Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Places in news: Great Barrier Reef

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Great Barrier Reef

Mains level : Coral Reefs and their significance

Chinese official has said that political tensions between Beijing and Australia were not behind a UNESCO recommendation to place the Great Barrier Reef on its endangered list.

Great Barrier Reef

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
  • It is stretched for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
  • It was world heritage listed in 1981 by UNESCO as the most extensive and spectacular coral reef ecosystem on the planet.

Importance of Corals

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth.

  • They support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species.
  • This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century.
  • Medical use: Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases.
  • Fisheries: Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation.
  • Local economies receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.
  • Coral reef structures also buffer shorelines against 97 per cent of the energy from waves, storms, and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Most of the world’s coral reefs are in tropical waters.
  2. More than one-third of the world’s coral reefs are located in the territories of Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  3. Coral reefs host far more number of animal phyla than those hosted by tropical rainforests.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1 and 3 only


Back2Basisc: Coral Reef

  • Coral reefs are built by and made up of thousands of tiny animals—coral “polyps”—that are related to anemones and jellyfish.
  • Polyps are shallow-water organisms that have a soft body covered by a calcareous skeleton. The polyps extract calcium salts from seawater to form these hard skeletons.
  • The polyps live in colonies fastened to the rocky seafloor.
  • The tubular skeletons grow upwards and outwards as a cemented calcareous rocky mass collectively called corals.
  • When the coral polyps die, they shed their skeleton on which new polyps grow.
  • The cycle is repeated for millions of years leading to the accumulation of layers of corals shallow rock created by these depositions is called a reef.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Why the Amazon forests are no longer acting as a carbon sink

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Amazon forests

Mains level : Climate Change

The Amazon forests in South America, which are the largest tropical forests in the world, have started emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of absorbing carbon emissions.

Note the countries bordered by the Amazon forests.

Amazon forests

  • The Amazon rainforest is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America.
  • This basin encompasses 7,000,000 sq km of which 5,500,000 sq km are covered by the rainforest.
  • The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela.
  • It represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world.

Why in news?

  • A significant amount of deforestation in eastern and southeastern Brazil has turned the forest into a source of CO2 that has the ability to warm the planet.
  • Not only the Amazon rainforests, some forests in Southeast Asia have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of the formation of plantations and fires.

What have the researchers found?

  • Over the years as fossil-fuel emissions across the world have increased, the Amazon forests have absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere, helping to moderate the global climate.
  • But researchers are not saying that because of significant levels of deforestation (over the course of 40 years) there has been a long-term decrease in rainfall and increase in temperatures during the dry season.
  • Because of these reasons the eastern Amazon forests are no longer carbon sinks, whereas the more intact and wetter forests in the central and western parts are neither carbon sinks nor are they emitters.
  • Another reason for the eastern region not being able to absorb as much CO2 as it did previously is the conversion of forests into agricultural land.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Arctic’s ‘Last Ice Area’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Last Ice Area

Mains level : Climate Change

A part of the Arctic’s ice called the “Last Ice Area”, located north of Greenland, has melted before expected. Scientists had believed this area was strong enough to withstand global warming.

What is the Last Ice Area?

  • In an article published in 2015, National Geographic noted that climate projections forecast the total disappearance of summer ice in the Arctic by the year 2040.
  • However, the only place that would be able to withstand a warming climate would be this area of ice called the “Last Ice Area”.
  • But while this piece of ice above northern Canada and Greenland was expected to last the longest time, it is now showing signs of melting.
  • WWF claims that WWF-Canada was the first to call this area the‘ Last Ice Area’.

Why is the area important?

  • The area is important because it was thought to be able to help ice-dependent species as ice in the surrounding areas melted away.
  • The area is used by polar bears to hunt for seals who use ice to build dens for their offspring.
  • Walruses too, use the surface of the ice for food search.

When did the area start changing?

  • The first sign of change in LIA was observed in 2018.
  • Further, in August last year, sea ice showed its “vulnerability” to the long-term effects of climate change.
  • The ice in LIA has been thinning gradually over the years much like other parts of the Arctic Ocean.

What are the reasons that explain the change?

  • About 80 per cent of thinning can be attributed to weather-related factors such as winds that break up and move the ice around.
  • The remaining 20 per cent can be attributed to the longer-term thinning of the ice due to global warming.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

What is the ‘Heat Dome’ causing record temperatures in USA?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Heat Dome

Mains level : Rising events of heatwave

A US city has recorded the highest temperatures as high as 46-degree Celsius part due to the historic heatwave that lasted as a result of a phenomenon referred to as a “heat dome”.

What is a Heat Dome?

  • To understand what causes a heat dome, one should liken the Pacific Ocean to a large swimming pool in which the heater is turned on.
  • Once the heater is on, the portions of the pool close to the heating jets will warm up faster and therefore, the temperature in that area will be higher.
  • In the same way, the western Pacific ocean’s temperatures have increased in the past few decades and are relatively more than the temperature in the eastern Pacific.
  • This strong change in ocean temperature from the west to the east is what a team of scientists believe is the reason for the heat dome.
  • This occurs when the atmosphere traps heat at the surface, which encourages the formation of a heatwave.
  • To compare, the reason that the planet Venus is the hottest in the Solar System is that its thick, dense cloud cover traps the heat at the surface, leading to temperatures as high as 471 degrees Celsius.

Is this heat wave a result of climate change?

  • It cannot be said for sure if the heatwave is a direct result of global warming.
  • Scientists are usually wary of linking climate change to any contemporary event mainly because of the difficulty in completely ruling out the possibility of the event having been caused by some other reason.
  • Similarly, scientists who have been studying the climate tend to agree that the heat waves occurring today are more likely to be a result of climate change for which humans are responsible.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Jet streams occur in the Northern Hemisphere only.
  2. Only some cyclones develop an eye.
  3. The temperature inside the eye of a cyclone is nearly 100C lesser than that of the surroundings.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1 and 3 only

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Glacial Lake Atlas of Ganga River Basin

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Glacial Lake Atlas

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Jal Shakti has released the Glacial Lake Atlas of Ganga Basin.

Glacial Lake Atlas

  • The atlas is based on the inventoried glacial lakes in part of the Ganga River basin from its origin to the foothills of the Himalayas covering a catchment area of 2,47,109 sq. km.
  • The study portion of the Ganga River basin covers part of India and the transboundary region.
  • The Atlas is available on National Hydrology Project or NHP-Bhuvan Portal.
  • It can be used by water resources professionals, researchers, disaster management authorities and other stakeholders for managing the glacial lakes as well as to mitigate the possible adverse impacts of GLOF and climate change.

Expected utility of the atlas is:

  • The atlas provides a comprehensive and systematic glacial lake database for Ganga River basin with size > 0.25 ha
  • In the context of climate change impact analysis, the atlas can be used as reference data for carrying out change analysis, both with respect to historical and future time periods
  • The atlas also provides authentic database for regular or periodic monitoring changes in spatial extent (expansion/shrinkage), and formation of new lakes
  • The atlas can also be used in conjunction with glacier information for their retreat and climate impact studies.
  • The information on glacial lakes like their type, hydrological, topographical, and associated glaciers are useful in identifying the potential critical glacial lakes and consequent GLOF risk.
  • Central and State Disaster Management Authorities can make use of the atlas for disaster mitigation planning and related program.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following Pairs :

Glacier: River

  1. Bandarpunch : Yamuna
  2. Bara Shigri : Chenab
  3. Milam : Mandakini
  4. Siachen : Nubra
  5. Zemu : Manas

Which of the following pairs given above are correctly matched? (CSP 2019)

(a) 1,2 and 4

(b) 1,3 and 4

(c) 2 and 5

(d) 3 and 5

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Places in news: Yellowstone National Park

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Yellowstone National Park

Mains level : NA

A new assessment of climate change in the Yellowstone National Park shows that it has lost a quarter of its annual snowfall.

Yellowstone National Park

  • Yellowstone NP is an American national park located in the western United States, largely in the northwest corner of Wyoming and extending into Montana and Idaho.
  • Yellowstone was the first national park in the US and is also widely held to be the first national park in the world.
  • The park is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features, especially Old Faithful geyser, one of its most popular.
  • While it represents many types of biomes, the subalpine forest is the most abundant. It is part of the South Central Rockies forests ecoregion.
  • The area also represents the one point where the three major river basins of the western U.S. converge.
  • The rivers of the Snake-Columbia basin, Green-Colorado basin, and Missouri River Basin all begin as snow on the Continental Divide as it weaves across Yellowstone’s peaks and plateaus.

Impact of climate change

  • Since 1950, average temperatures in the Greater Yellowstone Area have risen 1.3°C and potentially, more importantly, the region has lost a quarter of its annual snowfall.
  • The loss of snow there has repercussions for a vast range of ecosystems and wildlife, as well as cities and farms downstream that rely on rivers that start in these mountains.
  • It is home to the southernmost range of grizzly bear populations in North America and some of the longest intact wildlife migrations, including the seasonal traverses of elk, pronghorn, mule deer and bison.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Consider the following pairs:

River                              Flows into

1. Mekong –                   Andaman Sea

  1. Thames –                     Irish Sea
  2. Volga –                     Caspian Sea
  3. Zambezi –                  Indian Ocean

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (CSP 2020)

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 3 and 4 only

(d) 1,2 and 4 only

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

What the G7 message on net-zero emissions means for India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Net-zero emission targets and G-7

The article highlights G-7 countries’ emphasis on adoption of net-zero emission target and its implications for India.

Shifting responsibility to developing countries

  • The Cornwall G7 summit sought to re-establish a common purpose among the richest democracies of the world.
  • The G7 agreed “collectively” to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and called on “all countries, in particular, major emitting economies” to join as part of global efforts.
  • And, ODA (official development assistance) has been made contingent on net-zero emissions by 2050 and deep cuts in emissions in the 2020s.
  • G7 made an equal effort to shift the responsibility to the large developing countries.
  • However, “common and differentiated responsibilities” is the agreed guiding principle for tackling climate change.
  • Differentiation underscores the responsibility of the industrialised countries to lead.

India’s climate actions

  • India has been a leading stakeholder in climate action and is among the few in the G20 in line to meet their commitments under the Paris Accord.
  • It has also taken on a most ambitious target of 450 GW of renewable power by 2030.
  • India has shown the world the way forward on solar power with producers now offering ultra-competitive tariffs.

India’s concerns

  • Coal was particularly in the eye of the G7 which stressed “that international investments in unabated coal must stop now” .
  •  India, that continues to rely on coal, could face a crunch in assistance in thermal power.
  • BASIC, comprising India, China, Brazil and South Africa, has so far led the efforts of large developing countries in climate negotiations.
  • But with possible differences of opinion on net zero, BASIC’s clout in future global negotiations is questionable.

Way forward

  • Finance and technology are the key areas where the industrialised West can and must lead.
  • The collective developed countries’ commitment of $ 100 billion per year was made in Copenhagen in 2009 and is nowhere near being reached.
  • A smallish sum of $2 billion was committed by G7 to accelerating the transition from coal.
  • For India, with its huge developmental needs and global high-table aspirations that require carbon and policy spaces, the imperative is strong diplomatic partnerships with large developing economies that have an inherent interest in GREEN-Growth with Renewable Energy, Entrepreneurship and Nature.

Conclusion

India, which has huge developmental needs and global high-table aspirations that require carbon and policy spaces, must protect its interests.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

NatGeo recognizes ‘Southern Ocean’ as globe’s fifth ocean

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Southern Ocean

Mains level : NA

The National Geographic magazine has recognized the ‘Southern Ocean’ as the world’s fifth ocean June 8, 2021 hoping others will soon follow suit.

Answer this PYQ from CSP 2019 in the comment box:

Q.The most important fishing grounds of the world are found in the regions where:

(a) warm and cold atmospheric currents meet

(b) rivers drain out large amounts of freshwater into the sea

(c) warm and cold oceanic currents meet

(d) continental shelf is undulating

Southern Ocean

  • The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctica.
  • As such, it is regarded as the second-smallest of the five principal oceanic divisions: smaller than the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans but larger than the Arctic Ocean.
  • Over the past 30 years, the Southern Ocean has been subject to rapid climate change, which has led to changes in the marine ecosystem.

What has NatGeo attempted?

  • The magazine says the Southern Ocean is the only ocean ‘to touch three other oceans and to completely embrace a continent rather than being embraced by them’.
  • Its northern limit is a latitude of 60 degrees south.
  • It is also defined by its Antarctic Circumpolar Current that was formed 34 million years ago. The current flows from west to east around Antarctica.
  • The Southern Ocean is home to large populations of whales, penguins, and seals.

Why such a move?

  • Usually, the magazine has followed the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) on marine names, it said in an article notifying the change.
  • The IHO too had recognized ‘Southern Ocean’ as a distinct body of water surrounding Antarctica in 1937 but had repealed the same in 1953.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Glacier melting in Hindu Kush Himalayas

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hindu Kush Himalayas

Mains level : Melting of glaciers

Up to two billion people in southeast Asia can face food and water shortages even as the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) mountain ranges lose up to two-thirds of its ice by 2100, a United Nations-backed research flagged.

Hindu Kush Himalayas

  • The HKH region, often referred to as the ‘Third Pole’, is spread over 3,500 square kilometers across eight countries including India, Nepal, and China.
  • The range forms the western section of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region (HKH) and is the westernmost extension of the Pamir Mountains, the Karakoram, and the Himalayas.
  • It divides the valley of the Amu Darya (the ancient Oxus) to the north from the Indus River valley to the south.
  • It contains the world’s third-largest storage of frozen water after the Antarctica and Arctic.
  • Over 240 million people live in the region’s mountains; 1.7 billion live in the river basins downstream, while food grown in these basins reaches three billion people.

Continuous warming

  • HKH region continues to warm through 21st century even if the world was able to limit global warming at the agreed 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Another study published in 2019 on the ice thickness of glaciers had estimated that glaciers in the HKH may contain 27 percent less ice than previously suggested.
  • The HKH region lies downwind from some of the most heavily polluted places on Earth. This threatens agriculture, climate as well as monsoon patterns.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

World’s largest iceberg breaks off from Antarctica

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : A-76 Iceberg

Mains level : Impact of climate changes on Cryosphere

A huge ice block has broken off from western Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg in the world and earning the name A-76.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.On the planet earth, most of the freshwater exists as ice caps and glaciers. Out of the remaining freshwater, the largest proportion:

(a) is found in the atmosphere as moisture and clouds

(b) is found in freshwater lakes and rivers

(c) exists as groundwater

(d) exists as soil moisture

A-76 Iceberg

  • A-76 is the latest in a series of large ice blocks to dislodge in a region acutely vulnerable to climate change, although scientists said in this case it appeared to be part of a natural polar cycle.
  • The iceberg, measuring around 170 km long and 25 km wide, with an area of 4,320 sq km is now floating in the Weddell Sea.
  • Slightly larger than the Spanish island of Majorca, A-76 had been monitored by scientists since it began to separate from the Ronne Ice Shelf.
  • It joins the previous world’s largest title holder A-23A — approximately 3,880 sq. km. in size — which has remained in the same area since 1986.
  • A-76 was originally spotted by the British Antarctic Survey and the calving — the term used when an iceberg breaks off — was confirmed using images from the Copernicus satellite.

Note: An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open water.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Places in news: Leang Sakapao Caves

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Leang Sakapao Caves

Mains level : Not Much

Researchers have reported that Pleistocene-era rock paintings dating back to 45,000-20,000 years ago in cave sites in southern Sulawesi, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, are weathering at an alarming rate.

Have you ever found the mention of ‘Altamira Caves’ in your NCERTs?

Leang Sakapao Caves

  • This cave art of Sulawesi is much older than the prehistoric cave art of Europe.
  • The artwork in the area includes what is believed to be the world’s oldest hand stencil (almost 40,000 years ago), created by pressing the hand on a cave wall and spraying wet red-mulberry pigments over it.
  • A nearby cave features the world’s oldest depiction of an animal, a warty pig painted on the wall 45,500 years ago.

Impact of climate change

  • The artwork made with pigments was decaying due to a process known as haloclasty, which is triggered by the growth of salt crystals due to repeated changes in temperature and humidity.
  • This is caused by alternating wet and dry weather in the region.
  • Indonesia has also experienced several natural disasters in recent years, which have quickened the process of deterioration.

Note:

Mark all islands of the Indonesian Archipelago in your Atlas.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate change causing a shift in Earth’s axis, finds new study

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Polar shift

Mains level : Paper 3- How climate change causing a shift in the Earth's axis of rotation

About the study

  • A study is published in Geophysical Research Letters of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
  • The study has added yet another impact of climate change on the earth – marked shifts in the axis along which the Earth rotates.
  • It says that due to the significant melting of glaciers because of global temperature rise, our planet’s axis of rotation has been moving more than usual since the 1990s.

How the earth’s axis shifts

  • The Earth’s axis of rotation is the line along which it spins around itself as it revolves around the Sun.
  • The points on which the axis intersects the planet’s surface are the geographical north and south poles.
  • The location of the poles is not fixed, however, as the axis moves due to changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet.
  • Thus, the poles move when the axis moves, and the movement is called “polar motion”.
  • Generally, polar motion is caused by changes in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, oceans, or solid Earth.
  • But now, climate change is adding to the degree with which the poles wander.

What the study says

  • As per the study, the north pole has shifted in a new eastward direction since the 1990s, because of changes in the hydrosphere (meaning the way in which water is stored on Earth).
  • From 1995 to 2020, the average speed of drift was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995.
  • The faster ice melting under global warming was the most likely cause of the directional change of the polar drift in the 1990s, the study says.
  • The other possible causes are terrestrial water storage change in non‐glacial regions due to climate change and unsustainable consumption of groundwater.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Melting of Glaciers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Factors contributing to the melting of glaciers

Mains level : Paper 3- Glaciers melting rapidly

Glaciers shrinking faster than before

  • A new study by ETH Zurich and University of Toulouse researchers finds that the world’s glaciers are shrinking at a faster rate than before.
  •  If the trend continues this will put the densely-populated parts of Asia at risk of flood and water shortages.
  • The study found the world’s ice fields lost 298 gigatons of ice per year from 2015 to 2019, a 30% increase in the rate of retreat compared with the previous five years.
  • Glaciers in Alaska, the Alps and Iceland are among those disappearing at the fastest pace.
  • The scientists used images from a special camera aboard NASA’s Terra satellite, which has circled the Earth every 100 minutes since its launch in 1999.

Impact

  • The situation in the Himalayas is particularly worrying.
  • Swathes of India and Bangladesh could face water stress during dry periods when major rivers like the Ganges and Indus are mainly fed by glacial runoff.
  • Glaciers typically accumulate ice in the winter, but a warming climate means summer melting has outstripped those gains and caused a net loss of ice in mountain regions.
  • The melting in turn contributes to global warming and indirectly accelerates sea level rise, raising the risk of flooding faced by coastal communities.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Major oil and gas producers form Net Zero Producers’ Forum

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Net Zero Producers' Forum

Mains level : Paper 3- Net Zero Producers' Forum

About the Net Zero Producers’ forum

  • Five of the world’s major oil and gas producers are working together to ‘develop pragmatic net-zero emission strategies’.
  • Qatar, the US, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Norway, collectively responsible for 40% of global oil and gas production, will come together to form a cooperative forum that will develop pragmatic net zero-emission strategies.
  • Energy producers are faced with unique responsibilities to furnish the world with energy but the climate crisis requires serious leadership and a strong alliance to deliver a path to net-zero.

Strategies and technologies

  • The Net Zero Producers’ Forum will consider strategies and technologies which include methane abatement, circular carbon economy approach, development and deployment of clean energy and carbon capture and storage technologies, diversification from reliance on hydrocarbon revenues etc.

Source:

https://www.energy.gov/articles/joint-statement-establishing-net-zero-producers-forum-between-energy-ministries-canada

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Eastern India most vulnerable to climate change, says study

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vulnerability Index

Mains level : Paper 3- Vulnerability to climate change

About the report

  • Published this week, the report on ‘Climate vulnerability assessment for adaptation planning in India using a common framework’ was conducted in 2019-2020 across 29 States.
  • It was part of a capacity building programme under the National Mission on Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.
  • The report was prepared by IISc, IIT-Mandi and IIT-Guwahati.

Major findings

  • Along with Chhattisgarh in central India, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Odisha, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, and West Bengal are the eight most vulnerable States.
  • These eight most vulnerable States require prioritisation of adaptation interventions.
  • Jharkhand, with the highest vulnerability indices VI of 0.674, topped the list of States most vulnerable to climate change.
  • The major drivers for the vulnerability of all the States included lack of forest area per 1,000 rural population, lack of crop insurance, marginal and small operational land holding, low density of health workers, low participation of women in the workforce, yield variability of food grains, and a high proportion of the population below the poverty line.
  • Tamil Nadu and Kerala are among seven States that are the least vulnerable but there’s more to it meets the eye.
  • However, the vulnerability indices (VIs) for these seven States range from the lowest of 0.419 for Maharashtra to 0.468 for Uttarakhand, which is on the higher side.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Places in news: Thwaites Glacier

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Thwaites Glacier

Mains level : Glacial melting and sea level rise

The melting of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier – also called the “Doomsday Glacier”– has long been a cause of concern because of its high potential of speeding up the global sea-level rise happening due to climate change.

Thwaites Glacier

  • Called the Thwaites Glacier, it is 120 km wide at its broadest, fast-moving, and melting fast over the years.
  • Because of its size (1.9 lakh square km), it contains enough water to raise the world sea level by more than half a meter.
  • Studies have found the amount of ice flowing out of it has nearly doubled over the past 30 years.
  • Thwaites’s melting already contributes 4% to global sea-level rise each year. It is estimated that it would collapse into the sea in 200-900 years.
  • Thwaites is important for Antarctica as it slows the ice behind it from freely flowing into the ocean. Because of the risk it faces — and poses — Thwaites is often called the Doomsday Glacier.

What have previous studies said?

  • A 2019 study by New York University had discovered a fast-growing cavity in the glacier. Then last year, researchers detected warm water at a vital point below the glacier.
  • The study reported water at just two degrees above freezing point at Thwaites’s “grounding zone” or “grounding line”.
  • The grounding line is the place below a glacier at which the ice transitions between resting fully on bedrock and floating on the ocean as an ice shelf.
  • The location of the line is a pointer to the rate of retreat of a glacier.
  • When glaciers melt and lose weight, they float off the land where they used to be situated. When this happens, the grounding line retreats.
  • That exposes more of a glacier’s underside to seawater, increasing the melting rate resulting in the glacier speeding up, stretching out, and thinning, causing the grounding line to retreat ever further.

What has the new study revealed?

  • The recent Gothenburg study used an uncrewed submarine to go under the Thwaites glacier front to make observations.
  • The submersible called “Ran” measured among other things the strength, temperature, salinity and oxygen content of the ocean currents that go under the glacier.
  • There is a deep connection to the east through which deepwater flows from Pine Island Bay, a connection that was previously thought to be blocked by an underwater ridge.

Why this is a cause of worry?

  • The warm water is approaching the pinning points of the glacier from all sides, impacting these locations where the ice is connected to the seabed and where the ice sheet finds stability.
  • This has the potential to make things worse for Thwaites, whose ice shelf is already retreating.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Early bud-break genes and climate change

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Genetics and climate change

Mains level : Impacts of climate change on plant dynamics

Changing climate has transformed the time spring unfolds in front of us.

Early bud-break

  • Bud-break — which is when trees leaf out — has undergone a change.
  • Several trees initiate bud-break too early or too late, which affects the harvest.
  • Spring, for example, arrived earlier than usual in Kashmir this year due to higher temperatures in February and March.
  • Gul-tour, a spring-flowering herb started blooming in mid-February in Kashmir. Its yellow flowers would usually blossom in March, heralding Spring.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Other than resistance to pests, what are the prospects for which genetically engineered plants have been created?

  1. To enable them to withstand drought
  2. To increase the nutritive value of the produce
  3. To enable them to grow and do photosynthesis in spaceships and space stations
  4. To increase their shelf life

Select the correct answer using the code given below

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Answer: (d)

What causes early bud-break?

  • This is why understanding the genetics of bud-break helps scientists modify or select crop varieties that can be more resilient to the climate threat.
  • The properties of transcription factors are genes that regulate other genes by binding to deoxyribonucleic acid and giving activation instructions.
  • It helps scientists determine what other genes might be involved in a process such as a bud-break.

EBB genes

  • Researchers of the study had earlier identified transcription factors for early bud-break 1 (EBB1) and short vegetative phase (SVL), which directly interact to control bud-break.
  • EBB1 is a positive regulator of bud-break, whereas SVL is a negative regulator of bud-break.
  • Now, the research team has identified and characterized the early bud-break 3 (EBB3) gene.

Identified mechanism of Bud-break

  • EBB3 is a temperature-responsive, positive regulator of bud-break that provides a direct link to activation of the cell cycle during bud-break.
  • EBB3 provides a direct link through the signalling pathway for how these cells divide.
  • The analysis reveals how particular genes activate through the season or in response to specific environmental factors.

Significance of the study

  • New approaches for accelerated tree adaptation to climate change helps ensure bud-break happens at the right time each spring.
  • Using their understanding of the genetic pathways that control bud-break, scientists hope to genetically modify crops to adapt to warmer winters and unpredictable frosts.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate and consciousness

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Need to galvanise climate action

Two recent events: floods in Uttarakhand and Texas cold snap serves as reminders of the devastation climate change could unleash. What we need is climate action. The article deals with this issue.

Fingerprints of global warming in Uttarakhand floods and Texas cold snap

  • The melting of the Himalayan glaciers that prompted the floods and landslides in Uttarakhand have the fingerprints of global warming.
  • The United States has already witnessed many deadly avalanches since the beginning of 2021.
  • Furthermore, as glacier cover is replaced by water or land, the amount of light reflected decreases, aggravating warming.
  • The extreme cold weather in Texas, like the double-digit negative temperatures seen in Germany earlier this year, is connected to Arctic-peninsula warming, at a rate almost twice the global average.

Global warming causing the movement of cold air

  • Usually, there is a collection of winds around the Arctic keeping the cold locked far to the north.
  • But global warming has caused gaps in these protective winds, allowing intensely cold air to move south — a phenomenon that is accelerating.

India needs to announce carbon neutrality target

  • When the public connects cause and effect, responses are usually swift.
  • Global warming is still seen as a danger that lies over the horizon.
  • For India, the third-largest carbon emitter after China and the United States, a decisive switch is needed from highly polluting coal and petroleum to cleaner and renewable power sources.
  • China has announced carbon neutrality by 2060, Japan and South Korea by 2050, but India is yet to announce a target.
  • HSBC ranks India at the top among 67 nations in climate vulnerability (2018), Germanwatch ranks India fifth among 181 nations in terms of climate risks (2020).
  • But public spending does not reflect these perils.

Including policies for climate mitigation in the Budget

  • A vital step should be explicitly including policies for climate mitigation in the government budget.
  • Growth targets should include timelines for switching to cleaner energy.
  • The government needs to launch a major campaign to mobilise climate finance.
  • India’s Central and State governments must increase allocations for risk reduction, such as better defences against floods, or agricultural innovations to withstand droughts.

Neglect of warnings and lack of policy response

  •  The Uttarakhand government and the Centre have been diluting, instead of strengthening, climate safeguards for hydroelectric and road projects.
  • Studies had flagged ice loss across the Himalayas, and the dangers to densely populated catchments, but policy response has been lacking.
  • Similarly, Kerala ignored a landmark study calling for regulation of mining, quarrying and dam construction in ecologically sensitive places, which contributed to the massive floods and landslides in 2018 and 2019.

Consider the question ” Frequent occurrences of the extreme weather events serve as the warning for more climate actions, yet there is a lack of policy actions. In light of this, suggest the measures India should take.”

Conclusion

Events like Uttarakhand and Texas should be treated as lessons to change people’s minds and for the public to demand urgent action.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Lessons from Uttarakhand and Texas

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Road to decarbonisation

The article deals with the common threads running through the recent flash floods in Uttarakhand and the severe cold that snapped the power grid in Texas.

Time-bound net zero carbon target

  • Most governments and corporates are in agreement over what needs to be done to reach the target of net-zero carbon emission target. Which include:
  • Fossil fuels must be steadily but inexorably replaced by clean energy electricity should be increasingly generated from solar and wind.
  • Transport should switch from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles.
  • Energy demand should be conserved and more efficiently consumed.
  • Technology and innovation must remain the centrepiece of all activities.
  • Governments and corporates have also to agree on removing the legacy obstacles that lie on the pathway.

3 Legacy obstacles need to be removed

  • Two events last month will explain better the reasons for this concern.
  • A chunk of the Nanda Devi broke off and triggered flash floods downstream that then washed away or damaged several hydroelectric dams and led to the loss of hundreds of lives
  • A severe cold snap crashed the electricity grid system in Texas, plunging a wide swathe of the state into darkness.
  • These two events were unrelated, other than possibly by the link of climate change, but on examination of the reasons for the consequential material and human misery, they offer common insight.

1) Poorly designed planing system

  • In both cases, the authorities were caught unprepared. This is despite the fact that there had been precedents.
  • One reason for this lack of preparedness could be the presumption, based on historical data.
  • The lesson is that whilst the past is a useful guidepost, it is an imperfect one especially in view of the spate of natural disasters across the world in recent times, and that planners should be cautious about linear extrapolations.
  • Certainly, for the journey of decarbonisation, there is little of the distant past for them to hang onto.

2) Siloed and fragmented physical and regulatory oversight mechanisms

  • The tragedy in Uttarakhand reflected the costs of institutional fragmentation and lack of coordination in decision making.
  • The suggestions made in the aftermath of the Kedarnath flooding regarding land use and watershed management and the best means of securing an optimal balance between construction and the Himalayan ecology.
  • But the suggestion had not been implemented in large part because energy is a concurrent subject and there is no one ministerial or regulatory body responsible for this domain.
  • Further, these recommendations required the coming together of various non-energy ministries which, given the current vertically siloed structures of responsibility and accountability in our system, did not happen.
  • The glacial burst may have been beyond anyone’s control; the consequential downstream damage was avoidable. 

3) The lack of investment in energy infrastructure

  • One reason why solar and wind did not pick up the power slack in Texas was because the grid was not resilient enough to absorb the surge in the flow of intermittent renewable electrons.
  • India’s transmission system is not capable of managing the energy transition.
  • This problem will clearly have to be addressed if decarbonisation is to proceed smoothly.
  • But to do so, many issues will have to be resolved.
  • Not least, how much will it cost to upgrade the infrastructure? How will it be financed?
  • Who will take the lead on driving this change e?
  • Questions that are easier to set out than answer.

Way forward

  • To ensure that decarbonisation translates into effective action on the ground, policymakers will have to build structures that reflect the woven, multidimensional, interdependent and interconnected nature of the energy ecosystem.
  • This means creating mechanisms that facilitate inter-ministerial and inter-state collaboration within the country and multilateral cooperation internationally.

Consider the question “There are legacy obstacles in the road to decarbonisation. What are these obstacles and suggest the pathway to remove these obstacles?” 

Conclusion

In order to achieve the targets on carbon emission, India needs to draw on these lessons and build robust systems, regulatory mechanisms and facilitate investment in the creation of resilient energy infrastructure.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Places in news: Lake Chad

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lake Chad

Mains level : Shrinking water bodies due to Global Warming

One of Africa’s largest freshwater bodies, Lake Chad, has shrunk by 90 per cent.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q.Which of the following has/have shrunk immensely/dried up in the recent past due to human activities?

  1. Aral Sea
  2. Black Sea
  3. Lake Baikal

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 2 only

(d) 1 and 3

Lake Chad

  • Lake Chad in the Sahel spans the countries of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and is home to 17.4 million people.
  • It is blessed with rich aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity.
  • The Chari River, fed by its tributary the Logone, provides over 90% of the lake’s water, with a small amount coming from the Yobe River in Nigeria/Niger.
  • Despite high levels of evaporation, the lake is freshwater.
  • The Lake Chad basin comprises biosphere reserves, World Heritage and Ramsar sites as well as wetlands of international conservation importance.

Why it is significant?

  • For years, the lake has been supporting drinking water, irrigation, fishing, livestock and economic activity for over 30 million people in the region.
  • It is vital for indigenous, pastoral and farming communities in one of the world’s poorest countries.
  • However, climate change has fuelled a massive environmental and humanitarian crisis.
  • The United Nations has termed the Lake Chad crisis as “one of the worst in the world”.

A looming peril

  • The lake has shrunk 90 per cent over the last 60 years since the chronic droughts surged at the beginning of the 1970s.
  • The surface area of the lake was 26,000 square kilometres in 1963; it has now reduced to less than 1,500 square kilometres.
  • Its population is exploding and the region has been ripped apart from conflict at an unprecedented scale.

Behind all crises

  • The ever-changing climate has dramatically worsened the situation, amplifying food and nutritional insecurity in the region.
  • Temperature is rising one-and-a-half times faster than the global average. The seasonal and inter-rainfall patterns have been drastically changing each year.
  • This has triggered food insecurity, ultimately pushing communities into the arms of terrorist groups.
  • Boko Haram is one of the top insurgent groups with a strong foothold in the region.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Carbon Watch: India’s first app to assess one’s carbon footprint

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon footprints, Ecological footprints

Mains level : Not Much

Chandigarh became the first state or UT in India to launch Carbon Watch, a mobile application to assess the carbon footprint of an individual.

Carbon Footprint

  • A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • It corresponds to the whole amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced to, directly and indirectly; support a person’s lifestyle and activities.
  • Carbon footprints are usually measured in equivalent tons of CO2, during the period of a year, and they can be associated with an individual, an organization, a product or an event, among others.
  • The GHGs whose sum results in a carbon footprint can come from the production and consumption of fossil fuels, food, manufactured goods, materials, roads or transportation.

Note: An ecological footprint, as explained earlier compares the total resources people consume with the land and water area that is needed to replace those resources. A carbon footprint also deals with resource usage but focuses strictly on the greenhouse gases released due to burning of fossil fuels.

How does the app Carbon Watch work?

  • As a person downloads the application, they will need to fill details in four parts — Water, Energy, Waste Generation and Transport (Vehicular movement).
  • In the category of Water, the person will be required to inform about the consumption of water.
  • In the Energy category, the details regarding the electricity units consumed every month at the house, monthly bill etc and usage of solar energy will have to be furnished.
  • In the Waste category, the individual will need to inform about the waste generated on their part and their family.
  • In the transport section, the individual will have to inform about the mode of transport used by four-wheeler, two-wheeler or bicycle.

Try this PYQ:

As a result of their annual survey, the National Geographic Society and an international polling firm GlobeScan gave India top rank in Greendex 2009 score. What is this score?

(a) It is a measure of efforts made by different countries in adopting technologies for reducing the carbon footprint

(b) It is a measure of environmentally sustainable consumer behavior in different countries

(c) It is an assessment of programs/schemes undertaken by different countries for improving the conservation of natural resources

(d) It is an index showing the volume of carbon credits sold by different countries

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

India Inc must follow global example, take affirmative action on climate change

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Making businesses recognise their carbon footprint

The article explains the global trend in investors and lendors are demanding companies to recognise their impact on environment and act on it.

Accountability on climate change: global trend

  • There is a wave of investors pushing large corporations from across sectors, to recognise their carbon footprint and take affirmative action.
  • Aviva, the British insurance company announced it would divest stock and bond holdings in 30 of the biggest corporate emitters of carbon, if their boards failed to take affirmative action over climate change.
  • MPs in the United Kingdom called on the Bank of England to ratchet up environment standards in its pandemic stabilising, corporate bond programme.
  • Swedbank AB, Sweden’s biggest mortgage bank, has taken a decision not to provide fresh loans to new oil and gas projects.

Companies realising social and environmental impacts

  • Several large and growing companies, especially in Europe, are realising their social and environmental impacts and making it a boardroom agenda even without investor guns on their heads.
  • Schneider Electric, the energy management and automation company, has embedded environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into every facet of its activities.
  •  The company climbed from 29th to number 1 rank in the 2021 Global 100 ranking in the Corporate Knights index of the world’s most sustainable companies.
  • Only one company from India, Tech Mahindra, has made it to the world’s 100 most sustainable list.

Indian scenario

  • Indian institutional lenders and investors are simply not demanding enough on sustainability.
  • A majority of Indian companies are only meeting compliance norms set out by various state or city authorities.
  • Rarely do they go beyond rule-based compliances and implement environment, social and governance or ESG goals with purpose and passion like their European counterparts.

Way forward

  • SEBI is putting the final touches on the Business Responsibility and Environment Reporting (BRSR) guidelines.
  • The new ESG reporting norm will apply to the top 1,000 listed companies on Indian exchanges.
  • Under BRSR reporting guidelines, companies will have to declare their R&D spends on improving environmental and social outcomes. 
  • They will have to disclose energy and water consumed to turnover ratios, and the percentage of recycled or reused input materials, among many other social and governance disclosures such as CSR, employee skilling and gender diversity.
  • It’s time for lending institutions and investors to align with SEBI and use their muscle to drive a deeper change.

Consider the question “Indian institutional lenders and investors are  not demanding enough on sustainability from the companies. Rarely do they go beyond rule-based compliances and implement environment, social and governance or ESG goals with purpose and passion like their European counterparts. In light of this, suggest the measures to nudge the businesseses to act on their environmental responsibilities.” 

Conclusion

Stepping up green standards to meet Paris Climate Agreement goals cannot be the government’s responsibility alone. Businesses must be part of the movement, or the target of containing global warming to less than 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels, will remain elusive.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in Uttarakhand

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GLOF

Mains level : Climate change impact

A massive glacier burst at Chamoli in Uttarakhand yet again bringing back our focus to the dangers of climate change.

A wake-up call!

Uttarakhand is often at the heart of various Himalayan disasters such as flash floods, cloud bursts, avalanches and earthquakes.

The Chamoli incident signifies the dawn of ugly faces of climate disaster for which the mankind is clueless. At last, someone has to be blamed, isn’t it?

What is the news?

  • Experts are uncertain about what caused the massive glacier burst at Chamoli in Uttarakhand.
  • It is unclear whether there was an avalanche in the area recently or whether the lake breach was the result of construction, anthropological activities, climate change etc.

What is GLOF?

  • A GLOF is a type of outburst flood that occurs when the dam containing a glacial lake fails.
  • An event similar to a GLOF, where a body of water contained by a glacier melts or overflows the glacier, is called a jökulhlaup.
  • The dam can consist of glacier ice or a terminal moraine.
  • Failure can happen due to various factors such as:
  1. Erosion, a buildup of water pressure
  2. Avalanche of rock or heavy snow
  3. Earthquake or volcanic eruptions under the ice or
  4. Displacement of water in a glacial lake when a large portion of an adjacent glacier collapses into it

Possible causes for Chamoli

Avalanche

  • An avalanche is falling masses of snow and ice which gathers pace as it comes down the slope.
  • But an avalanche is unlikely to result in the rise of water of that magnitude what Chamoli witnessed.

Cloudburst

  • What happened in Uttarakhand in 2013 was a multi-day cloudburst.
  • It is a sudden, very heavy rainfall accompanies by a thunderstorm. But it generally happens in monsoon.
  • In fact, the season in which such a disaster was witnessed has surprised experts as there is no immediate trigger that can be pointed to as the reason why water level rose to that level washing away two hydro projects.

Why always Uttarakhand?

  • Human activities profoundly affect the earth’s climate and mountains are a sensitive indicator of that effect.
  • The mountain ecosystem is easily disrupted by variations in climate owing to their altitude, slope and orientation to the sun.
  • As the earth heats up, mountains glaciers melt at unprecedented rates.
  • Several scientists believe that the change occurring in the mountain ecosystems may provide an early glimpse of what could come to pass in a lowland environment.

Conclusion

  • The current policy of the government of pursuing hydro-power projects indiscriminately cannot be ignored.
  • The entire State of Uttarakhand is categorised as falling in Zone-IV and V of the earthquake risk map of India.
  • The potential of the cumulative effect of multiple such projects has turned out to be more environmentally damaging than sustainable.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Global Climate Risk Index 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Climate Risk Index 2021

Mains level : Climate change vulnerability and the economics behind

India was ranked the seventh worst-hit country in 2019 in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021.

The report holds much significance for prelims as well as mains. Just for the sake of information, we must be aware of India’s performance.

Global Climate Risk Index

  • The GCRI is released annually by the environmental think tank and sustainable development lobbyist Germanwatch.
  • It analyses to what extent countries have been affected by the impacts of weather-related loss events (storms, floods, heat waves etc.).
  • It pushes for the need to support developing countries in coping with the effects of climate change.

Highlights of the 2020 year

Global prospects

  • Mozambique, Zimbabwe and The Bahamas were the worst-affected countries in 2019.
  • While hurricane Dorian ravaged The Bahamas; Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi were affected by the single extreme weather event of cyclone Idai.
  • Japan and Afghanistan were the other countries that fared worse than India on the Index, while South Sudan, Niger and Bolivia fared better in comparison but still made it to the top 10 worst-affected countries.

The burden of development

  • Eight of the 10 countries most affected between 2000 and 2019 were developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita.
  • Vulnerable people in developing countries suffered most from extreme weather events like storms, floods and heatwaves, whereas the impact of climate change was visible around the globe.
  • Poorer countries are hit hardest because they are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard and have the lower coping capacity.

Data about India

  • According to the Index floods caused by heavy rain in 2019 took 1,800 lives across 14 states in India and displaced 1.8 million people.
  • Overall, the intense monsoon season affected 11.8 million people, with the economic damage estimated to be $10 billion (Rs.72,900 crore at $1=INR 72.9).
  • A total of eight tropical cyclones meant that 2019 was one of the most active Northern Indian Ocean cyclone seasons on record. Six of them intensified to become “very severe”.
  • The worst was Cyclone Fani in May 2019 which affected a total of 28 million people, killing nearly 90 people in India and Bangladesh, and causing economic losses of $8.1 billion (Rs.59,066 crore).

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

UN Adaptation Gap Report, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Adaptation Cost

Mains level : Progress of global climate action

The United Nations Adaptation Gap Report, 2020 was recently released by the UNEP.

Must read edition: Five years of Paris Agreement

UN Adaptation Gap Report

  • UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has managed the production of UN Environment’s Adaptation Gap Report series since its first edition in 2014.
  • The aim of the reports is to inform national and international efforts to advance climate change adaptation.

Behind the concept: Adaptation Cost

  • Adaptation Cost includes costs of planning, preparing for, facilitating and implementing the climate change adaptation measures.
  • It thus derives benefits as the avoided damage costs or the accrued benefits following the adoption and implementation of adaptation measures.

Highlights of the 2020 report

  • The annual cost of adaptation to the effects of climate change for developing countries is estimated to at least quadruple by 2050, according to the United Nations Adaptation Gap Report, 2020.
  • The current cost for developing countries is in the range of $70 billion (Rs 5.1 lakh crore) and may rise to $140-300 billion in 2030 and $280-500 billion in 2050.

Funding gaps

  • The ever-increasing adaptation cost has also outpaced the growth in adaptation finance that refers to the flow of funds to developing countries to help them tide over the damages caused by climate change.
  • This, in turn, has kept the adaptation finance gap from closing with the current efforts, although the fund flow has increased, the report said.
  • Adaptation costs, in actual terms, are higher in developed countries but the burden of adaptation is greater for developing countries in relation to their gross domestic product.
  • These countries, especially in Africa and Asia, which are least equipped to tackle climate change will also, be the most impacted by it, the report noted.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Why insects are crucial for ecological balance?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Insects as bioindicators

Mains level : Not Much

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in the DownToEarth.  It talks about the ecological importance of insects.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following:

  1. Birds
  2. Dust blowing
  3. Rain
  4. Wind blowing

Which of the above spread plant diseases?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Various threats to insects

  • Insects are increasingly susceptible to extinction due to increasing climate crisis.
  • They form the basal part of the food pyramid and impact our agriculture ecosystems as well as human health.
  • Their extinction can have a cascading effect on the upper levels of the food pyramid.
  • Rampant and indiscriminate use of chemicals in commercial agricultural practices, mainly monocropping systems, has been taking a toll on insects in the vicinity of farmlands and plantations.
  • While everyone is talking about sustainability in agriculture, the role of insects has largely been ignored.

A few common insects whose existence is taken for granted and their ecological relevance are:

(1) Butterflies

  • They are important pollinators like bees.
  • Species diversity and density of butterfly indicate a good diversity of plants in an area. Several types of butterflies have specific host plants.
  • Climate change, forest degradation, habitat loss, unavailability of hosts and nectar plant species are among major reasons for a decline in butterfly population.
  • This leads to loss of plants species that depend on the butterflies for pollination.
  • Backyard gardening and growing host plants in public spaces are important strategies to conserve butterfly species.

(2) Dragonflies

  • They are one of the most widely recognised insects, need clean aquatic systems and are hence a good indicator of the health of local aquatic systems.
  • These, along with damselflies, are well-known biological predators with both larvae and adults acting as natural bio-control agents.
  • They are highly sensitive to changes in their habitats and are declining due to increasing habitat loss, anthropogenic activities, pollutants, climate change and rapid urbanisation.
  • For their conservation, use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has to be prohibited or minimized in agriculture systems.

(3) Grasshoppers

  • They feed on different plants and can cause serious damage to economic crops.
  • However, in a biodiversity-rich region, they are an important component of the food chain, being an important food source for many birds.
  • Grasshoppers and insects such as crickets are often consumed by people as they are rich in protein.

(4) Ants

  • They are in the most abundance. Ants act as scavengers/decomposers by feeding on organic wastes and other dead animals.
  • Ants also aerate the soil.
  • Heavy use of chemicals in agriculture causes harm to ants.

(5) Wild honey bees

  • They play a major role in the pollination of forest species affecting cross-pollination and maintenance of variability within species.
  • Wild honey is also a food source for humans and many wild animals.
  • When forest covers are lost, wild bees tend to migrate to newer areas where they may or may not adapt.
  • With the possibility of commercial apiaries, wild bees need to be left alone and honey tapping from wild hives discouraged.
  • This can help sustain the natural processed of pollination among forest species and maintain diversity in plants conventionally propagated through seeds.

(6) Rainbow leaf beetles

  • They are found in forests, woodlands and mountain grasslands.
  • They mostly depend on leaves and flowers of some specific plant family like Apocynaceae.
  • These are listed as endangered species in International Union for Conservation of Nature from 1994.
  • The species is also known to be poisonous to its predators for they feed on dogbane that contains poisonous cardenolides.

(7) Fireflies

  • They are a good indicator of a healthy environment, especially a good aquatic system. They avoid regions with chemical toxicity.
  • They are good pollinators and natural pest control agents in several ecosystems.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Antarctic Ozone Hole — one of the largest, deepest — closes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ozone Hole

Mains level : Climate change impact

The Antarctic ozone hole — one of the deepest, largest gap in the ozone layer in the last 40 years — has closed, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

Chlorofluorocarbons, known as ozone-depleting substances are used:

  1. In the production of plastic foams
  2. In the production of tubeless tyres
  3. In cleaning certain electronic components
  4. As pressurizing agents in aerosol cans

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 4 only

(c) 1, 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Antarctic Ozone Hole

  • The Antarctic “ozone hole” was discovered by British Antarctic Survey scientists Farman, Gardiner and Shanklin in 1985.
  • It came as a shock to the scientific community because the observed decline in polar ozone was far larger than anyone had anticipated.
  • It was caused by the chemical reactions on polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) in the cold Antarctic stratosphere caused a massive.
  • Though localized and seasonal, an increase in the amount of chlorine present in active, ozone-destroying forms.

Role of PSCs

  • The polar stratospheric clouds in Antarctica are only formed when there are very low temperatures, as low as −80 °C, and early spring conditions.
  • In such conditions, the ice crystals of the cloud provide a suitable surface for the conversion of unreactive chlorine compounds into reactive chlorine compounds, which can deplete ozone easily.

