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Antarctica: Keeping Conflict on Ice

The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 kept the cold continent out ofthe Cold War and fostered collaboration on scientific research. The world now faces a different challenge as climate change affects this vast region.

In November 2007 Ban Ki- moon made the first-ever visit to Antarctica by a United Nations Secretary-General. He reported that 'what I found was a place that would probably be unrecognisable to the likes of Robert Scott or Ernest Shackleton':

What we saw was extraordinarily beautiful. These dramatic landscapes are rare and wonderful, but it is deeply disturbing as well. We can clearly see this world changing.

What worried him most was evidence of both the rapid shrinkage of glaciers and the increased instability of the polar ice sheet: 'The ice is melting far faster than we think.' Pointing to the rapid collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002, Ban feared that the Larsen phenomenon might repeat itself on a greater scale, particularly in the light of scientific evidence that the entire Western Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS) was at risk.

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