Rarely does it seem that Antarctic governance is examined. Being a place where science is the dominating activity, it is difficult to really define who the most powerful parties are. Dudeney and Walton have sought to determine, at least from a perspective of scientific output, who has the most powerful presence in the Antarctic.
How is Antarctica governed? For over 50 years the icy continent has been governed through the Antarctic Treaty System. This is now an agreement between 49 countries, of which 28 are consultative parties (CP). The consultative parties take on a more management-related role, as well as scientific, in governing the Antarctic.
Dudeney and Walton, to determine which countries are the most scientifically dominant, did so by counting the policy papers and scientific publications of individual consultative parties produced over the last 18 years. For example the paper notes that 42% of all working papers put out in regards to Antarctica have been produced by three of the twenty-eight CPs; the UK, New Zealand and Australia. Their collective dominance in this realm, along with their long cemented standing in Antarctic affairs shows that they form an obvious leadership group ahead of others. The authors also show that ten of the CPs produce 82% of the total number of working papers.
While there is certainly further investigation necessary to determine if and how scientific investment relates to overall Antarctic leadership, this does raise interesting questions and possible implications. This research begs the questions, what are the key science papers and their effects, and what regional groupings (like south American or European countries) can do to develop and enhance their influence.
The prime means for becoming a Consultative Party to the Antarctic treaty is the demonstration of substantial scientific activity. As the authors point out, while the treaty prides itself on its scientific roots, there is oddly no mechanism for reviewing whether parties to the treaty are continuing to conduct worthwhile science. “This risks the reputation and good standing of the Antarctic Treaty.”
On a brighter note, perhaps with a metric for defined leadership, it may be easier for the parties to organize a collective voice on the world stage. This would allow for a stronger cohesive Antarctic presence at meetings like the UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties.