The Amplifying Capacity of Critical and Emerging Technologies in the Arctic and Antarctic

Understanding of the Polar Regions has grown exponentially.

Authors: Maj. Vineet Kumar and Dr. Preethi Amaresh

Understanding of the  Polar  Regions  has  grown  exponentially.  The  Arctic  and Antarctic poles today to an increasing extent has become one of the most critical areas of research and exploration, predominantly due to the possibility of untapped natural resources and challenges such as global warming and climate change.

Critical and Emerging technologies (CETs) have been presently playing a substantial part in facilitating researchers and scientists to analyze isolated and severe environments in ways that were formerly inaccessible and elusive. Through CETs, one can gain a more profound understanding of the crucial regions and their function in shaping the global climate system. Being the most outlying and uninhabitable areas in the world, these Polar Regions have increasingly become the priority of the countries to showcase their power via emerging technological progress in the contemporary years.

Correspondingly, in the last few decades, CETs have unlocked added opportunities for interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Scientists and researchers from various specializations such as climatology, geology, oceanography and so on have been involved in research assignments that demand data from numerous sources. Through cutting-edge technologies and their additional expertise, they can get more thorough insights into the interconnected processes that shape the polar environment. This interdisciplinary strategy is crucial for addressing the intricate challenges of global warming and climate change and for securing the long-term sustainability of these regions.

Cutting-edge technologies are consequently revolutionizing research and exploration through advancements in satellite technology, robotics, quantum technologies, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), machine learning algorithms and remote sensing instruments by providing useful insights into the effects of climate change, natural processes in polar regions and also the impact of human activity.

The CETs are being used as a means for sustainable development and scientific research conservation, rather than as an instrument of exploitation and environmental degradation in these regions. For instance, remote sensing technologies have been used to equip a more comprehensive outlook of Polar Regions, wildlife populations and enabling researchers to observe changes in sea levels and ice cover from a far- reach. The drones have likewise been utilized to gather explicit data on particular areas  of  interest—for  example,  wildlife  migration  patterns  and  to  measure  the thickness of the ice. Blockchain technology can further assist in ensuring data integrity, improving trust among global research partners in joint undertakings and also construct a steadfast record of data transactions. Virtual Reality (VR) technology can affect Polar Regions for academic and training purposes, while securing data integration and proper representation poses challenges in research undertakings. The 3D printing technology can decrease reliance on external supply chains; facilitate on- site production of spare equipment, and enhancing sustainability in polar-research station functions. Internet of Things (IoT) devices to a greater extent can help in tracking supplies, equipment and personnel, optimizing operations in logistics and guaranteeing efficient administration of resources in harsh polar conditions.

Furthermore, International organizations have been playing a critical and binding function in the oversight and conservation of the Arctic and Antarctic regions considering their distinctive environmental and geopolitical significance. First and foremost, the United Nations (UN) has been perpetually striving for new and innovative ways to address the unusual challenges faced in these Polar Regions by working towards a more sustainable and secure future for these vulnerable regions. The UN has been at the forefront of facilitating the use of CETs to better understand and safeguard these fragile ecosystems and can reasonably comprehend the complicated exchanges  to  engage  in  these  regions  and  work towards  sustainable solutions. Besides, the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental platform has been fostering partnerships among Arctic states and indigenous peoples on matters like environmental conservation and sustainable development. In the Antarctic, the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) functions as the preliminary global framework for overseeing  activities  in the region.  The ATS  further sets  Antarctica as  a natural reserve designated for peace and scientific research, restricting any military activities or mineral exploitation. International organizations like the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) likewise has been playing a pivotal role in driving the region’s marine resources sustainably.

Major  global  powers  have  moreover  largely  invested  in  developing  CETs  for exploring  both  regions.  For  example,  Russia  has  created  a  fleet  of  icebreakers equipped with  powerful  engines  and  reinforced  hulls  to  navigate the treacherous waters of the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. These icebreakers are essential for accessing the extensive oil and gas reserves of the following regions apart from opening up unexplored shipping paths. Russia has also been investing greatly in innovative technologies such as AUVs, cutting-edge icebreakers, and remote-sensing satellites.  India  through  the progress  in  CETs  and  its  expertise in  areas  such  as satellite  technology,  robotics  and  remote  sensing  has  enabled  it  to  produce momentous contributions to the scientific community and international efforts for fragile ecosystems. India via “Polar Diplomacy” has been taking strategic measures with other countries to safeguard its interests. The country has also been vigorously involved in different platforms such as the Arctic Council and the ATS, for scientific research advancement besides contributing towards the preservation of the environment locally and globally. The U.S. is at the frontline of developing CETs in these regions due to the growing extent of understanding these Polar Regions in the face of environmental challenges. The state-of-the-art remote sensing technologies, such as drones and satellites of the U.K, have allowed researchers to collect important data on wildlife populations, ice melting and atmospheric conditions. The country’s investments in AUVs and ice-penetrating radar systems have enabled scientists to explore the dynamics of ice sheets and glaciers in unprecedented detail. Through the evolution of advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, and satellite technology, Australia as well has been achieving groundbreaking scientific studies in these harsh environments. In this context, The Australian Antarctic Program (AAP) has access to CETs, to support this equipment operating to the high benchmarks needed by scientists. Also, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean research will be further enhanced through a recently founded Centre for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Technology (CAST). Furthermore, China’s progress in CETs in these regions is both intrigue and concern among international stakeholders including questions about resource management and governance. Its commitment to leveraging technology for scientific exploration and resource development is reshaping the geopolitical terrain of these parts.

However, despite the numerous advantages of CETs in polar research and analysis, some corresponding barriers and constraints must be addressed. This can regardless raise significant ethical and environmental concerns. This includes devastating outcomes for the Indigenous communities and fragile ecosystems. Also, particularly, for research teams from developing nations or small organizations, the increased cost of achieving and maintaining state-of-the-art equipment can be a challenge. The extreme and unforeseen events in these Polar Regions can likewise lead to technological barriers for fragile electronics including sensors. Similarly, the ethical importance of deploying technology in these remote and untouched environments must be carefully taken into consideration to decrease the influence on regional wildlife and ecosystems. By the same token, ethical concerns like privacy of data, indigenous knowledge protection and environmental impact assessment (EIA) are binding when incorporating new technologies into polar research initiatives to secure responsible and sustainable approaches.

Nevertheless, through continued investment and innovation in CETs, one can improve the understanding of these critical ecosystems and work towards finding sustainable solutions for the hereafter. These technologies have consequently revolutionized our capability to explore, analyze and comprehend the Polar Regions, further equipping us  with  an  invaluable  understanding  of  the  effects  of  various  environmental challenges.  To boot, it is important that major countries balance their technological accomplishments with responsible environmental stewardship and consideration for the rights of regional inhabitants.

The decline of sea ice in the last few decades has brought new risks and challenges.

The confluence of polar diplomacy, technology, and sustainability in these regions further present both opportunities and intricate obstacles for the global society to navigate in the forthcoming years.

As CETs continue to develop, they will play an integral part in informing policy decisions and strategies for mitigating the outcomes of climate change in the Polar Regions and beyond. In this regard, more sustainable smart solutions such as carbon capture and storage technologies, clean and renewable energy and increased adoption of circularity practices should be the need of the hour.

Maj. Vineet Kumar
Maj. Vineet Kumar
Maj. Vineet Kumar is the Founder and Global President of CyberPeace.