An annual process

  • An ozone hole is the thinning of the ozone layer boosted in size by colder temperatures.
  • The formation of the ozone hole in the Antarctic has been an annual occurrence and has been recorded for the last 40 years.
  • Human-made chemicals migrate into the stratosphere and accumulate inside the polar vortex. It begins to shrink in size as warmer temperatures dominate.
  • As the temperatures high up in the stratosphere start to rise, ozone depletion slows, the polar vortex weakens and breaks down.
  • By the end of December, ozone levels return to normal.

The hole closes after achieving peak

  • The annually occurring ozone hole over the Antarctic had rapidly grown from mid-August and peaked at around 24 million square kilometres — one of the largest so far — in early October 2020.
  • The expansion of the hole was driven by a strong, stable and cold polar vortex and very cold temperatures in the stratosphere.
  • The same meteorological factors also contributed to the record 2020 Arctic ozone hole, which has also closed.

Note: A polar vortex is a wide expanse of swirling cold air, a low-pressure area, in Polar Regions. During winters, the polar vortex at the North Pole expands, sending cold air southward.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Places in news: Sea of Galilee

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sea of Galilee

Mains level : Not Much

The Sea of Galilee, well-known in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic lore, has swelled up due to recent rains, according to reports in the Israeli media.

Do you know?

The Sea of Galilee Lake Tiberias, Kinneret or Kinnereth is a freshwater lake in Israel. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake).

Sea of Galilee

  • The lake lies in northern Israel, between the occupied Golan Heights and the Galilee region. It is fed by underground springs but its major source is the Jordan River.
  • The lake has risen to 209.905 meters below sea level due to heavy rainfall in the surrounding areas.
  • The Jordan flows into the lake and then exits it before ending in the Dead Sea, the saltiest and the lowest point on the planet.
  • Water is not extracted from the Sea of Galilee. But it is considered to be an important barometer of the water situation in Israel.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

A-68s: Largest floating Iceberg

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Icebergs

Mains level : Impact of climate changes on Cryosphere

A research mission is held to find out the impact of a giant floating iceberg A-68s on the wildlife and marine life on a sub-Antarctic island.

Q. How does the cryosphere affect global climate? (CSM 2017)

What are Icebergs?

  • An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open (salt) water.
  • Small bits of disintegrating icebergs are called “growlers” or “bergy bits”.
  • Much of an iceberg is below the surface which led to the expression “tip of the iceberg” to illustrate a small part of a larger unseen issue.
  • Icebergs are considered a serious maritime hazard, especially for shipping industries.

A-68s

  • The iceberg — named A-68s — is travelling at varying speeds depending on local conditions, but at its fastest was travelling about 20 kilometres a day.
  • The huge iceberg — the size of the U.S. state of Delaware — has been floating north since it broke away from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf in 2017.
  • It is now about 75 kilometres from the island of South Georgia, and scientists are concerned over the risks it poses to the wildlife in the area if it grounds near the island.
  • South Georgia is home to colonies of tens of thousands of penguins and 6 million fur seals, which could be threatened by the iceberg during their breeding season.
  • The waters near the island are also one of the world’s largest marine protected areas and house more marine species than the Galapagos.
  • Destruction by the iceberg will release this stored carbon back into the water and, potentially, the atmosphere, which would be a further negative impact.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI)

Mains level : India's committment for climate action

India ranked high along with the European Union and the United Kingdom in the latest edition of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2020 released by non-profit Germanwatch.

It’s a very rare feat that India has performed so better in any climate-related index. We can use this data to highlight India’s dedicated efforts for Paris Agreement.

Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI)

  • The CCPI is an independent monitoring tool for tracking countries’ climate protection performance. It has been published annually since 2005.
  • It evaluates 57 countries and the European Union, which together generate 90%+ of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Using standardised criteria, the CCPI looks at four categories, with 14 indicators: Greenhouse Gas Emissions (40% of the overall score), Renewable Energy (20%), Energy Use (20%), and Climate Policy (20%).
  • The CCPI’s unique climate policy section evaluates countries’ progress in implementing policies working towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

Global scenario

  • No country was doing enough to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to the index.
  • Six G20 countries were ranked among very low performers. The United States, with a rank of 61, was the worst performer.

India’s performance

  • India, for the second time in a row, continued to remain in the top 10. The country scored 63.98 points out of 100.
  • It received high ratings on all CCPI indicators except ‘renewable energy’, where it was categorised as having a ‘medium’ performance.
  • Last year, India had been ranked at the ninth position, with an overall score of 66.02.
  • India needed to focus more on renewable energy, both, as a mitigation strategy and for its post-novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) green recovery, the report said.

Renewable energy

  • No country was rated very high on indicators defining the ‘renewable energy’ category.
  • India has been ranked at 27th out of 57 countries under the category this time. Last year, it was ranked at 26th.
  • India’s performance has been rated as ‘medium’ for its current share of renewable energy. Its performance for the development of renewable energy supply during the last year was rated as ‘high’.

A positive sign for India

  • India’s improved policy framework has been responsible for the country’s good performance in this global index. However, the report underlined the need for long-term planning.
  • Unlike the other two ‘BASIC’ countries of China and South Africa, India is yet to announce its mitigation strategy.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Species in news: Red Sea Turtles

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Red Sea Turtles

Mains level : Impact of climate changes

Turtle populations in the Red Sea could be turning overwhelmingly female because of a rise in sea temperatures caused due to anthropogenic climate change, a new study has showed.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following fauna of India:

  1. Gharial
  2. Leatherback turtle
  3. Swamp deer

Which of the above is/are endangered?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) None

Red Sea Turtles

  • There are seven extant species worldwide, five of which can be found in the Red Sea: the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the loggerhead turtle, the olive ridley turtle and the leatherback turtle.
  • In order to maintain a 50:50 ratio of male and female in the population, a temperature of 29.2 degrees Celsius is pivotal.
  • Above this, hatchlings would be predominantly female.
  • The sand temperatures at four of the sites exceeded 29.2 degrees; leading the team to the conclusion that ‘feminization’ of the population could be already happening.

Their significance

  • Marine turtles—as all top predators—have a prominent role in maintaining balanced and healthy ecosystems, in particular seagrass beds and coral reefs.
  • They also help in transporting nutrients towards naturally nutrient-poor ecosystems (the nesting beaches), and providing food and transportation for other marine species (e.g., barnacles and commensal crabs).
  • Marine turtles also play an important role in the economy of the tourism industry.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Chinese dam projects on Brahmaputra and impact on downstream countries

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Construction of dams Brahmaputra river by China

Scarcity of water in India and China

  • As India and China continue to grow demographically as well as economically amid increased consumption among its citizenry, both nations face water constraints.
  • China, which is home to close to 20 per cent of the world’s population, has only 7 per cent of its water resources.
  • Severe pollution of its surface and groundwater caused by rapid industrialisation is a source of concern for Chinese planners.
  • China’s southern regions are water-rich in comparison to the water-stressed northern part.
  • The southern region is a major food producer and has significant industrial capacity as a consequence of more people living there.
  • India is severely water-stressed as well.
  • Similar to China, India has 17 per cent of the world’s population and 4 per cent of water.
  • As in China, an equally ambitious north-south river-linking project has been proposed in India.

Impact on downstream states

  • The construction of several dams along the Yarlung (Brahmaputra) river on the Chinese side has been a repeated cause for concern for Indian officials and the local people.
  • China has an ambitious plan to link its south and north through canals, aqueducts and linking of major rivers to ensure water security.
  • In pursuit of these goals, China, being an upper riparian state in Asia, has been blocking rivers like the Mekong and its tributaries, affecting Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
  • It has caused immense damage to the environment and altered river flows in the region.
  • China sees these projects as a continuation of their historic tributary system as the smaller states have no means of effectively resisting or even significant leverage in negotiations.

Challenges for India

  • There are now multiple operational dams in the Yarlung Tsangpo basin with more dams commissioned and under construction. These constructions present a unique challenge for Indian planners.
  • 1) Dams will eventually lead to degradation of the entire basin:
  • Silt carried by the river would get blocked by dams leading to a fall in the quality of soil and eventual reduction in agricultural productivity.
  • 2) The Brahmaputra basin is one of the world’s most ecologically sensitive zones.
  • It is identified as one of the world’s 34 biological hotspots.
  • This region sees several species of flora and fauna that are endemic to only this part of the world.
  • The river itself is home to the Gangetic river dolphin, which is listed as critically endangered.
  • 3) The location of the dams in the Himalayas pose a risk.
  • Seismologists consider the Himalayas as most vulnerable to earthquakes and seismic activity.
  • The sheer size of the infrastructure projects undertaken by China, and increasingly by India, poses a significant threat to the populations living downstream.
  • Close to a million people live in the Brahmaputra basin in India and tens of millions further downstream in Bangladesh.
  • 4) Damming Brahmaputra would result in water security in an era of unprecedented shifting climate patterns.
  • This security extends beyond water, as there is the potential to significantly change the flow rate during times of standoffs and high tensions.

Way forward

  • Both sides must cease new constructions on the river and commit to potentially less destructive solutions.
  • Building a decentralised network of check dams, rain-capturing lakes and using traditional means of water capture have shown effective results in restoring the ecological balance while supporting the populations of the regions in a sustainable manner.

Conclusion

There are alternate solutions to solving the water crisis.  It is in the interest of all stakeholders to neutralise this ticking water bomb.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

India’s challenge in balancing the emissions and economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Paris Agreement

Mains level : Paper 3- Balancing development with climate action

India faces an uphill task of balancing its climate action with the economic growth. Bridging the energy deficit through renewable energy in cost-effective and increasing urban forestry could help in balancing the both.

Comparing India’s commitment

  • China’s announcement recently to achieve carbon neutrality, that is, effectively generating net-zero emissions, before 2060 has now shifted focus on India’s commitments.
  • In this context,  let us compare India’s commitments with other countries, based on an independent scientific analysis carried out by the Climate Action Tracker. Major findings of it are:-
  • 1) India is one of the only six countries (amongst the 33 that were assessed), and the only G-20 country, whose climate commitments at Paris are on a path compatible to limit warming well below 2°C.
  • 2) It seems that India is well on its way to achieving its carbon intensity reduction and non-fossil-fuel electricity growth capacity commitments well before the 2030 target year.
  • Even though China’s commitment is likely to lower warming projections by around 0.2 to 0.3 degrees C by 2100, China continues to remain in the “highly insufficient” category.
  • India, despite being the fourth-largest emitter, has consistently kept its commitments in sync with its fair share and will achieve, if not over-achieve, these targets.

Difference in development and growth levels

  • Development and growth in India are still at an early stage, and our first goal remains increasing the availability of adequate infrastructure for all Indians.
  • A measure of this deficit is that we use only about 0.6 tonnes of oil-equivalent worth of energy per person per year while in China it is 2.36 tonnes per person per year, and is at least 4 tonnes per person per year in the OECD countries.
  • It is, therefore, essential that we rapidly bridge the energy deficit.

Bridging the energy deficit through renewable and cost-effective manner

  • Cost-effectiveness in renewable electricity has occurred rather rapidly, largely as a result of the global reduction in solar PV and battery prices.
  • Solar electricity is already the cheapest electricity available in India when the sun is shining.
  • It now seems that round-the-clock renewable electricity may be cost-competitive with coal electricity in the near future.
  • This cost-effectiveness of zero-carbon options will emerge in other applications as well.
  • It will involve dedicated action in some of the vital sectors which can generate and sustain employment while adding to the country’s economic growth.
  • It will enable a shift away from emissions-intensive fossil fuels, reducing our dependence on fuel imports.

Urban forestry to compensate for environmental degradation

  • Increasing urban forestry could help compensate for environmental degradation as a result of rapid urbanisation in several Indian cities.
  • This is vital to restore the flow of crucial ecosystem services, including air quality, and increase the resilience of cities to extreme climatic events.
  • As a result, enhancing biodiversity, minimising human-wildlife conflict and restoring India’s pristine forests by developing dedicated wildlife/biodiversity corridors is an essential next step.

Way ahead

  • At the developmental crossroads that India stands, the next decade is vital for its own economic growth, its climate action, and its social and ecological well-being.
  • With this in mind, India must focus on its domestic developmental prerogative and disengage them from the pressures that come along with international negotiations, focussing on actions that reduce the development deficits, which also provide strong climate benefits.
  • India must initiate a narrative, discussion and dialogue which focuses on each country taking on commitments that move their carbon trajectory towards the Paris agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

Consider the question “Development and growth in India still at an early stage which makes the challenge of balancing the commitment to climate action with economic developement more difficult. In light of this, suggest the strategy that India should follow.”

Conclusion

India, being at the crossroads of development needs to balance the development goals with its commitment towards climate action.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Places in news: Tristan da Cunha

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Map reading: Tristan Da Cunha

Mains level : Not Much

The isolated UK Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha, the world’s most remote human settlement, has been declared the largest fully protected marine reserves in the Atlantic Ocean at 687,000 square kilometres.

Note the location of Tristan da Cunha Islands in the Atlantic.

Tristan da Cunha

  • Tristan da Cunha, which is inhabited by less than 300 humans is a small chain of islands over 6,000 miles from London in the South Atlantic and the water around the islands are considered to be the richest in the world.
  • The mountainous archipelago is home to tens of millions of seabirds and several unique land birds that are comparable to the Galapagos island finches.
  • The island group is also home to the World Heritage Site of Gough and Inaccessible Islands, which is one of the most important seabird islands in the world.

Significance of protection

  • After joining the UK’s Blue Belt Programme, it will become the largest no-take zone in the Atlantic and the fourth largest on the planet.
  • This will close over 90 per cent of their waters to harmful activities such as bottom-trawling fishing, sand extraction and deep-sea mining.
  • The almost 700,000 square kilometres of the Marine Protection Zone (MPZ) is almost three times the size of the UK and will safeguard the future of sevengill sharks, Yellow-nosed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins.
  • MPZs involve the management of certain natural areas for biodiversity conservation or species protection and are created by delineating zones with permitted and non-permitted areas within that zone.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Glacial Lake Outburst in Ladakh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Glacial landforms

Mains level : Impact of climate changes on Cryosphere

In August 2014, a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) hit the village of Gya in Ladakh, destroying houses, fields and bridges. Researchers now have mapped the evolution of Gya glacial lake and note the cause of the flood.

What is glacial lake outburst flood?

  • A GLOF is a type of outburst flood that occurs when the dam containing a glacial lake fails.
  • An event similar to a GLOF, where a body of water contained by a glacier melts or overflows the glacier, is called a Jökulhlaup.
  • The dam can consist of glacier ice or a terminal moraine.
  • Failure can happen due to erosion, a buildup of water pressure, an avalanche of rock or heavy snow, an earthquake, volcanic eruptions under the ice, or glacier collapses into it.

 How did it happen in Ladakh?

  • It was not a spillover but rather a tunnelling of drainage process that caused GLOF in Gya lake.
  • Imagine a bucket full of water. It can overflow when you drop a stone, or the water can drain if there is a hole under the bucket.
  • Similarly, here the flooding did not happen due to the spillovers due to an avalanche or landslide, rather there was a thawing of the ice cores in the moraine.

Back2Basics: Glacial Landforms

Glacial landforms are landforms created by the action of glacier movements.

As the glaciers expand, due to their accumulating weight of snow and ice they crush and abrade and scour surfaces such as rocks and bedrock.  The resulting erosional landforms include striations, cirques, glacial horns, arêtes, trim lines, U-shaped valleys, over-deepening and hanging valleys.

  • Cirque: Starting location for mountain glaciers
  • Cirque stairway: a sequence of cirques
  • U-shaped, or trough, valley: U-shaped valleys are created by mountain glaciers. When filled with ocean water so as to create anthe glacial action erodes through, a spillway (or col) forms
  • Valley step: an abrupt change in the longitudinal slope of a glacial valley

When the glaciers retreated leaving behind their freight of crushed rock and sand (glacial drift), they created characteristic depositional landforms.  Examples include glacial moraines, eskers, and kames. Drumlins and ribbed moraines are also landforms left behind by retreating glaciers.

  • Esker: Built-up bed of a subglacial stream
  • Kame: Irregularly shaped mound
  • Moraine: Feature can be terminal (at the end of a glacier), lateral (along the sides of a glacier), or medial (formed by the merger of lateral moraines from contributary glaciers)
  • Outwash fan: Braided stream flowing from the front end of a glacier

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

In news: Great Barrier Reef

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Great Barrier Reef

Mains level : Impact of climate changes on coral reefs

Australian scientists have found a detached coral reef on the Great Barrier Reef that exceeds the height of the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. Most of the world’s coral reefs are in tropical waters.
  2. More than one-third of the world’s coral reefs are located in the territories of Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  3. Coral reefs host far more number of animal phyla than those hosted by tropical rainforests.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1 and 3 only

About Great Barrier Reef

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
  • It is stretched for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
  • It was world heritage listed in 1981 by UNESCO as the most extensive and spectacular coral reef ecosystem on the planet.

Why it is significant?

  • This is first such discovery in over 100 years.
  • The “blade-like” reef is nearly 500 metres tall and 1.5 kilometres wide.
  • It lies 40 metres below the ocean surface and about six kilometres from the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

Tap to read more about:

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

What is Atlantification?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Atlantification

Mains level : Impact of climate changes

Scientists have uncovered “hotspots” where some parts of the Barents Sea are starting to more closely resemble the Atlantic. They call this phenomenon “Atlantification”.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Atlantification phenomenon sometimes seen in news is most closely related to which of the following seas/water bodies?

a) Norwegian Sea

b) Kara Sea

c) Barents Sea

d) Baffin Bay

What is Atlantification?

  • Streams of warmer water from the Atlantic Ocean flow into the Arctic at the Barents Sea.
  • This warmer, saltier Atlantic water is usually fairly deep under the more buoyant Arctic water at the surface.
  • Lately, however, the Atlantic water has been creeping up. That heat in the Atlantic water is helping to keep ice from forming and melting existing sea ice from below.
  • This process is called “Atlantification”.
  • The ice is now getting hit both from the top by a warming atmosphere and at the bottom by a warming ocean.

Reasons for it

  • In the background of all of this is global climate change.
  • The Arctic sea ice extent and thickness have been dropping for decades as global temperatures rise.
  • As the Arctic loses ice and the ocean absorbs more solar radiation, global warming is amplified.
  • That affects ocean circulation, weather patterns and Arctic ecosystems spanning the food chain, from phytoplankton all the way to top predators.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

China’S Climate Commitment

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Net Zero

Mains level : Climate change commitments

Context- Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping made two promises that came as a welcome surprise to climate change watchers.

What has China announced ?

  • First, Xi said, China would become carbon net-zero by the year 2060.
    • Net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorptions and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
    • Absorption can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal involves application of technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
  • Second, the Chinese President announced a small but important change in China’s already committed target for letting its emissions “peak”, from “by 2030” to “before 2030”.
    • That means China would not allow its greenhouse gas emissions to grow beyond that point.
    • Xi did not specify how soon “before 2030” means, but even this much is being seen as a very positive move from the world’s largest emitter.

How significant is China’s commitment?

  • China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It accounts for almost 30% of global emissions, more than the combined emissions in the United States, the European Union and India, the three next biggest emitters.
  • Getting China to commit itself to a net-zero target is a big breakthrough, especially since countries have been reluctant to pledge themselves to such long term commitments.
  • So far, the European Union was the only big emitter to have committed itself to a net-zero emission status by 2050.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Environmentalism at the core

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sustainable Development

Mains level : Paper 3- Sustainable development

The article explains the importance of focusing on the green supply chain for ensuring sustainability along with the progress of the organisations.

Sustainability as an essential issue

  • The U.N’s. Millennium Development Goals and the World Bank Group’s global practices have recognised sustainability as an essential issue of global importance.
  • Economic, social and other forms of sustainability have evolved over the years, but it is environmental sustainability that has gained significant popularity.

Economy and sustainability

  • Some firms have positioned environmental practices at the forefront due to legislation, and industry and government commitments.
  • Several firms have prioritised environmental practices due to compelling regulatory norms, and a potential to manage costs, risks and optimise eco-friendly practices.
  • However, organisations in the manufacturing sector focus on waste reduction and energy efficiency improvements excessively and fail to see the big picture of environmentalism.

Adopting green supply chains for long-lasting benefits

  • Only through organisational learning can people be urged to work towards long-lasting benefits.
  • In this context, green supply chain practices are useful.
  • These include green procurement, green manufacturing, green distribution, and reverse logistics.
  • With practices starting from acquisition of eco-friendly raw material to disposal/ reuse/ recycle of used products, employees, suppliers, distributors, retailers and customers will be able to integrate environmental concerns in the daily operations of a firm.
  • Thus, green supply chain practices enable organisational learning in environmental sustainability.
  •  Research shows that the positive impacts of environmentalism can only be felt in the long term when they get embedded into organisational learning systems through green supply chain practices.
  • The resultant learning system smoothens the knowledge flow in the organisation.

Focusing on linkages

  • Linkages between green supply chain practices, corporate environmental performance, corporate economic performance is necessary for an organisation’s progress and environmental protection.
  • When the different players of a manufacturing supply chain realise the inherent benefits associated with organisational learning dimensions, their drive towards environmentalism increases.

Conclusion

Policymakers should support this thinking by not merely imposing environmental practices as regulatory norms but by emphasising on the creation of green supply chain-based learning systems in manufacturing.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

India must reject the inequitable climate proposal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Paris Agreement

Mains level : Paper 3- Paris Agreement and India's progress on climate action

The article takes stock of India’s climate action and the issue of phasing out the use of coal.

Context

  • The UN Secretary-General called on India to give up coal immediately and reduce emissions by 45% by 2030.

State of India’s climate action

  • India’s renewable energy programme is ambitious and its energy efficiency programme is delivering, especially in the domestic consumption sector.
  • India is one of the few countries with at least 2° Celsius warming compliant climate action.
  • India is also among one of smaller list of countries on track to fulfilling their Paris Agreement commitments.
  • India’s annual emissions, at 0.5 tonnes per capita, are well below the global average of 1.3 tonnes.
  • In terms of cumulative emissions, India’s contribution by 2017 was only 4% for a population of 1.3 billion.

How West is performing?

  • While talking about their phasing out of coal, the global North has obscured the reality of its continued dependence on oil and natural gas, both equally fossil fuels, with no timeline for their phaseout.
  • While it is amply clear that their commitments into the future set the world on a path for almost 3°C warming, they have diverted attention by fuzzy talk of “carbon neutrality” by 2050.
  • Environmentalists in developed countries, unable to summon up the domestic political support have turned to pressure the developing countries.
  • All of these are accompanied by increasing appeals to multilateral or First World financial and development institutions to force this agenda on to developing countries.

Implications of ending coal investment for India

  •  Currently, roughly 2 GW of coal-based generation is being decommissioned per year.
  •  But meeting the 2030 electricity consumption target of 1,580 to 1,660 units per person per year, will require anywhere between 650 GW to 750 GW of renewable energy.
  • Unlike the developed nations, India cannot substitute coal substantially by oil and gas and despite some wind potential, a huge part of this growth needs to come from solar.
  • However, renewables at best can meet residential consumption and some part of the demand from the service sector.
  • Currently, manufacturing growth powered by fossil fuel-based energy is itself a necessity.

Conclusion

India must unanimously reject the UN Secretary General’s call and reiterate its long-standing commitment to an equitable response to the challenge of global warming.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF 2.0)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CSCAF 2.0

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) 2.0.

About CSCAF 2.0

  • A framework is a climate-sensitive approach to urban planning and development in India.
  • ​It was developed after a review of existing frameworks and assessment approaches adopted throughout the world.
  • It followed a series of an extensive consultative process with more than 26 organizations and 60 experts from different thematic areas.
  • The Climate Centre for Cities under National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) is supporting MoHUA in implementation of CSCAF.

