer against which the rate and effects of climate change and global heating can be measured, said Creecy.
In mitigating the risks to food security, South Africa plans to utilize its established Antarctica and Southern Ocean presence to better understand and predict weather patterns.
The Antarctica Season started with the departure of SA Agulhas II, a research ship dedicated to Antarctica, during the first week of December. During the season, senior government officials will visit Antarctica, starting from Cape Town.