Explanation of advantages— Science Diplomacy

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Advantage Explanations

Explanation of advantages—

Science Diplomacy

The affirmative’s argument here is that right now there is a race for scientific leadership — and that the US is losing that race because of a lack of access to the pola regions. To increase our polar presence (specifically Antarctica) we need to have a reliable fleet of US owned icebreakers. Polar leadership allows the US to get ahead in scientific leadership which is key to science diplomacy. Science diplomacy is a model of foreign interactions in which scientists from different countries get together and work together on scientific issues. The affirmative’s argument is that the focus on science diplomacy solves conflict because scientific collaboration spills over into other dimensions of foreign policy in a positive way. In the context of Antarctica, the affirmative argues that increasing scientific research can help develop new adaptation and mitigation strategies to an inevitable warming. This advantage is strategic because it has some big controlling impacts like science diplomacy and global warming.

Note: you should not read this advantage with the ‘Antarctic Bio-Research’ advantage***

Arctic Resources

The affirmative’s argument here is that right now there is scramble to develop resources in the Arctic region. As companies are trying to develop oil and natural gas in the Arctic, the affirmative’s argument is that those attempts will be unsuccessful absent an increase of icebreakers in the region. Icebreakers can help unlock the hydrocarbon potential of the Arctic because they provide access for companies seeking to drill and enable drilling coordination. The reason why the US needs to do the icebreaking is that the oil needs to go to the US in order to decrease energy dependence.


The affirmative’s argument here is that right now the navy is suffering from a series of budget cuts known as ‘the sequestration’. By investing in the construction of icebreakers, the aff provides a ‘stimulus effect’ into the economy. Because the workforce for non-military government vessels and military vessels are the same, the aff also boosts military shipbuilding capabilities which has beneficial implications for our naval readiness. This advantage is strategic because it can be accessed the fastest by the aff because of the initial spending.

Arctic War

In the status quo a war in the Arctic is coming because Russia is becoming more aggressive and more assertive. In order to deter Russia and ensure Arctic cooperation, there needs to be a credible increase of US presence in the Arctic. The Arctic is very unique place because global warming is happening very rapidly there. Because of the rapidly melting ice, new routes are now navigable through the Arctic. This has opened up the opportunity for new trade routes that are more commercially profitable. This also means that there is new, unmapped territory. Because Russia and other countries have ice breakers, they are able to more effectively map the Arctic and claim more of it for themselves. The affirmative argues that this is problematic these attempts will inevitably result in resource wars and armed conflicts. Additionally, by clearing new lanes for trade the affirmative provides China with an economically viable trade route that helps them resolve their energy insecurity issues and means that they won’t have to engage in problematic naval modernization. This advantage is strategic because you access some strong impacts — but be ready to debate the containment disad.

Oil Spills

The affirmative argues that right now because of a lack of icebreakers the US cannot respond adequately to an inevitable oil spill the Arctic. When an oil spill occurs, we need to be able to respond quickly with assets that can prevent the spill from causing severe damage to the Arctic ecosystem.

Antarctic Bio-Research

This is most likely the most complicated advantage of them all. The affirmative’s argument is that the US needs be part of a regulatory regime that monitors Antarctic bioprospecting. Bioprospecting is the process of taking organisms and exctracting parts of their DNA and creating usable products. One example is that some anti-freeze is developed from enzymes in fish in the Antarctic because scientists have figured out how their blood doesn’t freeze in their bodies and applied the same enzymes to commercial products. The problem, however, is that other countries have started to take interest in these new, potentially lucrative organisms. As a result, countries like China are beginning to invest in Antarctic research. Antarctica is interesting in a legal sense because it is governed by the ATS (the Antarctic Treaty System) — a series of treaties signed over the course of the late 20th century that establishes a legal regime for what is allowed to happen in the Antarctic. In order to have a say in the annual meetings of the ATS parties, countries needs to have vested research facilities on the continent. So the reason why countries are investing in Antarctic research is not just so that they have more science but so they get a say in the diplomacy that goes on there.