Various indicators of the framework

The framework has 28 indicators across five categories namely:

  1. Energy and Green Buildings
  2. Urban Planning, Green Cover & Biodiversity
  3. Mobility and Air Quality
  4. Water Management
  5. Waste Management

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Thinking of new recovery path

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Extended producer responsibility

Mains level : Paper 3- Coupling growth and environmental protection

Growth and environmental protection are not the polar opposites of each other. The article analyses the issue of balancing the two and using pandemic as an opportunity to evolve novel recovery path.

Pandemic: opportunity to new recovery path

  • The pandemic presents an opportunity for us to think of a new recovery path, one that can decouple economic growth and environmental degradation.
  • It becomes more important as India sees opportunities on the global call to diversify the supply chain and its internal call for Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • For that, we need to strengthen our production and manufacturing capabilities.

Issue of regulatory infrastructure

  • Monitoring and implementing environmental regulations is the biggest challenge we face.
  • Take the municipal solid waste rules.
  • Two decades after the regulations came into effect, their status not in good shape.
  • A comparatively recent regulation, centred around Extended Producer Responsibility, has also posed challenges in monitoring and implementation.
  • In a recent ruling, the judiciary not only ruled against the industry but also blamed officials responsible for implementing the regulations.

Focus on implementation and monitoring

  •  In the long run, diluting regulatory norms will create more adverse impacts resulting in greater community upsurge.
  • The focus has to be to improve the system’s capabilities to monitor and implement regulatory requirements.
  • There needs to be greater transparency and accountability; there is no dearth of technology to facilitate this.
  • The intention and capacity to take action, rectify and diffuse is critical.
  • The right ecosystem between the industry, community and regulator is crucial.
  • If the three stakeholders remain isolated and get activated only in a crisis, we will not make any progress towards solving the issue.

Way forward

  • We need to couple growth and environmental protection.
  • Environmental health will be the key enabler of socio-economic growth in the future.
  • Industry needs to realise that it is a part of an ecosystem and not at the centre of it.
  • Communities get impacted, either positively or negatively,  they need to empower themselves through education, so that they are not driven by the agenda of individuals with vested interests.
  • We have a challenge in implementing environmental regulations.
  • The community does not trust that the industry is meeting its compliance requirements, so, the regulatory system’s role is to improve this trust quotient.

Conclusion

As we plan our recovery past the pandemic, we have a good chance to create a new normal. We need to align towards a common cause and goals. We should not miss this chance.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

In news: Galapagos Islands

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Galapagos Islands

Mains level : Not Much

Chinese ships are frequently entering Ecuador’s waters for commercial fishing near the Galapagos Islands.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.Which one of the following can one comes across if one travels through the Strait of Malacca?

(a) Bali

(b) Brunei

(c) Java

(d) Singapore

The Galapagos Islands

  • Renowned worldwide for its unique species, the islands host a wide array of aquatic wildlife, including marine iguanas, fur seals, and waved albatrosses.
  • The giant tortoises found here – ‘Galápagos’ in old Spanish– give the islands its name.
  • Ecuador made a part of the Galapagos a wildlife sanctuary in 1935, and the sanctuary became the Galapagos National Park in 1959.
  • In 1978, the islands became UNESCO’s first World Heritage Site.
  • It was here that the British naturalist Charles Darwin made key observations in 1835 that shaped his theory of evolution. Darwin described the islands as a “world in itself”.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Mapping: Mont Blanc

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mont Blanc

Mains level : Alps and its orogeny

The melting Mont Blanc glacier in the French Alps yielded a clutch of newspapers with banner headlines from when Indira Gandhi became India’s first and so far only woman Prime Minister in 1966.

Try this MCQ

Q.The Mont Blanc in the Alps can be located near the conflux of which of the following two countries?

a)France and Spain

b)France and Italy

c)Spain and Italy

d)Greece and Slovenia

Mont Blanc

  • Mont Blanc is the second-highest mountain in Europe after Mount Elbrus. It is the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe.
  • It rises 4,808 m above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence.
  • The mountain stands in a range called the Graian Alps, between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Savoie and Haute-Savoie, France.
  • It is the tallest peak in the Alps and the highest summit in Western Europe, hence its epithet the “Roof of Europe”.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

What is the Arctic Heatwave warming up Siberia?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Permafrost, Arctic Heatwave

Mains level : Impact of climate changes

The Arctic Circle has recorded temperatures reaching over 38 degrees Celsius in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk, likely an all-time high. The temperatures seem to have been 18 degree Celsius higher than normal in June a/c to the BBC.

Try this question from CS Mains 2017:

Q.How does the Cryosphere affect global climate?

What is happening in the Arctic?

  • Since the past month, the most above-average temperatures were recorded in Siberia, where they were about 10 degrees Celsius above normal.
  • Siberia has been recording higher-than-average surface air temperatures since January.

Are Arctic heatwaves common?

  • This is not the first time that rising temperatures in the Arctic have created alarm.
  • The rising temperatures are attributed to large-scale wind patterns that blasted the Arctic with heat, the absence of sea ice, and human-induced climate change, among other reasons.
  • There has been an increase of heatwave occurrences over the terrestrial Arctic. These frequent occurrences have already started to threaten local vegetation, ecology, human health and economy.

A cause of worry for all

  • Warming in the Arctic is leading to the thawing of once permanently frozen permafrost below ground.
  • This is alarming scientists because as permafrost thaws, carbon dioxide and methane previously locked up below ground is released.
  • These greenhouse gases can cause further warming, and further thawing of the permafrost, in a vicious cycle known as positive feedback.
  • The higher temperatures also cause land ice in the Arctic to melt at a faster rate, leading to greater run-off into the ocean where it contributes to sea-level rise.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Revealing the secrets Arctic holds

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Icesat 2, Cryosat 2

Mains level : Paper 1- Arctic ice and how it influence climate change

This article is about Polarstern, is an icebreaker, which traversed the Arctic Ocean to study the aspects related to ice there. Here, we will look at some of these aspects. These aspects are-monitoring of the ice, difficulty in measuring the thickness, rate of melting of ice and relations with cloud formation.

Arctic: A recorder and driver of climate change

How is it a recorder of climate change?

  • It is a recorder because of two co-related factors, these are-
  • 1) The visible difference between ice and water.
  • 2) The obvious relationship between global temperatures and the amount of ice around.
  • Two factors together shows in an easily graspable way how things are changing.
  • The extent of the Arctic sea ice in summer has declined by 30% in the past 30 years, and that loss is accelerating (see chart).

How is it a driver of climate change?

  • The Arctic is also a driver of climate change, because the whiteness of ice means it reflects sunlight back into space, thus cooling Earth.
  • Whereas the darkness of open water means it absorbs that light.
  • The less of the reflection of sunlight and the more absorption of light will result in a faster rise in global temperatures.

Monitoring the Arctic’s ice

  • At the moment this is monitored mainly by satellite.
  • Measuring the extent of the Arctic’s ice from space is easy.
  • Measuring its thickness is trickier.
  • From orbit, this is done by a mixture of radar and laser beam.
  • Icesat 2, an American craft, provides laser-altimeter data that record the height above sea level of the top of the snow that overlies the ice.
  •  Cryosat 2, a European one, uses radar to penetrate the snow and measure the height of the top of the ice itself.
  • The thickness of the ice in a particular place can then be calculated by applying Archimedes’ principle of floating bodies to the mixture of ice and snow, and subtracting the thickness of the snow.
  • But there is a view that the data collected by these two satellites may be inaccurate, leading to an overestimation of the ice’s thickness.

Let’s understand why the data about thickness could be inaccurate

  • When all is working perfectly, the return signal for Cryosat 2 comes exactly from the boundary between the ice and any overlying snow.
  • But, that this is not always what happens.
  • Variables such as layering within the snow, along with its temperature and salinity, might affect the returning radar signal by changing the snow’s structure and density.
  • This could cause the signal to be reflected from inside the snow layer, rather than from the boundary where it meets the ice.
  • If that were happening, it would create the illusion that the ice beneath the snow is thicker than is actually the case.

How topography of Arctic ice matters

  • Though sea ice is solid, it is not rigid.
  • It forms but a thin skin on the ocean—varying in depth from around 30cm in summer to a couple of metres in winter—so is readily moved by wind and current.
  • As the ice moves it stretches and cracks in some places.
  • Large cracks formed in this way are called leads, because they are wide enough to “lead” a ship.
  • In other places, by contrast, movement makes the ice thicker.
  • As individual panes of ice butt up against each other, they create ridges that can be metres high.
  •  But even from the ship’s deck one can watch leads opening and ridges forming around the vessel.
  • Observations suggest that winter the ice has been particularly mobile—and has thus become particularly rough, with a surprising number of ridges.

So, how these ridges affect the rate at which ice melts?

  • These ridges may affect the rate at which the ice melts—but to complicate matters, this could happen in two opposing ways.
  • Ridges make ice thicker, and thicker ice melts more slowly.
  • On the other hand, a ridge projects down into the sea as well as up into the air (Archimedes, again), so it may stir up water from below the surface.
  • Deep water is warmer than the surface layer, so this stirring would serve to increase melt rates.
  • Moreover, to add to the confusion, ridges are prone to having pieces of ice fall off them into the sea, to form small blocks known as brash.
  • This brash, having more surface area per unit volume than unbroken ice, melts faster.

How cloud formation is affected by cracks in Arctic ice

  • On most parts of Earth clouds form as droplets of water condense around “seeds” of dust or organic molecules.
  • In the Arctic, there is little dust.
  • Biological activity, too, is in short supply compared with elsewhere—and is, moreover, conducted mainly below the barrier of the sea ice.
  • It might, therefore, be expected that there would be few seeds present for clouds to form around.
  • And yet, clouds are present.
  • Cloud seeds there tended to be compounds containing sulphur, nitrogen, chlorine, bromine or iodine.
  • Presence of these molecules suggests their link with cracks in the ice sheets.
  • This means that more cracks in the ice sheet could lead to more clouds in the Arctic.
  • What overall effect that might have on the climate is unclear.
  • Summer clouds would reflect sunlight back into space, cooling the planet.
  • Those formed in winter, when the sun is below the horizon, would serve as insulation, warming it.
  •  Two opposite outcomes are possible—or perhaps the net effect will be that they cancel each other out.

Conclusion

Properly disentangling the interactions between Arctic ice, atmosphere and ocean life will require data collected across a full year—for the contrast between winter and summer at the poles is greater than anywhere else on the planet.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

“Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region” Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Representative Concentration Pathway

Mains level : Climate change assessment for India

The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has released the “Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region” Report.

This newscard discusses a very important concept: the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP). Note its definition.  It can be directly asked as a statement based on prelims MCQ.

Highlights of the report

  • Average surface air temperatures over India could rise by up to 4.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century as compared to the period between 1976 and 2005, according to the MoES report.
  • The rise in temperatures will be even more pronounced in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region where the average could reach 5.2°C.
  • The region is already highly vulnerable to climate-related variability in temperatures, rainfall and snowfall.
  • By 2100, the frequency of warm days and warm nights might also increase by 55 per cent and 70 per cent respectively, as compared to the period 1976-2005 under the RCP 8.5 scenario.
  • The incidences of heat waves over the country could also increase by three to four times. Their duration of occurrence might also increase which was already witnessed by the country in 2019.

A 100-year record

  • Between 1900 and 2018, the average temperatures of India rose by 0.7°C.
  • This rise in temperatures has been largely attributed to global warming due to GHG emissions and land use and land cover changes.
  • But it has also been slightly reduced by the rising aerosol emissions in the atmosphere that have an overall cooling characteristic.
  • The report predicts that monsoon rainfall could change by an average of 14 per cent by 2100 that could go as high as 22.5 per cent.
  • The report does not mention if this change will be an increase or a decrease but still represents variability.
  • It further says that the overall rainfall during the monsoon season has decreased by six per cent between 1950 and 2015.

Data on dry spells

  • The assessment also says that in the past few decades, there has been an increased frequency of dry spells during the monsoon season that has increased by 27 per cent between 1981-2011, as compared to 1951-1980.
  • The intensity of wet spells has also increased over the country, with central India receiving 75 per cent more extreme rainfall events between 1950 and 2015. This means that it either rains too little or too much.
  • One of the primary examples of this was the monsoon seasons of 2018 and 2019 where dry spells were broken by extremely heavy rainfall spells, creating a flood and drought cycle in many regions in India.

What is Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP)?

  • A Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) is a greenhouse gas concentration (not emissions) trajectory adopted by the IPCC.
  • It is defined as a radiative force in watt per square metre due to the rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere.
  • Four pathways were used for climate modelling and research for the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in 2014.
  • The pathways describe different climate futures, all of which are considered possible depending on the volume of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted in the years to come.
  • The RCPs – originally RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP6, and RCP8.5 – are labelled after a possible range of radiative forcing values in the year 2100 (2.6, 4.5, 6, and 8.5 W/m2, respectively).
  • Since AR5 the original pathways are being considered together with Shared Socioeconomic Pathways: as are new RCPs such as RCP1.9, RCP3.4 and RCP7.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

When did CO2 become our planet’s arch enemy?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CO2 assessment

Mains level : Not Much

Carbon dioxide was always essential for our planet. This newscard discusses when did it become too much.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q. In the context of mitigating the impending global warming due to anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, which of the following can be the potential sites for carbon sequestration?

  1. Abandoned and uneconomic coal seams
  2. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs
  3. Subterranean deep saline formations

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

GHGs in atmosphere

  • The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of different gases. The temperature of the atmosphere depends on a balance between the incoming energy from the sun and the energy that bounces back into space.
  • Greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide play an important role in the atmosphere.
  • They absorb some of the sun’s heat and release it back in all directions, including back to the atmosphere.
  • Through this process, CO2 and other GHGs keep the atmosphere warmer than it would be without them.
  • However, fossil fuel-run industries and other human activities add GHGs to the atmosphere. This, in turn, increases atmospheric temperature, causing global warming.

Assessing the carbon level

  • In 1958, American scientist Charles David Keeling calculated the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.
  • When he started his measurements in 1958, the CO2 levels were around 315 parts per million (PPM).
  • When he died in 2005, the project was taken over by his son Ralph Keeling. By 2014, CO2 levels had increased to about 400 PPM.
  • With his systematic study of atmospheric CO2, Keeling became the first person to alert the world about the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Reasons for rising CO2 levels

  • Scientists first argued that the increasing release of methane and CO2 was due to agriculture and livestock.
  • But, with the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the use of fossil fuels and CO2 levels rose simultaneously.
  • Nations that underwent the Industrial Revolution used huge amounts of fossil fuels and became centres of high CO2 emissions, while nations with an agrarian economy emitted less GHGs.
  • Over the years, as CO2 levels increased, it sparked off debates and arguments between the GHG-emitting rich industrial nations and the victims of global warming — the poorer nations.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Crisis of today should not blind us to the crisis of tomorrow

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cyclone Nisarga and Amphan

Mains level : Paper 1- Climate change

Covid-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the governments across the world. And the destruction caused by it would impact not only our present but the future as well. So, what this means to our climate future? First and foremost, it will leave the governments with less fund to invest for the greener outcomes. What would be the other impacts? And how can we avoid turning blind eye to the crises waiting for us in the near future? Read the article to know…

Cyclones amid pandemic-what do it signal?

  • The very language used to describe the effects of climate change is now being deployed, correctly, to shape our understanding of a covid-ravaged near future: poverty, the failure of markets, uncertainty, and an overwhelmed government.
  • In less than a month, we have been given a glimpse of how the climate crisis can yank at the seams of a state already undone.
  • We saw Cyclone Amphan transform from a tropical storm to one of the largest cyclones South Asia has ever seen in a matter of hours, aided by warmer than usual waters in the Bay of Bengal.
  • We also saw Cyclone Nisarga barrel down on Maharashtra, the second pre-monsoon cyclone to hit the west coast in 127 years.
  • Governments would have been hard-pressed to deal with such extremes even in the best of times.

So, how COVID-19 would impact response to climate change?

  •  There are two strands of opinion.
  • The optimistic one sees this as a moment to remake our states and societies in a measured response.
  • This includes directing economic packages to areas that increase our resilience to natural disasters and technologies that reduce our emissions.
  • This could be an opportunity to reinforce sustainable behaviour — fewer morning commutes and less air travel, for example.
  • The other strand is more dire, arguing that this will amount to a lost decade or two as our attention is focused on keeping the teetering ship of economy afloat.
  • In this reading, present concerns will trump preparations for an uncertain future.
  • Between these two strands there is consensus that we are at a critical juncture.
  • What we do now will determine the flow of events decades into the future.

What our climate future holds?

We will have to face the following 3 problems in the future owing to the Covid-19 pandemic today.

1. Scarcity of funds

  • It has been two months since India’s lockdown, and we know enough to have a rational conversation about our climate future.
  • Perhaps the most important news relates to public and private debt.
  • The government has raised its borrowing limit, states will need to borrow more to tide over shortfalls and the private sector has seen returns from investments dry out.
  • All three are already heavily indebted, meaning the cost of capital for future borrowing will only grow.
  • That leaves limited fiscal room to finance the building blocks of resilience: everything from grain to health, employment schemes, irrigation, efficient water systems and river management infrastructure.
  • It could mean that efforts to reduce our energy emissions are left without patient pools of long-term capital.

2. Underdeveloped knowledge infrastructure

  • The knowledge infrastructure needed to react to climate change might be left similarly underdeveloped.
  • Climate change distinguishes itself from other policy fields in the wide range of analytical tasks it demands, from predicting weather trends to understanding how specific seed varieties react to droughts.
  • Thinking about climate change requires a lot of people exploring varied questions simultaneously.
  • That involves funding an ecosystem of thinkers from diverse disciplines.
  • Only the state can provide for multi-year studies, institutional support and the like.
  • These are inherently long-term investments and only really start paying off over decades.
  • It means that hamstrung investment in coming years will leave a knowledge vacuum in the future.

3. Impact on the psychology of the government

  • The Indian government, reacting to a million crises erupting across the economy, will be hard-pressed to plan for a hazy but sinister future.
  • Promises of a greener, less turbulent future will falter against the turbulence of today.
  • This instinct will be shared by governments across the world.
  • This might well numb the effects of the global climate negotiation architecture.

Way forward

  • Crafting a response that carefully balances present and future will take a great deal of collective effort.
  • Foremost, it will require policy ideas that deliberately marry employment and industrial priorities with green outcomes.
  • Ideas such as pushing to manufacture solar equipment or electric vehicles in India should, at some point, coalesce into something that looks like a climate plan for the country.
  • This task will fall to universities, NGOs, think tanks and individuals working together in disciplined debate.

Consider the question “Do you agree with the view that the corona crisis would adversely impact our efforts towards mitigating the impact of climate change? Giver reasons in support of your argument.”

Conclusion

We should be careful not to drag ourselves through one crisis only to emerge into another longer, less predictable, and unstoppable one. So, balancing the present problems and their solutions with an eye on a certain and stable future is the need of the hour.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Will leaders act on the climate crisis as they did Covid-19?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon Dioxide concentration in atmosphere

Mains level : Paper 3- Climate change

In the context of climate change, the rising concentration of carbon dioxide and rising global temperature are inextricably linked with each other. This article elaborates on two interlinked and rising curves-CO2 and temperature. The article is concluded on the positive note that leaders would act on climate change with same urgency as Covid.

The upward journey of two curves

  • Two interrelated curves began their upward trend two centuries ago with the advent of the industrial age.
  • The first curve was the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide or, more generally, all greenhouse gases, GHGs.
  • And the second was the average global temperature curve.

CO2 concentration at 407 ppm: But did we get here?

  • Actually, the CO2 curve began its upward march about 18,000 years ago when it was a little under 200 parts per million (ppm).
  • And earth was much colder back then.
  • By the time it reached 270 ppm about 11,500 years ago, the warmer conditions accompanying this curve made it possible for the emergence of agriculture.
  • Over the past million years, CO2 levels never exceeded 280-300 ppm.
  • They always went back to 200 ppm before rising again in a cyclical fashion.
  • They remained steady at close to 280 ppm for 10,000 years until, beginning in the mid-19th century.
  • They began to rise again as humans burnt coal and oil to fuel the industrial revolution, and burnt forests to expand agriculture and settlements.
  • From a mere 0.2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions in 1850, annual emissions increased to 36 billion tonnes by 2018.
  • If all this CO2 had accumulated in the atmosphere, we can say that human life would have been altered beyond recognition.
  • Nature has been rather kind to us so far — about one-half of all CO2 emissions have been sanitised from the atmosphere, equally by growing vegetation on land and by absorption in the oceans.
  • Thus, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 407 ppm in 2018, a level last experienced by earth some three million years ago.

Global temperature up by 1 degree Celcius

  •  From 1850 onwards, for over a century, the global temperature showed a slight warming trend.
  • But there was nothing suggestive of anything serious.
  • From 1975 onwards, the temperature graph has shown a distinct, upward trend.
  • By 2015, the globe had heated by a full degree Celsius relative to a hundred years previously.
  • Climate modellers unequivocally project that under the current trends of emissions the globe will heat up by 4˚C by the end of the century.
  • he 2003 European heat wave killed over 70,000 people.
  • The years 2015-19 have globally been the warmest years on record.
  • Leave aside the Amazon fire of 2019, the bush fires of 2019-20 in Australia were unprecedented in their scale and devastation.
  • March 2020 has been the second warmest March on record.

But climate change is not just about temperature rise

  • Climate change involves not just a change in temperature but every other component of weather, including rainfall, humidity and wind speed.
  • Indirect effects follow, such as a rise in sea levels from melting glaciers.
  • Globally there have been several extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heat waves or droughts.
  • While no single event can be directly attributed to climate change, the collective trends are consistent with climate change predictions.

Warning for India

  • The Climate Impact Lab at the University of Chicago put out a warning for India last year.
  • It says that if global CO2 emissions continue to gallop at the present rate, average summer temperatures would rise by 4˚C in most States.
  • Extremely hot days (days above 35˚C), which were only five days in 2010, would increase to 15 days by 2050 and to 42 days by 2100 on average across all districts.
  • A more moderate emissions scenario, as a result of countries largely fulfilling their commitments under the Paris Agreement, would keep average global temperature rise below 2˚C compared to pre-industrial levels.

Let’s look into the financial dimension of tackling climate change

  • The most common excuse is that the world cannot afford to curb GHG emissions for fear of wrecking the economy.
  • An article in Nature in 2019 highlighted the financial dimensions of tackling the looming climate crisis.
  • Apparently, the wealthy nations are spending over $500 billion each year internally on projects aimed at reducing emissions.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, however, estimates that a sustained annual investment of $2.4 trillion in more efficient energy systems is needed until 2035 in order to keep warming below the more ambitious 1.5˚C relative to pre-industrial levels.
  • To put this in perspective, that is about 2.5% of the global GDP.

What happened to the $100 billion per year aid to poor countries?

  • Some of the wrangling over money relates to the amounts that the wealthy nations, agreed to pay other countries to cope with climate change.
  • Underlying idea was that these countries have caused most of the GHGs resulting in global warming,
  • At the UN Climate Conference in 2009, the richest nations had pledged to provide $100 billion in aid each year by 2020 to the poorer countries for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • In 2017, for which data are available, only $71 billion had been provided.
  • And most of the money was spent on mitigation and less than 20% towards climate adaptation.
  • Such numbers had been challenged prior to the 2015 Paris Summit by many countries, including India.
  • It was challenged because much of the so-called aid provided did not come out of dedicated climate funds but, rather, development funds or simply loans which had to be repaid.
  • It thus seems unlikely that the rich countries will deliver $100 billion in tangible climate finance during 2020.

Time to act

  • COVID-19 has unwittingly given humanity a brief respite from the climate change curve.
  • Commentators are already talking about a paradigm shift in the structure and functioning of societies once the pandemic subsides.
  • This is also a make-or-break moment for the climate trajectory which has to be flattened within a few years if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.
  • Nature’s kindness is not expected to last beyond a 2˚C rise in temperature as the carbon sequestered into vegetation will be thrown back into the atmosphere.
  • Also remember that earth has already warmed by 1˚C and we really have only another 1˚C as a safety margin or 0.5˚C if we are concerned about island nations.

