Led by the Obama Administration, 28 nations have agreed to limit tourism to Antarctica, which -- like the Arctic -- has become an increasingly hot destination as global warming threatens to forever change the icy landscape. Tourism is up more than 50% in just two years, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.
Each nation still must ratify the change to the Antarctic Treaty, according to MSNBC.
For years, as the Arctic showed clear signs of changes from global warming, the effects of climate change on Antarctica appeared inconsistent and even contradictory. Some of those contradictions have been explained through a new understanding of how the hole in the Earth's ozone layer -- centered over Antarctica -- counteracts the Greenhouse effect. And more recent analysis has found an increasingly alarming degree of melting, particularly on icy peninsulas that jut out from the core of the continent.
Melting in the Arctic and Antarctic are not only early indicators of the planetary scale of the changes global warming will cause, but they also contribute to "positive feedback loops" that exacerbate global warming. As white, reflective ice melts, the dark open water or land that is exposed absorbs more of the sun's energy, leading to additional melting. The icy poles, on a planetary scale, act as a sort-of air conditioner...an air conditioner we're pulling the plug on.
Tourists to these areas can play an important role: Relaying to family, friends and elected officials their impressions of both the beauty of the landscape, and the imminent threat posed by global warming. But too many tourists can also do their own damage, and that's what this treaty is designed to avoid.
To see some of the most stunning photos of a trip to Antarctica, and learn more about the state of warming there, check out Sebastian Copeland's photos from his book Antarctica: A Call To Action, featured in The Daily Green.
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