The affirmative’s argument is that our Antarctic research will be impossible without an increase of ice breakers. Not only ice breakers are necessary so that we can physically access our research bases there, but they also serve as ‘floating research labs’ from which scientists can conduct research in the Southern Ocean. If the United States isn’t able to maintain its Antarctic research capabilities then the US will have less and less of a say in the development of new regulations in Antarctica — particularly those regulations regarding bioprospecting. The US needs to be the ones that take the lead in a bioprospecting legal regime because of the US Bayh-Dole patent system that provides a transparent basis for patenting. This transparency is not only consistent but a necessary part of a successful bioprosepting legal regime. Irresponsible bioprospecting can have sever implications for Antarctic biodiversity. Additionally, that bioprospecting is necessary for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to create new products that have positive effects.

Note: you should not read this with the science diplomacy advantage because the internal link cards are the same


Important terms that you should know as you read through the cards—

ATS — Antarctic Treaty System. A series of treaties signed through the late 20th century that govern the Antarctic.

Bayh-Dole — Bayh Dole is United States legislation dealing with intellectual property

Bioprospecting — Bioprospecting is the process of discovery and commercialization of new products based on biological resources. Also known as ‘biodiscovery’.

Extremophiles — organisms that survive in extreme conditions.

Healy — the only USCG icebreaker that works. But unlike the other two, it’s only a medium icebreaker which means that it’s not as powerful and lacks a lot of the maneuverability of a heavy ice breaker

ISA — International Sea Bed Authority. The ISA is an intergovernmental body based in Kingston, Jamaica, that was established to organize and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans. It is an organization established by the Law of the Sea Convention

IGY — The International Geophysical Year (IGY) was an international scientific project that lasted from July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958. It marked the end of a long period during the Cold War when scientific interchange between East and West had been seriously interrupted.

NSF — The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering

Polar Star — one of the Coast Guard ice breakers. It is currently undergoing repairs and could be ready for the 2014/15 year but is unlikely to make it past the year 2020

Polar Sea — one of the Coast Guard ice breakers. It is currently inactive and decommissioned.

Science Diplomacy — Science diplomacy is the use of scientific collaborations among nations to address common problems and to build constructive international partnerships.

SCAR — the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. SCAR is an inter-disciplinary committee of the International Council for Science (ICSU). SCAR is charged with initiating, developing and coordinating high quality international scientific research in the Antarctic region

USCG — the United States Coast Guard


Be ready and able to defend why US Icebreakers are key. Other countries have ice breakers and the affirmative should have a good defense of why the US needs to own and develop ice breakers. The Arctic War and the Shipbuilding advantages have the best US key warrants.

If you’re reading the Arctic Resources advantage be ready to debate the arctic containment disad. The negative evidence is rather good on this disad and so the 2AC should take the disad seriously if it’s presented credibly in the 1NC. The link cards aren’t great — focus on winning the uniqueness debate and win the internal link to preventing conflict escalation in the Arctic and try to leverage the china scenario or another advantage as external offense.

One of the solvency arguments to be careful for is the argument that ice breakers take a long time to build. If the negative seems like they are going to go for this argument or this is something you’re worried about I would consider reading the shipbuilding advantage because it’s based off the immediate effect of investment. Additionally, I would make perception arguments about the appearance of recommitment is sufficient to solve the advantage (be careful with this argument). Another unique twist you can make is that right now shipyards are empty because they aren’t producing any ice breakers — their delay evidence doesn’t assume that sequestration has pretty much rendered ship production to zero. As a result, ice breakers could be produced relatively quickly given the fact that it’s the only thing that would be built by the military. I don’t know if this argument is actually true (it’s probably not) but it’s some good spin. Another argument to make is the fact that the plan would solve for the modernization of the Polar Star which only needs to be repaired and could be done relatively quickly. There are more arguments to make here but the point is that this argument is something to take seriously because it interacts fairly strongly with most of the advantages.

On topicality — yes this affirmative is topical. Ice breakers are fundamentally a non-military asset even if the Coast Guard is technically part of the military (and by the way — the Coast Guard usually only does military mission during war time). The reality is that for most of these advantages (particularly the research-based advantages) the Coast Guard leases out their ice breakers to the National Science Foundation and the NSF will actually pay for their maintenance and everything.

Feel free to contact me with questions.

— Ricky

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