Consider the mains question asked by the UPSC in 2017-‘Climate change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change?

Conclusion

There is no substitute to reducing GHG emissions. Technologists, economists and social scientists must plan for a sustainable planet based on the principles of equity and climate justice within and across nations. It is the responsibility of leaders to alter their mindset and act on the looming climate crisis with the same alacrity they have shown on COVID-19.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Environment Performance Index 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EPI

Mains level : India's EPI and various loopholes in its climate action policy

India has secured 168 ranks in the 12th edition of the biennial Environment Performance Index (EPI Index 2020).

CSP 2019 has been a year with two questions based on rankings and indices viz. the EoDB index and Global Competitiveness Index.  Note all such indices and their publishing agencies here at  [Prelims Spotlight] Important reports and indexes

About EPI

  • The EPI measures the environmental performance of 180 countries.
  • It is biennially released by the Yale University.
  • It considers 32 indicators of environmental performance, giving a snapshot of the 10-year trends in environmental performance at the national and global levels.

The performance on climate change was assessed based on the following indicators —

  • Adjusted emission growth rates;
  • Composed of growth rates of four greenhouse gases and one pollutant;
  • Growth rate in carbon dioxide emissions from land cover;
  • Greenhouse gas intensity growth rate; and
  • Greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

Performance of the South Asian Region

  • The 11 countries lagging behind India were — Burundi, Haiti, Chad, Solomon Islands, Madagascar, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Liberia.
  • All South Asian countries, except Afghanistan, were ahead of India in the ranking.

India’s performance

  • A ten-year comparison progress report in the index showed that India slipped on climate-related parameters.
  • India scored below the regional average score on all five key parameters on environmental health, including air quality, sanitation and drinking water, heavy metals and waste management.
  • It has also scored below the regional average on parameters related to biodiversity and ecosystem services too.
  • Among South Asian countries, India was at the second position (rank 106) after Pakistan on ‘climate change’. Pakistan’s score (50.6) was the highest under the category.

Remarks for India

  • The report indicated that black carbon, carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse emissions per capita increased in 10 years.
  • India needs to re-double national sustainability efforts on all fronts, according to the index.
  • It needs to focus on a wide spectrum of sustainability issues, with a high-priority to critical issues such as air and water quality, biodiversity and climate change.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Expansion of the Amery Ice Shelf

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ice Shelves, Amery Ice Shelf

Mains level : Impact of climate changes

 

There would be a 24% increase in the expansion of the Amery Ice Shelf (AIS) boundaries in Antarctica by 2021 and another 24 per cent by 2026 from its 2016 positions, the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa has predicted.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss the interrelation between Cryosphere and Climate change in context to the melting ice shelves in the Antarctic region.

Amery Ice Shelf (AIS)

  • The Amery Ice Shelf is a broad ice shelf in Antarctica at the head of Prydz Bay between the Lars Christensen Coast and Ingrid Christensen Coast.
  • It is part of Mac. Robertson Land.
  • The name “Cape Amery” was applied to a coastal angle mapped on February 11, 1931.
  • The AIS is one of the largest glacier drainage basins in the world, located on the east coast of Antarctica, at about 70ºS Latitude, 70ºE Longitude.
  • The AIS dynamics and mass balance help in understanding the changes in the global climate scenario.

Significance of the study

  • NCPOR observations revealed a critical cooling of the sea surface temperature, resulting in an advancement of the ice shelf by 88 per cent in the past 15 years.
  • These changes would contribute in a major way to climate variability.
  • The study clearly demonstrated the future dynamism of ocean heat fluctuation and Antarctic Amery ice shelf mass shifting-extent.

Back2Basics: Ice Shelves

  • The floating sheets of ice called ‘ice shelves’ play a multi-faceted role in maintaining the stability of a glacier. Ice shelves connect a glacier to the landmass.
  • The ice sheet mass balance, sea stratification, and bottom water formation are important parameters for the balancing of a glacier. Latent and sensible heat processes do play important roles here.
  • The insulation of ice shelves from atmospheric forcing is dependent on a temperature gradient that the ocean cavity beneath the ice shelves provides.
  • It is the pressure exerted by the ice shelves upon the ocean cavity that determines this temperature gradient.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Seasonal rapid advancement of Surging Glaciers in Karakoram Range

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Glaciers mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Glacial surges and their impacts

Indian researchers have found a seasonal advancement in 220 surge-type glaciers in the Karakoram Range of Ladakh.

Points to note:

1) Open you map and revise the glaciers of Himalayan region.

2) Glacial landforms as Geographic phenomenon.

What are Glacial Surges?

Click here to see the animated view

  • Glacial surges are short-lived events where a glacier can advance substantially, moving at velocities up to 100 times faster than normal.
  • Until recently, most glaciologists believed that a glacier’s physical characteristics, such as its thickness and shape, and the properties of the terrain it sits on determining whether it can surge.
  • Now, it is proved to believe an external factor also plays a major role: water from precipitation and melting.
  • Pooling on the surface, it can infiltrate the glacier through crevasses and reach its base, warming, lubricating, and, ultimately, releasing the ice.

Why surging in the Karakoram is a concern?

  • The behaviour of these glaciers, which represent 40% of the total glaciated area of the Karakoram, goes against the normal trend.
  • Surging of glaciers is potentially catastrophic as it can lead to the destruction of villages, roads and bridges.
  • It can also advance across a river valley and form the ice-dammed lake.
  • These lakes can form catastrophic outburst floods.
  • Therefore, monitoring of glacier surges, ice-dammed lake formation, and drainage is of paramount importance.

Which are these glaciers?

  • The scientists focused on the Shispare and Muchuhar glaciers, former tributaries of the once larger Hasanabad Glacier situated in Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan.

Significance of the study

  • The Surge-type glaciers oscillate between brief (months to years) rapid flow and lengthy (tens to hundreds of years) slow flow or stagnation, which are called the ‘active’ (or ‘surge’) and ‘quiescent’ phases, respectively.
  • This unsteady glacier flow makes it difficult to accurately assess individual glacier mass balances using in-situ observations.
  • The study will help to understand the diversity of glacial behaviour and help make accurate assessments of individual glacier mass balances for disaster planning and management.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

How the ozone layer hole over Arctic closed?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ozone, Polar Vortex

Mains level : Ozone hole healing

Recently the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) announced that a hole in the Arctic ozone layer, believed to be the biggest reported, has closed.

What healed the hole in the Ozone?

  • The ozone hole’s closing was because of a phenomenon called the polar vortex, and not because of reduced pollution levels due to Covid-19 lockdowns around the world.
  • The hole in the North Pole’s ozone layer, which was first detected in February, had since reached a maximum extension of around 1 million sq km.

Ozone hole

  • The ‘ozone hole’ is not really a hole — it refers to a region in the stratosphere where the concentration of ozone becomes extremely low in certain months.
  • Ozone, made up of three oxygen atoms, occurs naturally in small amounts.
  • Roughly 10 km to 40 km up in the atmosphere (the layer called the stratosphere), the ozone layer is sunscreen, shielding Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.
  • Manufactured chemicals deplete the ozone layer. Each spring over Antarctica (it now springs there), atmospheric ozone is destroyed by chemical processes.
  • This creates the ozone hole, which occurs because of special meteorological and chemical conditions that exist in that region.

The importance of the ozone layer

  • Ozone (chemically O3, a molecule of three oxygen atoms) is found mainly in the upper atmosphere, an area called the stratosphere, between 10 and 50 km from the earth’s surface.
  • Though it is talked of as a layer, ozone is present in the atmosphere in rather low concentrations.
  • Even at places where this layer is thickest, there are not more than a few molecules of ozone for every million air molecules.
  • They perform a very important function. By absorbing the harmful ultraviolet radiations from the sun, the ozone molecules eliminate a big threat to life forms on earth.
  • UV rays can cause skin cancer and other diseases and deformities in plants and animals.

Why this year’s hole was massive?

  • This year, the ozone depletion over the Arctic was much larger.
  • Scientists believe that unusual atmospheric conditions, including freezing temperatures in the stratosphere, were responsible.
  • Cold temperatures (below -80°C), sunlight, wind fields and substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were responsible for the degradation of the Arctic ozone layer.
  • Although Arctic temperatures do not usually fall as low as in Antarctica, this year, powerful winds flowing around the North Pole trapped cold air within what is known as the polar vortex.
  • By the end of the polar winter, the first sunlight over the North Pole initiated this unusually strong ozone depletion—causing the hole to form.

How long it will take for complete recovery?

  • As per the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion data of 2018, the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3 per cent per decade since 2000.
  • At these projected rates, the Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is predicted to recover by around 2030, followed by the Southern Hemisphere around 2050, and polar regions by 2060.

Also read: Polar Vortex

What’s causing extreme cold in US Midwest

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Third mass bleaching of Great Barrier Reef

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coral bleaching

Mains level : Coral reefs and their significance

A survey has found record sea temperatures had caused the third mass bleaching of the 2,300-kilometre Great Barrier Reef system in just five years.

What is Coral Bleaching?

  • When corals face stress by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae zooxanthellae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.
  • This phenomenon is called coral bleaching.
  • The pale white colour is of the translucent tissues of calcium carbonate which are visible due to the loss of pigment-producing zooxanthellae.

About Great Barrier Reef

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
  • It is stretched for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

Importance of Corals

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth.

  • They support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species.
  • This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases.
  • Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation.
  • Local economies receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.
  • Coral reef structures also buffer shorelines against 97 percent of the energy from waves, storms, and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion.
  • When reefs are damaged or destroyed, the absence of this natural barrier can increase the damage to coastal communities from normal wave action and violent storms.

Back2Basics

Coral Reefs

  • Coral reefs are built by and made up of thousands of tiny animals—coral “polyps”—that are related to anemones and jellyfish.
  • Polyps are shallow water organisms which have a soft body covered by a calcareous skeleton. The polyps extract calcium salts from sea water to form these hard skeletons.
  • The polyps live in colonies fastened to the rocky sea floor.
  • The tubular skeletons grow upwards and outwards as a cemented calcareous rocky mass, collectively called corals.
  • When the coral polyps die, they shed their skeleton on which new polyps grow.
  • The cycle is repeated for over millions of years leading to accumulation of layers of corals shallow rock created by these depositions is called reef.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Earth Hour

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Earth Hour

Mains level : Climate activism

The Earth Hour, observed annually on the last Saturday of March, was recently celebrated.

Earth Hour

  • Earth Hour is a worldwide movement organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
  • It is held annually encouraging individuals, communities, and businesses to turn off non-essential electric lights, for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on a specific day towards the end of March as a symbol of commitment to the planet.
  • It was started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia, in 2007.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

New environment impact norm cuts time for public hearing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EIA in India

Mains level : Read the attached story

A set of key updates to India’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act has been proposed to reduce the time given to people to air objections.

Features proposed by the amendment

  • The draft EIA notification proposes to be an update to the EIA of 2006, which specifies a “minimum of 30 days” for people to respond.
  • The current version of the update, which will likely become law in 60 days, gives a “minimum of 20 days” of notice period.
  • The public hearing process is considered a key component of the EIA. An organisation has to submit a detailed plan, as part of the EIA process that details the nature, need, potential impact and remedial measures, if their proposed infrastructure project threatens to significantly impact a region.
  • It also requires that the public-hearing process be wrapped up in 40 days, as opposed to the existing norm of 45 days.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in India

  • EIA is a management tool to minimize adverse impacts of developmental projects on the environment and to achieve sustainable development through timely, adequate, corrective and protective mitigation measures.
  • The MoEFCC uses EIA Notification 2006 as a major tool for minimizing the adverse impact of rapid industrialization on the environment and for reversing those trends which may lead to climate change in long run.
  • EIA has now been made mandatory under the Environmental (Protection Act, 1986 for 29 categories of developmental activities involving investments of Rs. 50 crores and above.

EIA stages

  1. Screening: This stage decides which projects a full or partial assessment need study.
  2. Scoping: This stage decides which impacts are necessary to be assessed. This is done based on legal requirements, international conventions, expert knowledge and public engagement. This stage also finds out alternate solutions that avoid or at least reduce the adverse impacts of the project.
  3. Assessment & evaluation of impacts and development of alternatives: This stage predicts and identifies the environmental impacts of the proposed project and also elaborates on the alternatives.
  4. EIA Report: In this reporting stage, an environmental management plan (EMP) and also a non-technical summary of the project’s impact is prepared for the general public. This report is also called the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  5. Decision making: The decision on whether the project is to be given approval or not and if it is to be given, under what conditions.
  6. Monitoring, compliance, enforcement and environmental auditing: This stage monitors whether the predicted impacts and the mitigation efforts happen as per the EMP.

Scope of Environmental Clearance (EC)

  • Environmental clearance is required in respect of all new projects or activities listed in the Schedule to the 2006 notification and their expansion and modernization, including any change in product –mix.
  • Since EIA 2006 the various developmental projects have been re-categorised into category ‘A’ and category ‘B’ depending on their threshold capacity and likely pollution potential.
  • They require prior EC respectively from MOEFCC or the concerned State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs).
  • Where state level authorities have not been constituted, the clearance would be provided by the MOEFCC.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate change and geopolitics converge to yield locust swarms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Protecting Indian agriculture against the locust attacks.

Context

Abnormal rainfall in the Arabian desert and an effect of the Yemen war have revived a menace that could hit Indian crops

Butterfly effect- a fitting metaphor for locust attack

  • What is the butterfly effect? The butterfly effect occurs when a trivial cause, such as a butterfly fluttering its wings somewhere in an Amazon rainforest, triggers a series of events that end up having a massive impact elsewhere.
    • Edward Lorenz, the American meteorologist who coined the phrase in the early 1960s, came up with it while building a mathematical model to predict weather patterns.
    • Fitting metaphor: It is a fitting metaphor to explain a “plague” that is currently destroying vegetation and livelihoods in East Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Iran, Pakistan and India.

The impact of the locust attack in the world

  • Impact in Africa: Several countries in Africa and Asia have been dealing with “the curse of good rains”: Massive swarms—called “plagues”—of the desert locust.
    • Swarms as large as 2,400 sq. km, comprising 200 billion insects, have already damaged over 70,000 hectares of crops in Kenya and around 30,000 hectares in Ethiopia.
  • Last month, Pakistan declared a national emergency over locusts.
  • Impact in India: In India, several districts in Gujarat and Rajasthan have been affected.
    • Rajasthan has announced a compensation of ₹13,500 per hectare to affected farmers.
    • While locust swarms continue to plague African countries, for now, the outbreak has tapered down in India with swarms headed back towards Sindh and Balochistan.
  • Possibility of return of the locusts: The expectation is that the locusts will be back in June, by which time their numbers would have grown fivefold.

What are the locusts and how they form swarms?

  • Solitary creature: The brown-coloured desert locust usually lives as a solitary creature in the desert and bushlands.
  • Transformation and swarm formation: When several of them gather in close proximity, they undergo a dramatic physical transformation, change colour to black and bright yellow, become gregarious, and start moving around in swarms.
  • Contribution of moisture and temperature: Locusts lay their eggs a few inches under the soil in the presence of moisture, which hatch faster under higher temperatures.
    • Similarly, the flightless nymphs mature faster under warmer conditions and, within weeks, turn into adults that can form swarms of hundreds of millions of insects that can fly over 100km per day.
  • The scale of destruction: Each locust can eat its own body weight—around 2-3 grams—every day.
    • Which means that a swarm can consume hundreds of tonnes of vegetation that it encounters every day.

Change in the behaviour pattern

  • Limited to recession areas: Normally, desert locusts are limited to a recession area enveloping the African Sahel to the west and Rajasthan to the east.
    • After international preventive control measures started in the 1940s, the intensity and spread of these swarms reduced, resulting only in regional plagues.

What contributed to this year’s infestation?

  • Two factors contributed to this year’s infestation:
    • Abnormal weather conditions.
    • Region’s geopolitics.
  • Abnormal weather conditions: In 2018, two cyclones a few months apart delivered rain to the Rub al Khali, the remote desert called the “Empty Quarter” of the Arabian peninsula.
    • The resulting ephemeral lakes created new breeding grounds for the desert locust in a poorly monitored region.
  • Region’s geopolitics: Insecticide spraying operations were not conducted because of the war in Yemen.
    • The breeding continued before the swarms crossed the Gulf into Iran and the Red Sea to Ethiopia and Somalia in the Horn of Africa.
    • Here, too, conflict and political unrest limited control operations, leading to further breeding.
  • Another cyclone in 2019: In December 2019, another cyclonic storm hit the Horn of Africa, creating conditions for yet more breeding.
    • Today, the situation is dire in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and is worsening in Uganda and Tanzania.

How affected countries are responding to the infestation?

  • Pakistan declared national emergency: Across the Persian Gulf, the Pakistani provinces of Balochistan and Sindh were initially affected, and when Punjab was hit, the government declared a national emergency and approached China for assistance.
  • How India is responding? Across the border, several districts in Gujarat and Rajasthan were affected and neighbouring states, including Uttar Pradesh, are now on alert.
    • Cooperation between India and Pakistan: Despite political tensions, Indian and Pakistani locust control officials met almost once a month over the second half of 2019 to exchange information, if not coordinate control efforts.
    • So far, India’s surveillance, preparedness and response have been competent and effective.
    • The national Locust Warning Organization was set up in 1939 and is well connected to international institutions created to manage locust risks.
    • It publishes weekly bulletins and even has a Twitter handle.
    • Bulletins show when locusts were detected, the location, extent and tonnage of insecticide sprayed and the risk of future infestation.
  • China’s preparedness: China is largely protected against locust plagues by geographical barriers, but is relatively vulnerable in the Xinjiang region.
    • Past similar event: Faced with a similar situation a couple of decades ago, the Chinese government had deployed hundreds of thousands of ducks that would eat the locusts in response to the blowing of a whistle.
    • Reports in the Chinese media indicate that Beijing plans to do the same this year.

 The immediate concern in India

  • Factors that could worsen the problem: Climate change, with higher temperatures and changes in the Indian Ocean Dipole, could worsen the locust problem for India in coming years.
  • The problem could overwhelm the capacity to control: The immediate concern is that by June 2020, there will probably be extraordinarily large swarms in India and that these could overwhelm the country’s current capacity to control them.
    • Preparedness measures by the government: The Union government is procuring additional spraying equipment and planning helicopter and drone-based control operations should the need arise.
    • Containing the swarms at India’s border states is crucial, as India’s agricultural heartland lies just beyond.

Conclusion

The government should take stock of its preparedness to deal with the imminent locust attack in June take necessary actions to deal with the menace as it could threaten India’s food security and economy.

 

 

 

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Explained: Marine Heatwave (MHW)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Marine Heatwave

Mains level : Read the attached story

 

 

Scientists have observed unusually high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Pacific Ocean around the western coast of the United States.  This marine heatwave (MHW), covering an area of roughly 6.5 million square kilometres, can affect marine life and lead to droughts in the surrounding regions.

What are MHWs?

  • We know that heatwaves occur in the atmosphere. We are all familiar with these extended periods of excessively hot weather.
  • However, heatwaves can also occur in the ocean and these are known as marine heatwaves, or MHWs.
  • These marine heatwaves, when ocean temperatures are extremely warm for an extended period of time can have significant impacts on marine ecosystems and industries.

When do they occur?

  • Heatwaves can happen in summer and also in winter, where they are known as “winter warm-spells”.
  • These winter events can have important impacts, such as in the southeast of Australia where the spiny sea urchin can only colonize further south when winter temperatures are above 12 °C.

What causes marine heatwaves?

  • Marine heatwaves can be caused by a whole range of factors, and not all factors are important for each event.
  • The most common drivers of marine heatwaves include ocean currents which can build up areas of warm water and air-sea heat flux, or warming through the ocean surface from the atmosphere.
  • Winds can enhance or suppress the warming in a marine heatwave, and climate modes like El Niño can change the likelihood of events occurring in certain regions.
  • MHWs can be caused due to large-scale drivers of the Earth’s climate like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Impacts of the MHWs

  • Marine heatwaves affect ecosystem structure, by supporting certain species and suppressing others.
  • For example, after the 2011 marine heatwave in Western Australia the fish communities had a much more “tropical” nature than previously and switched from kelp forests to seaweed turfs.
  • Marine heatwaves can cause economic losses through impacts on fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Temperature-sensitive species such as corals are especially vulnerable to MHWs. In 2016, marine heatwaves across northern Australia led to severe bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

How do we measure marine heatwaves?

  • A marine heatwave occurs when seawater temperatures exceed a seasonally-varying threshold (usually the 90th percentile) for at least 5 consecutive days.
  • Successive heatwaves with gaps of 2 days or less are considered part of the same event.

Why study MHWs?

  • MHWs are increasing in frequency due to climate change. MHWs increased by 54 per cent in the last 30 years.
  • Despite their potential impact on the health of marine ecosystems, MHWs remain one of the least studied consequences of global warming.

Way Forward

  • Marine heatwaves clearly have the potential to devastate marine ecosystems and cause economic losses in fisheries, aquaculture, and ecotourism industries.
  • However, their effects are often hidden from view under the waves until it is too late.
  • By raising general awareness of these phenomena, and by improving our scientific understanding of their physical properties and ecological impacts, we can better predict future conditions and protect vulnerable marine habitats and resources.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Red Snow in Antarctica

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Red snow , How it occurs

Mains level : Impact of climate change on Antarctica

 

 

Over the last few weeks, photographs of “red snow” off the coast of Antarctica’s northernmost peninsula, have gone viral. “Red snow” or “watermelon” is a phenomenon that has been known since ancient times. Now, it raises concerns about climate change.

Red snow in Antarctica: Why it happens 

  • Aristotle is believed to be one of the first to give a written account of red snow, over 2,000 years ago.
  • What Aristotle described as worms and grub, the scientific world today calls algae.
  • This alga species, Chlamydomonas Chlamydomonas nivalis, exists in the snow in the polar and glacial regions and carries a red pigment to keep itself warm.

Signs of faster melting 

  • In turn, the red snow causes the surrounding ice to melt faster. The more the algae packed together, the redder the snow.
  • And the darker the tinge, the more the heat absorbed by the snow. Subsequently, the ice melts faster.
  • While the melt is good for the microbes that need the liquid water to survive and thrive, it’s bad for glaciers that are already melting from a myriad of other causes, the study said.
  • These algae change the snow’s albedo — which refers to the amount of light or radiation the snow surface is able to reflect back. Changes in albedo lead to more melting.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various initiaitives mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Not Much

 

 

The INCOIS Hyderabad has launched a trio of products for users in the marine realm.

About INCOIS

  • The institute is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • INCOIS prioritises requests for specific services from its diverse user community that ranges right from fishermen to offshore oil exploration industries.

Products launched:

Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System (SVAS)  

The SVAS is an innovative impact-based advisory and forecast service system for small vessels operating in Indian coastal waters.

  • The SVA system warns users about potential zones where vessel overturning can take place, ten days in advance.
  • The advisories are valid for small vessels of beam width up to 7 m.
  • This limit covers the entire range of beam widths of the fishing vessels used in all the 9 coastal states and union territories of India.
  • The warning system is based on the  ‘Boat Safety Index’ (BSI) derived from wave model forecast outputs such as significant wave height, wave steepness, directional spread and the rapid development of wind at sea which is boat-specific.

Swell Surge Forecast System (SSFS)

SSFS is an innovative system designed for the prediction of Kallakkadal/Swell Surge that occurs along the Indian coast, particularly the west coast.

  • Kallakadal/Swell surge are flash-flood events that take place without any noticeable advance change in local winds or any other apparent signature in the coastal environment.
  • Hence the local population remains totally unaware of these flooding events until they actually occur. Such events are intermittent throughout the year.
  • Kallakkadal is a colloquial term used by Kerala fishermen to refer to the freaky flooding episodes and in 2012 UNESCO formally accepted this term for scientific use.
  • Kallakkadal are caused by meteorological conditions in the Southern Ocean, south of 30°S.
  • These swells once generated, travel northward and reach the Indian coasts in 3-5 days time, creating havoc in the coastal areas.
  • The system will now predict Kallakkadal and warnings will be given to concerned authorities at least 2-3 days in advance, which will help the local authorities for contingency plans and to reduce damage.

