September 4, 2008, 10:31 am
There Will Be Visualizations
By Lisa Agustin
Portfolio magazine offers a starting point, with an interactive map of gas prices around the world. View the spectrum of prices worldwide, or zoom into a given region to see how individual countries rank (good for putting gas-pump gripes into perspective — I’m glad I don’t live in Turkey).
Other visualizations focus on mapping sources of oil. The Sierra Club’s campaign to discourage new off-shore drilling includes a map of existing leases in the U.S. The map is a good start, but it could be improved by showing the gap between what’s been drilled and what’s leased but remains untouched (68 million acres, according to SC). Science Daily reported on Durham University’s mapping of disputed Arctic territories and who may lay claim to untapped oil resources (see left). Showing how the Arctic cap might be divided is no easy task, thanks to a combination of international law and geography. Take Russian claims (in green), for example:
“Russian demands relate to a complex area of law covered by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). Under that law, any coastal state can claim territory 200 nautical miles (nm) from their shoreline (Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ) and exploit the natural resources within that zone. Some coastal states have rights that extend beyond EEZ due to their continental shelf,…the part of a country’s landmass that extends into the sea before dropping into the deep ocean. Under UNCLOS, if a state can prove its rights, it can exploit the resources of the sea and the seabed within its territory. Russia claims that its continental shelf extends along a mountain chain running underneath the Arctic, known as the Lomonosov Ridge. Theoretically, if this was the case, Russia might be able to claim a vast area of territory.”
Regarding the Arctic chart by Durham University, I felt that the information provided was misleading. The extent of claims beyond 200 nautical miles from shore is dependent upon the bathymetry and geology of the ocean floor. This information is not presented in the chart of territory and claims. The closest it comes it the fine line denoting the 350 nm limit that applies to most, but not all, types of claims to the continental shelf.
In fact, I believe the Durham chart provides too much of the wrong category of information. Better would be a simply bathymetric chart showing the bottom of the continental rise overlaid by the 350 nm boundary. There would still be two areas (the Chukchi Cap north of Alaska and the Lomonosov Ridge between Russian and Green;and and Canada) where claims may extend beyond 350 nm, but such a chart would be more clear and more useful than the Durham chart, at least for me to use in explaining the intricacies of Article 76 of the Law of the Sea Convention.
There is also a technical error in the explanation of the continental shelf as used in the legal determination of national claims. While a geologist would say that the continental shelf ends when the slopes begins its descent to the deep ocean floor, the definition used in the Law of the Sea Convention redefines the term “continental shelf” to include the geological shelf plus the continental slope (the long path to the bottom) and the continental rise (the final area before the deep ocean floor). In the arctic, the slope and rise add a significant amount of territory to the authority of the coastal state, not just for Russia, but for the US and Canada as well.
Posted by CaitlynA on September 4, 2008 at 2:28 pm
Caitlyn — thanks for that insightful post.
Posted by Lisa Agustin on September 4, 2008 at 2:40 pm