Algal Bloom Information Service (ABIS)

  • The increasing frequency of algal blooms is a major concern due to its ill effects on the fishery, marine life and water quality.
  • INCOIS has developed a service for “Detection and Monitoring of Bloom in the Indian Seas”.
  • The target users are fishermen, marine fishery resource managers, researchers, ecologists and environmentalists.
  • The service also complements INCOIS’ marine fishing advisories i.e. Potential Fishing Zone advisories.
  • INCOIS-ABIS will provide near-real-time information on spatio-temporal occurrence and spread of phytoplankton blooms over the North Indian Ocean.
  • In addition, four regions have been identified as bloom hotspots viz.

a) North Eastern Arabian Sea

b) coastal waters off Kerala

c) Gulf of Mannar and

d) coastal waters of Gopalpur

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NEED

Mains level : Sea level rise and its impact

 

An extraordinary measure to protect 25 million people and important economic regions of 15 Northern European countries from rising seas has been proposed. It is called Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED) enclosing all of the North Sea.

Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED)

  • The scientists have proposed the construction of two dams of a combined length of 637 km — the first between northern Scotland and western Norway.
  • It would be 476 km and with an average depth of 121 m and maximum depth of 321 m; the second between France and southwestern England, of length 161 km, and average depth of 85 m and maximum depth of 102 m.
  • A/c to scientists, separating the North and Baltic Seas from the Atlantic Ocean is considered to be the “most viable option” to protect Northern Europe against unstoppable sea level rise (SLR).
  • They have also identified other regions in the world where such mega-enclosures could potentially be considered, including the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Red Sea.

The rationale behind

  • The concept of constructing NEED showcases the extent of protection efforts that are required if mitigation efforts fail to limit sea level rise.
  • While NEED may appear to be “overwhelming” and “unrealistic”, it could be “potentially favourable” financially and in scale when compared with alternative solutions to fight SLR, the research argues.
  • The researchers classify the solutions to SLR into three categories of taking no action, protection, and managed retreat — and submit that NEED is in the second category.
  • While managed retreat, which includes options such as managed migrations, may be less expensive than protection (NEED), it involves intangible costs such as national and international political instability, psychological difficulties, and loss of culture and heritage for migrants.
  • NEED, the paper says, will have the least direct impact on people’s daily lives, can be built at a “reasonable cost”, and has the largest potential to be implemented with the required urgency to be effective.

Viability of NEED

  • The researchers have estimated the total costs associated with NEED at between €250 billion and €550 billion.
  • They referred to the costs of building the 33.9-km Saemangeum Seawall in South Korea and the Maasvlakte 2 extension of the Rotterdam harbour in the Netherlands as examples,
  • If construction is spread over a 20-year period, this will work out to an annual expense of around 0.07%-0.16% of the GDP of the 15 Northern European countries that will be involved.
  • Also the construction will “heavily impact” marine and terrestrial ecosystems inside and outside the enclosure, will have social and cultural implications, and affect tourism and fisheries.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Urban Heat Islands in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UHU effect

Mains level : UHU effect

 

A recent study from IIT Kharagpur called “Anthropogenic forcing exacerbating the urban heat islands in India” noted that the relatively warmer temperature in urban areas, compared to suburbs, may contain potential health hazards due to heat waves apart from pollution.

About the study

  • The research did study the difference between urban and surrounding rural land surface temperatures, across all seasons in 44 major cities from 2001 to 2017.
  • It found evidence of mean daytime temperature of surface urban heat island (UHI Intensity) going up to 2 degrees C for most cities, as analysed from satellite temperature measurements in monsoon and post monsoon periods.
  • Other researchers from elsewhere have also noticed similar rise in daytime temperatures in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.

What is an Urban Heat Island?

  • An urban heat island (abbreviated as UHI) is where the temperature in a densely populated city is as much as 2 degrees higher than suburban or rural areas.
  • This happens because of the materials used for pavements, roads and roofs, such as concrete, asphalt (tar) and bricks, which are opaque, do not transmit light, but have higher heat capacity and thermal conductivity than rural areas, which have more open space, trees and grass.
  • Trees and plants are characterised by their ‘evapotranspiration’— a combination of words wherein evaporation involves the movement of water to the surrounding air, and transpiration refers to the movement of water within a plant and a subsequent lot of water through the stomata (pores found on the leaf surface) in its leaves.
  • Grass, plants and trees in the suburbs and rural areas do this. The lack of such evapotranspiration in the city leads to the city experiencing higher temperature than its surroundings.

Latent impacts

  • UHI s also decrease air quality in the cities, thanks to pollution generated by industrial and automobile exhaust, higher extent of particulate matter and greater amounts of dust than in rural areas.
  • Due to this higher temperature in urban areas, the UHI increases the colonization of species that like warm temperatures, such as lizards and geckos.
  • Insects such as ants are more abundant here than in rural areas; these are referred to as ectotherms.
  • In addition, cities tend to experience heat waves which affect human and animal health, leading to heat cramps, sleep deprivation and increased mortality rates.
  • UHIs also impact nearby water bodies, as warmer water (thanks to the pavements, rooftops and so on) is transferred from the city to drains in sewers, and released into nearby lakes and creeks, thus impairing their water quality.

Control of UHIs and mitigation

  • Industrialization and economic development are vital to the country, but the control of UHIs and their fallouts are equally vital. Towards this, several methods are being, and can be, tried.
  • One of them is to use greener rooftops, using light-coloured concrete (using limestone aggregates along with asphalt (or tar) making the road surface greyish or even pinkish (as some places in the US have done); these are 50% better than black, since they absorb less heat and reflect more sunlight.
  • Likewise, we should paint rooftops green, and install solar panels there amidst a green background.
  • The other is to plant as many trees and plants as possible

Why plant more trees?

Relevant to the present context are:

  • they combat climate change; clean the surrounding air by absorbing pollutant gases (NXOy, O3, NH3, SO2, and others) and trapping particulates on their leaves and bark;
  • they cool the city and the streets; conserve energy (cutting air-conditioning costs by 50%); save water and help prevent water pollution; help prevent soil erosion; protect people and children from UV light;
  • they offer economic opportunities; bring diverse group of people together; encourage civic pride by giving neighborhoods a new identity; mask concrete walls, thus muffling sounds from streets and highways, and eye-soothing canopy of green; and the more a business district has trees, more business follows.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

India’s Scientific Expedition to the Southern Ocean

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Southern Ocean

Mains level : Role of Southern Ocean in Climate dynamics

 

A South African oceanographic research vessel SA Agulhas set off from Port Louise in Mauritius, on a two-month Indian Scientific Expedition to the Southern Ocean 2020. Recently the vessel was at Prydz Bay, in the coastal waters of “Bharati”, India’s third station in Antarctica.

India’s polar mission

  • This is the 11th expedition of an Indian mission to the Southern Ocean, or Antarctic Ocean.
  • The first mission took place between January and March 2004.

About the Southern Ocean expedition

  • The researchers from IITM Pune are collecting air and water samples from around 60 stations along the cruise track.
  • These will give valuable information on the state of the ocean and atmosphere in this remote environment and will help to understand its impacts on the climate.
  • A key objective of the mission is to quantify changes that are occurring and the impact of these changes on large-scale weather phenomenon, like the Indian monsoon, through tele-connection.

Why study Southern Ocean?

  • We know that carbon dioxide is getting emitted into the atmosphere, and through atmospheric circulation goes to the Antarctic and Polar Regions.
  • Since the temperature is very low there, these gases are getting absorbed and converted into dissolved inorganic carbon or organic carbon, and through water masses and circulation it is coming back to tropical regions.
  • All oceans around the world are connected through the Southern Ocean, which acts as a transport agent for things like heat across all these oceans.
  • The conveyor belt that circulates heat around the world is connected through the Southern Ocean and can have a large impact on how climate is going to change due to anthropogenic forces.

Core projects of the expedition

  • Study hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry of the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean; involves sampling seawater at different depths. This will help understand the formation of Antarctic bottom water.
  • Observations of trace gases in the atmosphere, such as halogens and dimethyl sulphur from the ocean to the atmosphere. This will help improve parameterizations that are used in global models.
  • Study of organisms called coccolithophores that have existed in the oceans for several million years; their concentrations in sediments will create a picture of past climate
  • Investigate atmospheric aerosols and their optical and radiative properties. Continuous measurements will quantify the impact on Earth’s climate.
  • Study the Southern Ocean’s impact on Indian monsoons. Look for signs in a sediment core taken from the bottom of the ocean
  • Dynamics of the food web in the Southern Ocean; important for safeguarding catch and planning sustainable fishing

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

‘Future of Earth, 2020’ Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the report

Mains level : Various global threats and their mitigation

 

The “The Future of Earth, 2020” Report was recently released.

About the report

  • The report is released by the South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science.
  • The report was prepared with the aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degree Celsius by 2050.

Highlights of the report

  • Five global risks that have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that may cascade to create global systemic crisis have been listed by report.
  • It listed the following as five global risks:
  1. failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  2. extreme weather events
  3. major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
  4. food crises; and
  5. water crises
  • Offering examples of how the interrelation of risk factors play a role, scientists say extreme heatwaves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems, and at the same time intensify water crises and/ or food scarcity.
  • The loss of biodiversity also weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, increasing our vulnerability to food crises, they point out.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Thwaites Glacier

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Thwaites Glacier

Mains level : Sea level rise and its impact

 

In the Antarctic floats a massive glacier, roughly the size of Britain, whose melting has been a cause of alarm for scientists over the years. Now, a new study has pinned the cause of the melting to the presence of warm water at a vital point beneath the glacier.

Thwaites Glacier

  • The Thwaites Glacier is 120 km wide at its broadest, fast-moving and melting fast over the years.
  • Because of its size (1.9 lakh square km), it contains enough water to raise the world sea level by more than half a metre.
  • Studies have found the amount of ice flowing out of it has nearly doubled over the past 30 years. Today, Thwaites’s melting already contributes 4% to global sea level rise each year.
  • It is estimated that it would collapse into the sea in 200-900 years. Thwaites is important for Antarctica as it slows the ice behind it from freely flowing into the ocean.
  • Because of the risk it faces — and poses — Thwaites is often called the Doomsday Glacier.

What has the new study found?

  • A 2019 study had discovered a fast-growing cavity in the glacier.
  • More recently researchers detected warm water at a vital point below the glacier.
  • Scientists dug a 600-m-deep and 35-cm-wide access hole, and deployed an ocean-sensing device called Icefin to measure the waters moving below the glacier’s surface.
  • The study reported water at just two degrees above freezing point at Thwaites’s “grounding zone” or “grounding line”.

What is the grounding line?

  • The grounding line is the place below a glacier at which the ice transitions between resting fully on bedrock and floating on the ocean as an ice shelf.
  • The location of the line is a pointer to the rate of retreat of a glacier.
  • When glaciers melt and lose weight, they float off the land where they used to be situated. When this happens, the grounding line retreats.
  • That exposes more of a glacier’s underside to seawater, increasing the likelihood it will melt faster.
  • This resulted in the glacier speeding up, stretching out, and thinning, causing the grounding line to retreat ever further.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Global Go To Think-Tank Index

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Think Tank Index

Mains level : Not Much

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) was placed No. 16 among 2019’s ‘top environment policy think tanks’ of the world in Global Go To Think Tank Index.

Think-Tank Index

  • The Index is released by University of Pennsylvania each year since 2008.
  • It evaluates public-policy research analysis and engagement organisations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues.
  • It claims to enable policy makers and the public to make informed decisions on public policy.
  • The 2020 report raised some critical threats and opportunities that think tanks across the globe face.
  • It called upon such organisations to develop national, regional, and global partnerships and create new, innovative platforms to deliver for an ever-expanding audience of citizens, policy makers and businesses.

India’s performance

  • CSE climbed up two notches in the 14th version of the report.
  • The organisation also moved up three places among ‘best independent think tanks’ to be at No.123 in the world and sixth among Indian think tanks.
  • Globally, it was ranked 41 of 60 organisations committed to energy and resource policy. It remained at No.58 among organisations working on science and technology policy in the world — fifth in India.

CSE as forerunner

  • CSE was named the ‘national climate leader’ from India for 2019 in the first National Climate Leader Awards published in the Global Spotlight Report #22 by Climate Scorecard.
  • CSE also received the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2018 in 2019 for ‘pioneering work on environment and sustainable development’.
  • CSE also featured in four other rankings in the report: ‘top water security think tanks’; ‘top energy and resource policy think tanks’; ‘top science and technology policy think tanks’ and ‘best independent think tanks’.
  • It also ranked 18 among 78 global think tanks for its work on ‘water security’ — second in India after Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap]Partners in action

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green Growth Equity Fund

Mains level : Paper 3- Climate change, Steps taken by India to mitigate the impact, collaboration in innovation with other countries.

Context

Both India and the UK are exploring how best to develop the technology and investment needed to spur the transition from fossil to renewable fuels and make this a beneficial trajectory for everyone.

Areas of collaboration with the UK

  • Resilience to climate change: To build resilience to climate risks, the U.K. is working with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act to build flood defences and river structures to encourage aquifer replenishment.
  • Monsoon forecasting: Together with India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences, we are gathering land, sea and atmospheric data to help deliver a decisive step forward in monsoon forecasting.
  • Electric mobility: On electric mobility, a major joint venture between UK’s EO Charging and India’s Yahhvi Enterprises will deliver world-class smart charging infrastructure for electric vehicles across India.
  • Finance of Green Growth Equity Fund: On finance, the U.K. government committed 240 million pounds of anchor capital in the Green Growth Equity Fund.
    • Its first investment going to Ayana Renewable Power, which is developing 800MW of solar generation capacity.

India’s efforts to tackle climate change

  • India’s size and ecological diversity have placed it on the frontlines of global warming.
  • India walking the talk on climate change: It is on course to deliver the target of 40 per cent electricity generation from non-fossil fuels by 2030.
  • ISA: India has already demonstrated this personal commitment on the world stage with the India-led International Solar Alliance.
  • CDRI: India also announced the global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, both of which the UK a part of.
  • India and the UK can also work together on
    • Resilience and adaption.
    • Clean energy.
    • Green finance and nature-based solutions.
    • Infrastructure development.
    • Sustainable energy and smart cities.

Conclusion

India and the UK need to make sure that the present partnership on climate and the environment go from strength to strength in the future.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Biorock technique for Coral Restoration

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biorock Technique, Coral Bleaching

Mains level : Coral restoration measures

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with help from Gujarat’s forest department, is attempting for the first time a process to restore coral reefs using biorock or mineral accretion technology.

What is Biorock Technique?

  • Biorock is the name given to the substance formed by electro accumulation of minerals dissolved in seawater on steel structures that are lowered onto the sea bed and are connected to a power source, in this case solar panels that float on the surface.
  • The technology works by passing a small amount of electrical current through electrodes in the water.
  • When a positively charged anode and negatively charged cathode are placed on the sea floor, with an electric current flowing between them, calcium ions combine with carbonate ions and adhere to the structure (cathode).
  • This results in calcium carbonate formation. Coral larvae adhere to the CaCO3 and grow quickly.
  • Fragments of broken corals are also tied to the biorock structure, where they are able to grow at least four to six times faster than their actual growth as they need not spend their energy in building their own calcium carbonate skeletons.

Significance of the move

  • The technology helps corals, including the highly sensitive branching corals, to counter the threats posed by global warming.
  • In 2015, the same group of ZSI scientists had successfully restored branching coral species (staghorn corals) belonging to the family Acroporidae (Acropora formosa, Acropora humilis, Montipora digitata) that had gone extinct about 10,000 years ago to the Gulf of Kachchh.

Back2Basics

Coral Bleaching

  • The stunning colours in corals come from a marine algae called zooxanthellae, which live inside their tissues.
  • This algae provides the corals with an easy food supply thanks to photosynthesis, which gives the corals energy, allowing them to grow and reproduce.
  • When corals get stressed, from things such as heat or pollution, they react by expelling this algae, leaving a ghostly, transparent skeleton behind.
  • This is known as ‘coral bleaching’. Some corals can feed themselves, but without the zooxanthellae most corals starve.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Think climate change action, act glocal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3-Climate change and India's SAPCCs. India acting at state level.

Context

The recent global climate summit, the annual Conference of the Parties (COP25), held in Madrid was a failure and that the multilateral process to address the climate crisis is broken. The growing global stalemate gives India the chance to focus on the State and sub-State levels.

COP 25 at Madrid and what future prospects

  • Wealthy countries disowning responsibility: At several discussions on finance, ambition, transparency of support and pre-2020 action, wealthy countries were recalcitrant.
    • Disavowing obligations: Although responsible for using the bulk of the carbon space in the atmosphere, they now disavow their obligations. With some even denying anthropogenic climate change.
    • Complete severance of science from negotiations: At this stage, there is a complete severance of climate science from the negotiations and agreements at the global level.
    • The question is, what can we do now?
  • What can happen at the next COP?
    • Hope of little change: The next COP will be held at Glasgow, U.K. (in late 2020) and there may be little change in the outcomes.
    • The global political order may not alter much. The fact that we live in an unequal and unjust world is not going to change either.
  • What else can happen on the global level?
    • Right leader: The right political leaders could nudge action in a new direction.
    • Green New Deal could pass: Younger members could be elected to the U.S. Congress and the Green New Deal could pass sometime in 2021.
    • Growing activism: In the meantime, climate activism is increasing awareness and having some success in removing insurance and financial support for fossil fuel companies. But these kinds of changes will occur slowly.
    • Participation of other stakeholders at next COP: At least one expert has called for a parallel action COP at future summits where sub-state actors, civil society groups, non-governmental organisations and academics can share ideas and nudge action.

The chance for India to develop climate change action at State and Sub-state level

  • Chance to develop climate change action: The stalemate at the global level offers India the opportunity to focus earnestly on developing its climate change action at State and sub-State levels.
    • Peripheral status of climate change: In the states, the environment and climate continue to be relegated to peripheral status.
    • Damage to the environment: This neglect has led to the destruction of ecosystems, forests, water-bodies and biodiversity.
    • Vulnerability and economic costs of the neglect: Numerous studies have shown the high economic and ecological costs and loss of lives due to extreme events.
    • We do not need more data to stimulate action. As is also well recognised, India is extremely vulnerable to the effects of warming.

Progress made by the states so far

  • The first round of SAPCCs: With support from bilateral agencies, States initially took different approaches in the first round of State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs).
    • Some of them set up separate climate change cells while some collaborated with academic institutions.
    • A few produced detailed action plans while others developed strategy documents.
    • Still, others integrated improvements in energy efficiency (contributing to reducing emissions), while almost all focused on adaptation.
  • The synergy between climate change and development:
    • Attention to climate change offers co-benefits to India for development. For instance-
    • Efficiency reduces pollution: Improving energy efficiency in industry reduces costs and local pollution.
    • Transport and congestion: Improving public transport reduces congestion, pollution and improves access.
    • Natural farming and fertilisers: Using natural farming methods reduces fossil fuel-based fertilizers, improves soil health and biodiversity.
    • These examples show that there are synergies in the steps to be taken for good development and climate change.
  • Next round of SAPCCs and strategies
    • The next round of the SAPCCs is being drawn up, under recommendations from the Centre.
    • Where should be the focus? The focus ought to be on integrating the response to climate change with the development plan in different departments.
    • States together to contribute NDCs: Since the States together are to deliver the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that India has promised, it means that they require guidance from the Centre.
    • Unfortunately, most State government departments are handling climate change as a fringe issue and do not seem to recognise its urgency.

Integration of various sectors for climate action

  • Identification of sectors: Line departments for government schemes and programmes in key development sectors, such as agriculture, transport and water, should be identified for carefully integrating actions that respond to climate change.
    • Integration at district level: This integration should also take place at district and sub-district levels. But only a demonstration of its success in some departments would show how this can be done.
    • The realisation of climate as an important issue: But first and foremost, States need to get the signal that climate is an urgent issue.
  • Funds for implementing SAPCCs
    • How funds for implementing SAPCCs will be obtained is not clear.
    • There will not be enough from the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund and bilateral agencies to support all States unless new sources are found.
    • Use of coal cess: The coal cess in India is a good initiative, and as others have pointed out, could be used for environment and climate-related expenses.
    • Alternative sources: Alternative sources from high emissions’ industries and practices would be an option, but still probably insufficient.

Way forward

  • Performance analysis of first SAPCCs: There is also needs to be a clear analysis of how the first round of action plans fared.
    • Challenges and performance: What were the challenges and how did they perform?
    • Reasons for success and failures: Which approaches and projects were successful and ought to be scaled up and what lessons do the failures offer?
    • Finally, what institutional structure works best?
  • Need for the greenhouse gas inventory: The country needs reliable greenhouse gas inventories.
    • Individual research groups and the civil society initiative, GHG Platform India, have been producing such inventories.
    • Such inventories would be useful in synchronising and co-ordinating State and Central mitigation programmes.
  • Programmes with longer timelines: States must also develop their programmes with longer timelines.
    • With mid-course correction based on lessons and successes that can be integrated into the next stage of the plan.
    • If the second round of SAPCCs were treated as an entry point to long-term development strategy, the States and the country would be better prepared for climate change.
  • Ultimately, climate should be part and parcel of all thinking on development.

 

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Global Risks Report 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Risks Report 2020

Mains level : Read the attached story

The top five risks to humanity are recently published in the Global Risks Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Top five risks

  • An important finding of the report is that today’s younger generation, consisting of “Millenials” born after 1980 have ranked environmental risks higher than other older respondents in the short- and long-terms.
  • According to the report, the top five risks by likelihood over the next decade are:
  1. Extreme weather events like floods and storms
  2. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  3. Major natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and geomagnetic storms
  4. Major biodiversity losses and ecosystem collapse
  5. Human-made environmental damage and disasters

Top 5 risks by severity of impact over the next 10 years

  • Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
  • Extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, etc.)
  • Water crises

Top most strongly connected global risks

  • Extreme weather events + failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Large-scale cyber-attacks + breakdown of critical information infrastructure and networks
  • High structural unemployment or underemployment + adverse consequences of technological advances
  • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse + failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Food crises + extreme weather events

Other risks

  • The report also warned about the increasing economic and societal costs due to non-communicable diseases and the lack of research on vaccines and drug resistance to address the threat of pandemics in the recent future.
  • Economic confrontations” and “domestic political polarization” are significant short-term risks in 2020, the report said.
  • This is a warning for the global South including India and Africa where social unrest has seen a rise. For example, unrest has grown among India’s youth.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed of the day] Electricity 4.0: The future of power in the age of climate change

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3-Climate change and adoption of clean and sustainable energy to tackle with it.

Context

Significance of electricity in our life

  • Interconnecting economic prosperity: Electrical energy is a juncture that inter-connects economic prosperity.
    • Amplifies social equity.
    • Ushers in a liveable environment for us.
    • No development in its true sense is possible if we leave aside energy and specifically sustainable energy.
    • It is almost indispensable for holistic and sustainable progress of any kind.

Burning of fossil fuel and climate change

  • Singular reliance on fossil fuel: Ever since the industrial revolution, development has almost singularly relied on the burning of fossil fuels, emitting huge volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
    • 41% of electricity from coal: As per data by the World Coal Association, a little over 41% of all electricity generated is produced from coal.
    • Problems with coal: Burning coal for electricity production leads to-
    • High level of hazardous carbon emissions.
    • Rising levels of pollution: water and air pollution during mining and air pollution during burning.
    • Working condition of miners: Added to the disastrous working conditions of miners, coal cannot be regarded as a sustainable source of energy.
  • Global warming and climate change: Despite increasing awareness, not much is being done to mitigate climate change.
    • Rise over 1.5oC and Consequences: IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has reiterated that unless global temperature rise is not kept within 1.5 degrees Celsius, natural and human systems will be irreparably damaged.
    • Rise over  2o  C and Consequences: Even a slight increase in atmospheric temperature by 2 degrees Celsius will result in a substantial rise in sea levels.
    • Consequences for human life: The rise in sea level would, in turn, translate into a whopping 10 million more people going homeless and another 50% people facing severe water scarcity.
  • The aim of becoming carbon neutral: To join the efforts, many global public and private stakeholders have pledged their allegiance into becoming net-zero carbon emitters.
    • But we are still far from achieving our objectives, as the IEA (International Energy Agency) recently reported that the Earth’s temperature rise will range between 1.8 degrees Celsius and 2.7 degrees Celsius soon.

Sustainable energy as a necessity

  • Energy efficiency and energy management: As the world is evolving into an interconnected form of world-of work, life and more-energy efficiency and energy management have slowly come to be a central driving force.
    • Sustainable energy a necessity: In order to power smart homes, industries, hospitals and other mission-critical operations, sustainable energy is no more a matter of choice, but of necessity.
    • IoT to help achieve energy efficiency: Technology adoptions like IoT and connected services can greatly enhance energy efficiencies and many global behemoths are coming to terms with this reality.
    • Demand for an alternative source of energy: Environmental factors, coupled with rising costs and stringent regulatory guidelines, are adding to the demand for alternative sources of energy.
    • Alternate as well as sustainable: The alternate sources are expected not only to satiate the growing consumption needs but are proven to be a sustainable option in the long run.

Electricity 4.0

  • Electricity 4.0: That is, sustainable methods of energy generation and efficient and cost-effective usage of produced energy.
    • The sustainable energy need of the sustainable future: To lay the foundation stone for a sustainable future, there is a critical need to investigate how we create and consume energy.
    • The answer lies in renewables becoming the dominant source of power, globally.
  • A new form of energy mix: There is a growing need to build a new form of energy mix under Electricity 4.0, with renewable ways of electricity creation, at its very core. A new order where-
    • Electrical internet of things (EIOT).
    • Cloud computing.
    • Artificial intelligence.
    • And the tools of today’s digital era are fully leveraged to maximise energy efficiency.

Way forward

  • Given that the major cause of global warming is Carbon Dioxide, so the first step to combat it would be-
  • Electrifying the planet: The augmented proliferation of energy-efficient, electricity-based equipments that are prevalent now, such as e-mobility, electrical heating, innovative applications such as electric aviation fleets can be one way to do that.
  • Scale up the production of renewable energy: The immediate need is to scale up the production of renewable electricity and build conducive public-policy frameworks to further this goal.
  • Adoption of digital technology: It is imperative to adopt digital technology in order to optimise the efficiency of our energy consumption and electrical networks. Digital connectivity, software and artificial intelligence can well be dubbed as the fulcrum that will support our transition toward Industry 4.0.
  • Concerted efforts from all stakeholders: To reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions or to promote energy decarbonisation, concerted efforts are required from all stakeholders – the community, regions, government and the private sector.

 

 

 

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

 [op-ed snap] Global warming puts forests, plantations in the country at risk

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Need to define the natural forests and effects of climate change on forests.

Context

Global warming, drought and El Niño may lead to increased forest fires.

The success story of India

  • Reduced deforestation: India has succeeded in reducing deforestation to some extent through an effective Forest Conservation Act and large-scale afforestation programme.
    • Comparison with other countries: India performed better when compared with other forest-rich tropical countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
    • Without the Forest Conservation Act and its reasonably effective implementation, India would have lost significant extent of forest area.
  • Increased afforestation: India has also been implementing significant scale afforestation, though the rates of afforestation have declined recently.
    • Agro-forestry, involving raising fruit tree plantations contribute to some extent.
    • Commercial plantations of eucalyptus, casuarina, teak, poplar, etc., have been raised by farmers for commercial purposes.
    • The above steps have resulted in potentially reducing the pressure on natural forests.

Need to measure ‘natural forest’

  • Increase in an area under forest: According to the latest biennial State of Forest Report (SFR) of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), an area under forests has been increasing.
  • Natural forests not specifically measured: It is not clear what percentage of increase in forest area is due to changes in natural forests which are generally rich in biodiversity.
    • The report doesn’t specify what percentage of change in area is due to commercial plantation and what percentage is contributed by horticulture or urban parks.
  • Need to define ‘natural forest’: What will be of most concern to forest and biodiversity conservation is to understand the status of natural forest and biodiversity.
    • India can use the same definition of forests but must estimate and report the area under natural forests and other forest plantation categories.
    • India needs to define ‘natural forests’ first, further, this would involve additional staff time and resources.
  • The resilience of natural forests to forest fires: Tropical forests rich in biodiversity are likely to be more resilient than monoculture dominated plantations or exotics.
    • Vulnerability to forest fires varies from forests to forests: Studies by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have shown that degraded forests, fragmented forests and biodiversity-poor forests are more vulnerable to climate change.

Climate change and its impacts

  • IPCC reports on large scale loss: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports have repeatedly concluded that climate change will lead to large-scale loss of biodiversity, before the end of the current century or even earlier.
  • Modelling studies by IISc.: Preliminary modelling studies by Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have shown that about 20% of forests will be impacted by climate change.
    • No change to adapt: The modelling studies means that existing forest biodiversity and its structure and composition will not be able to adapt to the new climate and there could be mortality or forest dieback.
  • The threat of forest fires: Further, warming, drought and El Niño will lead to increased forest fires, and may even be favourable to forest pests.
    • Unfortunately, the models currently in use for assessing the impact of climate change are not suitable for the complex and highly diverse forest types that exist in India.

Conclusions

  • Given that global warming will continue, India will have to brace itself to adapt to the impending impacts. In India, there is very limited research on climate change and its impacts on forests, putting our famed biodiversity-rich country status under threat.
  • India needs to realistically assess, monitor and model climate change and its impacts and be prepared to adapt to impending climate change.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Thawing of Permafrost

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Thermokarsts, Thawing of permafrost

Mains level : Impact of climate change on polar permafrost

 

A recent study makes a disturbing connection between the loss of Arctic sea ice and thawing (melting) of permafrost in the region, with global implications.

What is Permafrost?

  • ‘Permafrost’ or permanently frozen ground is land that has been frozen at or below 0 degrees Celsius for two or more consecutive years.
  • A staggering 17 per cent of Earth’s entire exposed land surface is comprised of permafrost.
  • Composed of rock, sediments, dead plant and animal matter, soil, and varying degrees of ice, permafrost is mainly found near the poles, covering parts of Greenland, Alaska, Northern Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia.
  • The Arctic region is a vast ocean, covered by thick ice on the surface (called sea ice), surrounded by land masses that are also covered with snow and ice.

Permafrost thawing

  • When permafrost thaws, water from the melted ice makes its way to the caves along with ground sediments, and deposits on the rocks.
  • In other words, when permafrost thaws, the rocks grow and when permafrost is stable and frozen, they do not grow.

Why thawing?

  • The link between the Siberian permafrost and Arctic sea ice can be explained by two factors:
  • One is heat transport from the open Arctic Ocean into Siberia, making the Siberian climate warmer.
  • The second is moisture transport from open seawater into Siberia, leading to thicker snow cover that insulates the ground from cold winter air, contributing to its warming.
  • This is drastically different from the situation just a couple of decades ago when the sea ice acted as a protective layer, maintaining cold temperatures in the region and shielding the permafrost from the moisture from the ocean.
  • If sea ice (in the summer) is gone, permafrost start thawing.

Impact on Climate Change

  • Due to relentlessly rising temperatures in the region, since the late-twentieth century, the Arctic sea ice and surrounding land ice are melting at accelerating rates.
  • When permafrost thaws due to rising temperatures, the microbes in the soil decompose the dead organic matter (plants and animals) to produce methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), both potent greenhouse gases.
  • CH4 is at least 80 times more powerful than CO2 on a decadal timescale and around 25 times more powerful on a century timescale.
  • The greenhouse gases produced from thawing permafrost will further increase temperatures which will, in turn, lead to more permafrost thawing, forming an unstoppable and irreversible self-reinforcing feedback loop.
  • Experts believe this process may have already begun. Giant craters and ponds of water (called ‘thermokarst lakes’) formed due to thawing have been recorded in the Arctic region. Some are so big that they can be seen from space.

Why a matter of concern?

  • An estimated 1,700 billion tonnes — twice the amount currently present in the atmosphere — of carbon is locked in all of the world’s permafrost.
  • Even if half of that were to be released to the atmosphere, it would be game over for the climate.
  • Scientific estimates suggest that the Arctic Ocean could be largely sea ice-free in the summer months by as early as 2030, based on observational trends, or as late as 2050, based on climate model projections.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed of the day] Weathering the storm

Context

State of Climate of India report by IMD should occasion interventions to make people resilient to extreme weather events.

What does the report confirm?

  • Frequent extreme weather events: The report states that extreme weather events have become par for the course in the country.
  • The report notes that excessive heat, cold and rainfall killed 1,562 people during the year.
  • Intense dry spells, even droughts, were interspersed with floods in several parts of the country
  • Above normal temperature:  The mean temperature last year was 0.36 above normal.
  • The excess rainfall: The country also recorded excess rainfall during both the southwest and northeast monsoons.

Long-term meteorological trends:

  • The IMD report should be seen in conjunction with long-term meteorological trends.
  • The warmest decade: The World Meteorological Organisation reckons that the decade starting 2011 remains on track to be the warmest on record.
  • Increase in the relative humidity: At the same time, data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Forecast shows that the relative humidity in the mid-troposphere in the Subcontinent has increased by about 2 percent in the past four decades.
  • Such warming has increased the capacity of oceans to form intense cyclonic disturbances.

Implications for disaster-preparedness:

  • Cyclones: Last year, as the IMD report notes, the Indian Ocean witnessed eight cyclones.
  • Cyclones don’t kill but buildings can turn hazardous during such extreme weather events.
  • The vulnerability of the poor: In Odisha winds blowing at more than 140 kilometers per hour ripped off roofs and window frames in modern houses and also exposed the vulnerability of the mud and bamboo houses of the poor.
  • Guidelines: The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs does have guidelines for climate-friendly construction.
  • But planners in coastal cities and towns rarely pay heed to its provisions.
  • Cooperation between the states: The changing dynamics of weather also demands cooperation between states that share a river basin.
  • Maharashtra and Karnataka bickered over opening the gates of the Almatti dam on the Krishna.

Implications for the farmers:

  • For farmers, vagaries in nature mean disruptions in the entire cropping cycle.
  • This year, Kerala, southern Karnataka, and Gujarat were heavily deficient till July.
  • But within a few days in the last week of July, these states recorded surplus rainfall.
  • Rainwater storage and use: Increasing their resilience calls for efficient rainwater storage and use.

Conclusion:

It’s clear that dealing with exceptional weather will require interventions at the national, state and local levels. The Statement on Climate of India 2019 drives home the urgency of such interventions.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Carbon Stock in Indian forests

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon Stock

Mains level : India's INDC

  • The State of Forest Report (SFR) 2019 has shown an increase in the carbon stock trapped in Indian forests in the last two years.
  • However it shows why it is going to be an uphill task for India in meeting one of its international obligations on climate change.

India’s carbon commitment

  • India, as part of its contribution to the global fight against climate change, has committed itself to creating an “additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent” by 2030.
  • That is one of the three targets India has set for itself in its climate action plan, called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, that every country has to submit under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • The other two relate to an improvement in emissions intensity and an increase in renewable energy deployment.
  • India has said it would reduce its emissions intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) by 33% to 35% by 2030 compared to 2005.
  • It has also promised to ensure that at least 40% of its cumulative electricity generation in 2030 would be done through renewable energy.

What is the relationship between forests and carbon?

  • Forests, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the process of photosynthesis, act as a natural sink of carbon.
  • Together with oceans, forests absorb nearly half of global annual carbon dioxide emissions.
  • In fact, the carbon currently stored in the forests exceeds all the carbon emitted in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age.
  • An increase in the forest area is thus one of the most effective ways of reducing the emissions that accumulate in the atmosphere every year.

How do the latest forest data translate into carbon equivalent?

  • The latest forest survey shows that the carbon stock in India’s forests (not including tree cover outside of forest areas) have increased from 7.08 billion tonnes in 2017.
  • This translates into 26.14 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent as of now.
  • It is estimated that India’s tree cover outside of forests would contribute another couple of billion of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

How challenging does this make it for India in meeting its target?

  • An assessment by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) last year had projected that, by 2030, the carbon stock in forests as well as tree cover was likely to reach 31.87 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
  • An additional 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of sink, as India has promised to do, would mean taking the size of the sink close to 35 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
  • Considering the rate of growth of the carbon sink in the last few years, that is quite a stiff target India has set for itself.
  • In the last two years, the carbon sink has grown by just about 0.6%%. Even compared to 2005, the size of carbon sink has increased by barely 7.5%.
  • To meet its NDC target, even with most optimistic estimates of carbon stock trapped in trees outside of forest areas, the sink has to grow by at least 15% to 20% over the next ten-year period.

Way Forward

  • There are two key decisions to be made in this regard — selection of the baseline year, and addition of the contribution of the agriculture sector to carbon sink.
  • When India announced its NDC in 2015, it did not mention the baseline year.
  • India’s emissions intensity target uses a 2005 baseline, so there is an argument that the forest target should also have the same baseline.
  • But there is a strong demand for a 2015 baseline as well, so that it results in some concrete progress in adding new forest cover.
  • The NDC specifically mentions that and “additional” 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon sink would be created through additional forest and tree cover by 2030 MoEFCC insist that tree cover outside forest areas must include agriculture as well.
  • India would also have to specify whether it wants to count the carbon sink in the agriculture sector in its target.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Ecoclub Programme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ecoclub Programme

Mains level : Sensitization measures for environment protection

The annual meet of the National Green Corps ‘Ecoclub’ programme of the MoEF&CC was recently organized.

Ecoclub programme

  • Environment Education Awareness and Training (EEAT) is an established central sector scheme of the Environment ministry continuing since 1983-84.
  • It aims to promote environmental awareness and mobilize student’s participation for environment conservation.
  • Under the scheme, National Green Corps (NGC) ‘Ecoclub’ programme was initiated in 2001-2002 with the objective to impart knowledge to school children through hands on experience, about their immediate environment, interactions within it and the problems therein.
  • The programme aims to inculcate proper attitude towards environment and sensitize children on issues related to environment and development.
  • The scheme is continuing to build young cadres of students and trigger their sensitivity towards environment protection and conservation.
  • It is envisaged that number of Ecoclubs shall be enhanced from about 1.5 lakh at present to 2 lakh in the ensuing year 2020-21.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

European Green Deal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : European Green Deal

Mains level : Developed countries and thier negligence for Climate action

After the failure at Madrid, the European Union has come up with an announcement on additional measures it would on climate change, called the European Green Deal.

European Green Deal

Two major decisions are at the heart of the European Green Deal. The Green Deal includes sectoral plans to achieve these two overall targets and proposals for the policy changes that would be required. They are:

1) Climate neutrality

  • The EU has promised to bring a law, binding on all member countries, to ensure it becomes “climate neutral” by 2050.
  • Climate neutrality, sometimes also expressed as a state of net-zero emissions is achieved when a country’s emissions are balanced by absorptions and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  • Absorption can be increased by creating more carbon sinks like forests, while removal involves technologies like carbon capture and storage.
  • The EU is now the first major emitter to agree to the 2050 climate neutrality target. It has said it would bring a proposal by March next year on a European law to enshrine this target.

2) Emission reduction

  • The second decision pertains to an increase in its 2030 emission reduction target.
  • In its climate action plan declared under the Paris Agreement, the EU was committed to making a 40 per cent reduction in its emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
  • It is now promising to increase this reduction to at least 50 per cent and work towards 55 per cent.
  • Even at 40 per cent, the European Union had the most ambitious emission reduction targets among the developed countries.

Why such move by EU?

  • The 28 EU member countries are together the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after China and the United States,
  • The EU also happens to be only one among major emitters to retain the 1990 baseline for emission cuts originally mandated under the Kyoto Protocol for all developed countries.

Significance

  • The European Union, as a whole, has been doing better than other developed countries on reducing emissions.
  • In 2010, the EU had pledged to reduce its emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels.
  • By 2018, it claimed to have achieved 23 per cent reduction in emissions.
  • In terms of emission reductions, it probably is on track to meet the 2020 target, unlike any developed country outside the EU.

More is needed

  • The EU, however, has not been fulfilling all its climate obligations.
  • The Kyoto Protocol required the rich and developed countries to provide finance and technology to the developing countries to help them fight climate change.
  • In those respects, there has been little climate money flowing out of the EU, especially for adaptation needs of developing countries, and transfer of new climate-friendly technologies.
  • This is the reason why developing countries, like India and China, have been repeatedly raising the issue of unfulfilled obligations of developed countries in the pre-2020 period, that is covered by the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) Report, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the report

Mains level : Climate change induced mortality in India

India saw the most pollution deaths — about 2.3 million — a new report has found. Air pollution — both ambient and indoor — is one of the largest and most obvious types of pollution affecting global health.

About the report

  • The report is titled Pollution and Health Metrics: Global, Regional and Country Analysis.
  • It is released by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP).
  • It seeks to update findings from The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, and provides a ranking of pollution deaths on global, regional and country levels.
  • The report uses the most recent Global Burden of Disease data from the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation.

Deaths in India

  • India is followed by China in the number of pollution deaths, with about 1.8 million.
  • The United States makes the top 10 list with 1,97,000 pollution-related deaths, while ranking 132nd in the number of deaths per 100,000 people.
  • The report includes three lists on pollution-induced deaths. India is the only country that features in the top 10 in all three lists.
  • The top 10 countries with the most pollution deaths include both the world’s largest and wealthiest nations, and some of its poorer ones.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GRAF

Mains level : Need for accurate weather forecasting


The global IT giant IBM plans to make a high-resolution weather forecast model. It will also rely on user-generated data to improve the accuracy of forecasts available in India.

IBM GRAF

  • It is the acronym for Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF).
  • It is the forecast system is called, can generate forecasts at a resolution of 3 kilometres.
  • This is a significantly higher resolution than the 12-kilometre models used by the IMD to generate forecasts.
  • These weather forecast techniques rely on dynamic modelling and collect a trove of atmospheric and ocean data crunch it in supercomputers and generate forecasts over desired time-frames — three days, weekly or fortnightly.

Uses

  • Weather forecasts will be available to individuals for free download and can be used by farmers.
  • The forecast engine will also be used to provide custom forecasts for energy companies, consumer brands, insurance businesses and satellite imagery analysts.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

IUCN study on De-oxygenation of the Oceans

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Osteoporosis of the sea

Mains level : Impacts of oceanic warming


The world’s oceans have less oxygen today than they did up to, say, 1950 or 1960, according to a new study.

About the Study

  • The report is the work of 67 scientists from 17 countries around the world.
  • The IUCN, the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it, released the study at the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently underway in Madrid.
  • According to the findings of the study, the levels of oxygen in oceans fell by around 2 per cent from 1960 to 2010.
  • The deoxygenation of the oceans occurred due to climate change and other human activities (such as the nutrient runoff from farm fertilizers into waterways), the report said.

Threats posed by deoxygenation

  • In many parts of the world, including along the western coast of the United States, fish have been dying en masse — a clear illustration of the ways in which deoxygenation is choking the oceans.
  • Also, the loss of oxygen in the oceans can affect the planetary cycling of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous which are essential for life on Earth..
  • As oceans lose oxygen, they become more acidic, a phenomenon that has resulted in some places in shellfish having their shells degraded or dissolved — the so called “osteoporosis of the sea”.
  • Apart from their declining oxygen content, oceans have, since the middle of the 20th century, absorbed 93 per cent of the heat associated with human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, leading to mass bleaching of coral reefs.
  • Also, since warmer water occupies more space than cooler water, NASA estimates that this is the reason for roughly a third of the rise in sea levels.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Climate warnings: On unmet emission goals

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Need to act on climate change

Context

Two reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on the impact of higher global temperatures on land, oceans and the cryosphere, lend urgency to the task before countries meeting for the UN conference. 

UN conference

  • The member-nations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have been trying to finalize measures under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement to commodify carbon emissions cuts and to make it financially attractive to reduce emissions.
  • The IPCC scientists’ research helps the international community decide on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • They are worried that even under the most optimistic scenarios, human health, livelihoods, biodiversity and food systems face a serious threat from climate change. 

Climate change

  • In the case of oceans and frozen areas on land, accelerated rates of loss of ice, particularly in Greenland, the Arctic and the Antarctic, will produce a destructive rise in sea levels.
  • Increases in tropical cyclone winds, rainfall, and extreme waves, combined with relative sea-level rise, will exacerbate catastrophic sea-level events.
  • All this will also hurt the health of fish stocks. 
  • For countries with a long coastline, local sea level anomalies that occurred once in a century may become annual events, due to the projected global mean sea level rise over the 21st century. 
  • This is alarming for the 680 million residents of low-lying coastal areas, whose population may go up to one billion by 2050, and for those living in small islands.

Way ahead

  • The new IPCC assessment underscores the need for unprecedented and urgent action in all countries with significant greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The industrialized nations need to provide liberal, transparent funding to developing countries under the Paris Agreement. 
  • The principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities, recognize that rich countries reduced the carbon space available to the poor. 
  • The developed world will be focusing in Madrid on creating a global system of accounting for emissions reductions, introducing credible carbon markets, and making some of the gains from these markets available to developing nations to invest in green energy. 
  • Scientists have a high degree of certainty on losses that will arise from climate change. There must be steady progress in addressing the damage. 
  • Even with the highest resolve, the existing Nationally Determined Contributions filed under the Paris Agreement fall short and need augmenting. 
  • There is a gap between planned emissions cuts, and what needs to be done by 2030 to contain global temperature rise at 1.5°C.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Global Carbon Project estimates of emission by India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GCP

Mains level : Impact of slow economic growth on emission


  • The Global Carbon Project, which puts out emission estimates for across the world every year, has said India’s emissions in 2019 was likely to be only 1.8 per cent higher than in 2018.
  • This is significantly lower than the 8% growth that India showed last year and the more-than-5% average growth over the last ten years.

Global Carbon Project (GCP)

  • The GCP is a Global Research Project of Future Earth and a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme.
  • Established in 2001, its projects include global budgets for three dominant greenhouse gases — CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide — and complementary efforts in urban, regional, cumulative, and negative emissions.
  • The main object of the group has been to fully understand the carbon cycle.
  • It collaborates with many groups to gather, analyze, and publish data on greenhouse gas emissions in an open and transparent fashion, making datasets available on its website and through its publications.
  • It releases the Global Carbon Atlas (established in 2013) a tool for visualizing data related to the global carbon cycle.

What arrested the growth

  • The economic slowdown has been blamed for a lower emission growth in the rest of the world as well, and also in China, the world’s largest emitter.
  • Weak economic growth in India has led to slower growth in oil and natural gas use.
  • With a weakening economy, growth in India’s generation of electricity has slowed from 6 per cent per year to under 1 per cent in 2019, despite electrification of villages adding to potential demand.
  • Moreover, the addition of a very wet monsoon led to very high hydropower generation and a decline in generation from coal.

Why the report matters

  • The numbers put out by Global Carbon Project are estimates, and not official.
  • But these offer important indicators to global trends in carbon dioxide emissions in near-real time.
  • In India’s case, the most recent official numbers relating to all kinds of emissions pertain to 2014. Those were submitted to the UN climate body in 2018.
  • According to those numbers, India’s CO2 emissions in 2014 was 1.99 billion tonnes, while its total greenhouse gas emissions, which include other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide, was 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • The GCP 2019 estimates the carbon dioxide emissions in 2019 alone to be about 2.6 billion tonnes. They do not give the estimates of emissions of other greenhouse gases.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)

Mains level : Impact of climate change on Antarctica

Reports have claimed that compared to last year, 40 per cent more tourists, numbering about 80,000, are expected to visit Antarctica, the least visited continent in the world.

Who regulates tourism in Antarctica?

  • All human activities on the continent are regulated by the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed in 1960.
  • The treaty entered into force in 1961 and currently has 54 parties. India became a member of this treaty in 1983.
  • For the purposes of the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude.
  • The treaty sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation, and bans military activity on the continent.
  • The treaty was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. Since September 2004, the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat headquarters has been located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Regulating tourism

  • Tourism in Antarctica started around the 1950s, starting out with a few hundred visitors annually to over 38,000 per year in 2015-2016.
  • Working within the mechanism of this treaty is the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), a body which was founded in 1991 by seven tour operators to promote safe and environmentally responsible travel in Antarctica.
  • While IAATO maintains that the tourism conducted under its banner has virtually no environmental impact on the region, the IAATO rules and guidelines are not mandatory or binding.

How has Antarctica been changing?

  • In September, a report on oceans released by the IPCC said that between 2006 and 2015, the Antarctic ice sheet lost about 155 billion tonnes of mass on average every year.
  • This ice melt from Antarctica likely contributed to sea-level rises.
  • The main sources of environmental damage to the continent include planet-wide impacts such as global warming, ozone layer depletion, impacts of fishing and hunting (of whales and seals) and lastly, the impact of visitors which includes scientists and tourists.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Species in news: Clownfish

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Clownfish

Mains level : Climate change and its impact


The clownfish, made so popular by the animated film Finding Nemo and its sequel Finding Dory, cannot be expected to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, a new study has concluded.

Clownfish

  • Clownfish are found in various parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including the Great Barrier Reef.
  • They typically live at the bottom of shallow seas in sheltered reefs or in shallow lagoons. It is this habitat that is under threat.

Habitat under threat

  • Clownfish breed only in sea anemones, sharing a symbiotic bond.
  • Clownfish shelter in the anemone and are the only fish that do not get stung by the nematocysts of the anemone.
  • The anemone benefits because clownfish can defend the anemone from fish that might eat it. They never live anywhere but in the anemone.
  • Like coral reefs in general, Anemones are under direct threat from the impacts of climate change.
  • The anemones share another symbiotic bond, with algae. Under stress in warming waters, the algae leave the anemones.
  • If the algae stay away too long, the anemone starve to death. Which leaves the clownfish without a home.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

UNDP Accelerator Lab

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Accelerator Lab

Mains level : SDGs and various initiatives for their attainment


The UNDP Accelerator Lab India project was recently launched in collaboration with the government’s Atal Innovation Mission.

Accelerator Lab

  • It seeks to address some of the most pressing issues facing India, including air pollution, through innovation.
  • The laboratory will be housed in the UNDP India office has partnered with the Indian government’s Atal Innovation Mission to achieve its objectives.
  • Other issues that the laboratory will seek to address include sustainable water management and client-resilient livelihood.
  • The vision is to make faster progress in meeting the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the U.N. by 2030.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Dendrochronology

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dendrochronology

Mains level : Bio-indicators


Reconstructions of past responses of vegetation from different ecosystems can predict the impact of climate change on weather and other environmental parameters.

Dendrochronology

  • It is the study of tree rings that hold a wealth of information about not only a tree’s past but also that of the ecosystem in which it lives.
  • Tree rings are layers of growth that a tree acquires in a year.
  • The colour of old wood is always darker than a comparatively newer wood which creates a contrasting pattern of rings year on year.
  • In the years of good growth, characterized by a healthy supply of resources, the ring is thick.
  • It is thin when the ecosystem has dearth of resources.
  • Trees can be great records for past and recent climates, much better than climate records as their density in a region is much greater than climate observatories and their information close enough to actual conditions.

How does Dendrochronology help?

  • As trees are sensitive to local climate conditions, such as rain and temperature, they give some information about that area’s local climate in the past.
  • For example, tree rings usually grow wider in warm, wet years and they are thinner in years when it is cold and dry.
  • If the tree has experienced stressful conditions, such as a drought, the tree might hardly grow at all in those years.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Widening gap: On UN’s Emissions Gap Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emissions Gap

Mains level : IPCC Emissions Gap report

Context

The UN’s Emissions Gap Report comes as a sharp warning to countries preparing to meet in Madrid in December.

Report

    • No more inaction – the report proves that every year of inaction is jeopardizing the main goal of the Paris Agreement: to keep the rise in global temperature over pre-industrial times below 2°C at 1.5°C
    • Emissions gapthe UN report estimates that there would have to be a 2.7% average annual cut in emissions from 2020 to 2030 for temperature rise to be contained at 2°C. The more ambitious 1.5° C target would require a 7.6% reduction. 
    • More risk for high emissions nations – countries with large emissions, such as the U.S., China, the European Union (EU) nations and India, will face more challenging demands if corrective measures to decarbonize are not implemented now.

Action on ground

    • EU is considering an emergency declaration, and the British Parliament adopted a resolution earlier this year. 
    • If sufficient action is not taken, hundreds of millions of people could face extreme impacts.
    • In the U.S., the Trump administration has initiated the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
    • The EU is working on legislation to bring about net-zero emissions. 
    • The U.K., which is responsible for a large share of historical emissions, has turned its net-zero 2050 goal into a legal requirement.

Rich – poor divide

    • Innovation – For these rich nations, the road to lower emissions is mainly through innovation and higher efficiencies in energy use. 
    • Development needs – China and India have to reconcile growing emissions with development needs. 
    • Innovations needed – They should scale up investments in renewable energy, leapfrog to clean technologies in buildings and transport, and greater carbon sequestration.

Role of India

UN report points out that India could do much more. 

    • Renewable – It needs to provide more consistent support for renewable energy.
    • Coal – India should have a long-term plan to retire coal power plants.
    • Other steps – enhance ambition on air quality, adopt an economy-wide green industrialization strategy, and expand mass transport. 
    • Buildings – the energy conservation code of 2018 needs to be implemented under close scrutiny.

Conclusion

India could use green technologies to galvanize its faltering economy, create new jobs and become a climate leader.


Back2Basics

Emissions gap

It represents the difference between current actions to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and what is needed to meet the target.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Eco-anxiety

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Eco-anxiety

Mains level : Environmentalism: Prospects and Challenges


Context

This newscard is inspired by an article published in The Hindu.

Eco-anxiety

  • Eco-anxiety is anxiety about ecological disasters and threats to the natural environment such as pollution and climate change.
  • Variations to the definition exist such as the broader description explaining it as the “worry or agitation caused by concerns about the present and future state of the environment.”
  • It is the helplessness that makes us see ourselves as just one insignificant entity on the planet, unable to reverse the crisis.
  • It is also the sense that no matter how hard we work, nothing will ever be enough.
  • We know the deteriorating climate is affecting our health or our child’s but you do not know how you can stop it.

A new global epidemic

  • Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who started the school strike for climate, warned to be extremely concerned about the matter: “…I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.
  • When she was younger, she fell into a depression and she has claimed that this was because of her worries about climate change.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Acqua alta

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Venice, Acqua alta

Mains level : Sea level rise and its impact


High tides in the Adriatic Sea have caused floods in the historic city of Venice.

Acqua alta

  • Venice is situated on the coast of northeastern Italy, bounded by the Adriatic Sea Acqua alta is the name given to exceptionally high tides in the Adriatic Sea.
  • Water levels this week has reached heights of 1.87 metres (well over 6 feet) — only a little short of the 1.91-metre record that was set during the “great flood” of 1966.
  • The city’s Saint Mark’s Square went under more than a metre of water, whereas the adjacent Saint Mark’s Basilica was flooded for only the sixth time in the last 1,200 years and for the fourth time in the last 20 years.
  • Late autumn and winter are the seasons for high tides or acqua alta in Venice.
  • At the end of October last year, over 75% of the lagoon city went underwater after high tides and stormy weather led to an increase in the water levels of the canals.

About Venice

  • Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region.
  • It is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges.
  • The islands are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers.
  • The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Venice has been known as “La Dominante”, “La Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals”.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] How markets can serve climate

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Climate Finance

Context

The next climate conference has the challenge of deciding how markets can be deployed in the service of climate. 

CDM – Clean Development Mechanism

    • CDM – is a market instrument that can help the industry as well as climate.
    • India leads the initiative – Along with China and Brazil, India is a leader in CDM since its inception in 2007.
    • India benefited from CDM – A number of small and medium projects in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy were financed from CDM.

Challenges to the future of CDM

    • New mechanisms – in 2021, new market mechanisms mandated under the Paris Agreement come into operation.
    • Opposition by developed countries – Most developed countries is strongly opposed to permitting the carryover of CDM projects and their credits into the Paris Pact’s mechanisms.
    • Credits under CDM – The credits lying unsold with the CDM projects could lose their economic worth.
    • New validation procedures – CDM projects will have to go through the process of validation and registration again with the new mechanism. This will involve additional financial and administrative costs.

India – CDM

    • CER – India has about 250 million Certified Emission Reduction (CER) units under CDM issued by the UNFCCC. The number of CDM projects registered in India is 1,376 and 89% of these projects are still active.
    • Declining demand – The demand in the EU, which has been the largest market for CDM credits, has declined sharply over the last decade because of regulatory barriers.
    • Value of CDM credits – The unrealised value of CDM credits could be in the range of almost $5 billion. India stands to lose substantially if existing CDM projects and credits are closed in 2020.

Arguments against CDM

    • No environmental impact – It has failed to demonstrate environmental benefits in addition to the “business as usual” scenario.
    • Difficult transition – Its transition to new mechanisms will have adverse impacts on carbon prices and investor sentiments in future markets.
    • Double counting – double counting could compromise global ambition on reducing GHG emissions.

Alternative arguments

    • Alternative technologies – CDM project proponents should be free to choose available cost-effective technologies as long as the objective of emission reductions is achieved. 
    • Technology is not a judge – “Additionality” in CDM projects should not be judged solely on the criterion of technology. They are also about investments and overcoming market barriers. All CDM projects have passed these tests.
    • Transition is not so quick – The argument that a transition of CDM credits may flood the market and lead to deterioration in the carbon prices in future markets is also over-stretched. Validation and registration of projects under the new mechanism may take at least three years.
    • Possible increase of credit demand – If all CDM units available globally till 2020 are traded immediately, they may be fully absorbed by 2024 — as demand for credits for meeting the Paris commitments increases. 
    • Increased demand from airlines – More than 60% of the credits may be used fully even before 2022 if we take into account the demand from airline operators to meet commitments under CORSIA.

Challenges

    • Environmental integrity is an objective of the market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement. 
    • Double counting – for project/program-based mechanisms, countries should make arrangements to prevent double-counting of emission reduction units in their national accounts. 
    • Nonuniform adjustment principle – the difference in levels of development of countries requires that the adjustment principle should not be applied uniformly to developed and developing countries. 
    • ICAO actions – ICAO is actively considering a plan to limit the use of CDM credits to those issued after 2015. This could be a challenge to the CDM in the future carbon market.

Way ahead

    • For India – India should have a strategy that ensures that it does not get shut out of the CORSIA market even as ICAO enlarges the source of supplies from other countries. 
    • Changing the binaries – the relationship between the project/program-based emission reduction units and the national pool of emission reductions should be changed. 
    • Assessing carbon markets – there is a need for a firm basis to establish access to future carbon markets.

News2Vocab

https://youtu.be/Fbb_I_eZYBc

Back2Basics

CORSIA

It is an emission reduction scheme for international civil aviation effective from 2021.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate Change and Heat-Induced Mortality in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the report

Mains level : Impact of climate change on human mortality


  • A new study has projected that 1.5 million more Indians may die per year from extreme heat due to climate change by 2100.

About the Report

  • The study, ‘Climate Change and Heat-Induced Mortality in India’, was conducted by the Climate Impact Lab in collaboration with the Tata Centre for Development at the University of Chicago.

Highlights

  • India’s energy use will be more than double in the next 20 years, driven largely by fossil fuels.
  • If emissions continue to be as high as they are at present, India will see a death rate of about 60 per 100,000 by 2100, the study says.
  • This projected death rate is double the current death rate from oral cancer in India, which is the most common cancer in the country.
  • It says the average annual temperature in India is expected to increase from 24°C to 28°C.
  • The number of extremely hot days (above 35°C) across India is expected to increase by over eight times, from 5.1 per year in 2010 to 42.8 in 2100. By 2050, there are expected to be 15.8 extremely hot days a year.

Statewise data

  • The NCR is projected to see 22 times more extremely hot days and more than 23,000 climate-related deaths annually by 2100 in a high-emission scenario.
  • Odisha is projected to see the highest increase in the number of extremely hot days, at about 30 times more than what it is today.
  • Punjab is projected to experience 85 extremely hot days a year, the highest among all states.
  • Overall, the six states of UP (4,02,280), Bihar (1,36,372), Rajasthan (1,21,809), Andhra (1,16,920), MP (1,08,370) and Maharashtra (1,06,749) are projected to account for over 64 per cent of the heat-related deaths.

Affected by wealth

  • According to the report, the risks associated with extreme temperatures vary around the world and are dependent upon the wealth of a country.
  • For instance, the impact of a single hot day on the annual mortality rate of a wealthy and warm city such as Houston, US, will be 0.4 deaths per 100,000.
  • The same will be double for a warm and poorer city such as Delhi, at 0.8 deaths per 100,000.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] A portrait of the student as a political activist

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Climate activism


Context

  • Student protests are erupting across world capitals against rising inequality, corruption and a pervasive sense of alienation.
  • Thunberg’s denunciatory speech at the UN’s Climate Action Summit which found sympathetic echoes among students elsewhere also reflects frustration with current rulers for forfeiting the future.
  • It’s imprudent to ignore these uprisings, whether separated by geography or ideology.

Student’s activism

  • There is something else that connects Thunberg with the widening global arc of student protests: Both have re-ignited latent fires of patriarchy.
  • For example, critics of Thunberg’s speech have used different sticks to beat her argument, but they also revealed society’s dominant fault-line.
  • This is an aversion to sharing power with women or younger citizens, including students.

Rising above Patriarchy

  • Thunberg has triggered a predictable backlash from society’s dominant patriarchal system, especially the leadership of many countries.
  • There is indignation at a young girl challenging the writ of the established male political order, repository of all wisdom and knowledge.
  • At the same time, scholars investigate the consequences of patriarchy, i.e., differential access to scarce societal resources, including power, authority and opportunity by gender.”

Where Thunberg lags

  • There is the developed-versus-developing argument, which posits that as a Swedish citizen, Thunberg cannot tell poor nations that they must forgo their development for the sake of climate change.
  • Even Russian president Vladimir Putin, for example, dismissed Thunberg’s UN speech, citing her lack of understanding about special development needs of poor nations.
  • India, as many other developing nations, lags behind developed countries on the basis of per-capita emissions. But then two other issues kick in.

No easy answers for development

  • Even though India’s per-capita emissions lag, the overall emissions might be significant, given India’s population.
  • The second is a more ethical question: Even if we agree that India has a long way to go in playing catch-up it is not agreeable to keep emitting all the way up.

Students in the patriarchal world

  • But, while dismissing her developed-world credentials, Putin also revealed his patriarchal self by suggesting that Thunberg is perhaps being manipulated.
  • His statement, bereft of any proof so far, does betray a common failing: An inability to understand how young people can take an independent stand based on conviction.
  • This patronizing attitude speaks of a larger malaise in society: Misplaced expectations from students.
  • The world is surprised by the Hong Kong students’ force of conviction and prolonged resistance.

Generic ordeal for students

  • The popular notion is students should be studying, not indulging in politics. This ignores a ground reality.
  • Most college students are eligible to vote in general and state elections, which require thinking politics and taking a political decision.
  • But, thereafter, they are then expected to repress their personal political belief system.
  • Decades of emphasis on an employment-based education system has created a large technocratic base that privileges employability over political thought or awareness.

Vitality of independent thought

  • Society’s patriarchal attitude towards students, that youngsters are incapable of independent thought and are best kept yoked to textbooks and classrooms, save the occasional trip to the polling booth, is also at fault.
  • This disregards the historical fact that student protests are capable of fashioning societal changes.
  • The Indian independence movement may not have acquired the necessary mobilization without student participation.
  • The student protests that erupted across the globe primarily against racism, authoritarianism and war—may not have succeeded in shaping a global political revolution, but did accomplish a cultural revolution.
  • It is, therefore, always sensible to heed student protests—because they contain the seeds of future unrest.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory (GOLT)

Mains level : Impacts of oceanic warming


  • Warming waters have less oxygen. Therefore, fish have difficulties breathing in such environments says a new study.

 Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory

  • Among various ways in which climate change is impacting life on Earth, one has been to change the distribution of fish species in the oceans.
  • Scientists have predicted that the shift will be towards the poles. They have explained the biological reasons why fish species will follow that direction.
  • It stems from the way fish breathe which is described as the Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory, or GOLT.

How does it work?

  • Warming waters have less oxygen. Therefore, fish have difficulties breathing in such environments.
  • Additionally, such warming, low-oxygen waters also increase fish’s oxygen demands because their metabolism speeds up.
  • This is because, as fish grow, their demand for oxygen increases.
  • However, the surface area of the gills (two-dimensional) does not grow at the same pace as the rest of the body (three-dimensional).
  • The larger the fish, the smaller it’s surface area relative to the volume of its body.
  • So, the fish move to waters whose temperatures resemble those of their original habitats and that satisfy their oxygen needs.

Impact

  • As the global sea surface temperature has increased by approximately 0.13°C per decade over the past 100 years, “suitable” waters are more and more found towards the poles and at greater depths.
  • This will cause some fish species to shift their distribution by more than 50 km per decade.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Role of mountain streams in carbon cycle

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Role of mountain streams in carbon cycle


  • The role of mountain streams in carbon cycle was recently assessed by some researchers.
  • It was found that Mountain streams emit a surprising amount of carbon dioxide

Mountain streams

  • Mountains cover 25 per cent of the Earth’s surface, and the streams draining these mountains account for more than a third of the global runoff.
  • Researchers have found that mountain streams have a higher average carbon dioxide emission rate per square metre than streams at lower altitudes.
  • This is due in part to the additional turbulence caused as water flows down slopes.

Significance in carbon cycle

  • Researchers found that mountain streams have a higher average CO2 emission rate per square meter than streams at lower altitudes.
  • So even though these streams make up just 5% of the global surface area of the fluvial networks, they likely account for 10% to 30% of CO2 emissions from these networks.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Ozone hole

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ozone hole

Mains level : Ozone depletion and its impact on climate change


  • During September and October, the ozone hole over the Antarctic has been the smallest observed since 1982.

Shrinking ozone hole

  • The annual ozone hole reached its peak extent of 16. 4 million sq km on September 8, then shrank to less than 10 million sq km for the remainder of September and October, satellite measurements show.
  • NASA has described it as great news for the Southern Hemisphere.

Ozone hole

  • Ozone, made up of three oxygen atoms, occurs naturally in small amounts.
  • Roughly 10 km to 40 km up in the atmosphere (the layer called the stratosphere), the ozone layer is a sunscreen, shielding Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.
  • On the other hand, close to the surface, ozone created as a byproduct of pollution can trigger health problems such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • Manufactured chemicals deplete the ozone layer. Each spring over Antarctica (it is now spring there), atmospheric ozone is destroyed by chemical processes.
  • This creates the ozone hole, which occurs because of special meteorological and chemical conditions that exist in that region.

Why it is smallest this year?

  • There have been abnormal weather patterns in the atmosphere over Antarctica.
  • In warmer temperatures like this year, fewer polar stratospheric clouds form and they don’t persist as long, limiting the ozone-depletion process.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

How aerosol formation helps brighten clouds, balance climate

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aerosols

Mains level : Role of aerosols in maintaining Earth temperature


  • Small aerosol particles help in “brightening” of clouds, enabling them to alter Earth’s radiative balance and ultimately its climate, according to a study.

What is Aerosol?

  • An aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets, in air or another gas.
  • Aerosols can be natural or anthropogenic. Examples of natural aerosols are fog, dust, forest exudates and geyser steam.
  • Examples of anthropogenic aerosols are haze, particulate air pollutants and smoke.

Formation in atmosphere

  • When deep, convective clouds in the tropics carry gases high into the atmosphere, they form small aerosol particles in a process called gas-to-particle conversion.
  • As they condense, they grow big enough to brighten lower-level cloud in the lower troposphere.
  • This gas-to-particle conversion brightens clouds in the tropics over both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Why are they significant?

  • These brighter clouds reflect more energy from the sun back to space.
  • Further, this formation of new particle covers about 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface, which means some of the current climate models underestimate the cooling impact of some clouds.
  • Understanding how these particles form and contribute to cloud properties in the tropics will help us better represent clouds in climate models and improve those models.
  • The study showed that in remote places with cleaner air, the effect of aerosol particle formation on clouds was found to be much larger,

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

MOSAiC Mission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the expedition

Mains level : Role of Arctic in global climate


  • Vishnu Nandan, a 32-year-old polar researcher from Kerala, will be the only Indian among 300 scientists from across the world aboard the MOSAiC expedition.

MOSAiC

  • MOSAiC stands for Multidisciplinary drifting observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate.
  • It aims for studying the impact of climate change on the Arctic and how it could affect the rest of the world.
  • MOSAiC is the largest ever Arctic expedition in history, will be the first to conduct a study of this scale at the North Pole for an entire year.
  • Previous studies have been of shorter periods as the thicker sea ice sheets prevent access in winter.

Key highlights

  • Under it, the German research vessel Polarstern has been anchored on a large sheet of sea ice in the Central Arctic.
  • They will allow the water to freeze around them, effectively trapping themselves in the vast sheet of white that forms over the North Pole each winter.
  • They will build temporary winter research camps on the ice, allowing them to perform tests that wouldn’t be possible at other times of the year or by satellite sensing.

Significance

  • The results of MOSAiC mission will contribute to enhance understanding of the regional and global consequences of Arctic climate change.
  • It will be helpful in understanding the reasons behind the sea-ice loss and improve weather and climate predictions.
  • Its expeditions will support safer maritime and offshore operations, increase coastal-community resilience, contribute to an improved scientific basis for future traffic along northern sea routes.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

D28 iceberg

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : D28

Mains level : Climate change and on cryosphere


  • A more than 1,500 sq.km. D28 iceberg recently broke off Antarctica.

D28

  • The iceberg, dubbed D28, broke away from the Amery ice shelf according to observations from European and American satellites.
  • It is about 210 metres thick and contains 315 billion tonnes of ice.
  • The east of Antarctica — where D28 broke off — is different from the west of the continent and Greenland, which are rapidly warming due to climate change.

Not related to Climate Change

  • Scientists found that the event is part of a normal cycle and is not related to climate change.
  • The figures are huge, but iceberg production is part of the normal cycle of ice shelves, which are an extension of the ice cap.
  • Ice shelves have to lose mass because they gain mass.
  • The gain in mass comes from snow falling on the continent and glaciers that move slowly toward the shore.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] At hot sea

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Climate change and warming oceans

Context

As per a recent IPCC report, by 2100, oceans all over the world will absorb five to seven times more heat than they have done in the past 50 years if we do not reduce our emissions trajectory. 

Importance of oceans

    • Oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface.
    • They provide critical ecosystem services such as soaking up the heat and distributing it evenly.

Challenges due to warming oceans

    • This will lead to global sea- levels rising by at least a meter. This will submerge several coastal cities, including Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Surat. 
    • Marine heatwaves are projected to be more intense. They would last longer and occur 50 times more often. 
    • Sea-level rise could also lead to an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, which occur, for example, during high tides and intense storms.
    • As the planet warms, it’s oceans get most of the extra energy
    • Hotter oceans also mean stronger cyclones and storms. This could lead to unprecedented volatility in several coastal regions. For instance, in 2014, Cyclone Nilofar was the first extremely severe cyclone to be recorded in the Arabian Sea in the post-monsoon season. 
    • Earlier, cyclones impacting the country generally originated in the Bay of Bengal and made their landfall on India’s eastern coast. Cyclone Nilofar did not make landfall but it led to heavy rains in the country’s west coast
    • In October last year, a higher than normal surge in sea-level due to the dual impact of Cyclone Luban and high tide swamped several beaches in Goa. Some of them went completely underwater for a few hours. 
    • Warming seas have changed cyclone behaviour in other ways as well. In 2017, Cyclone Ockhi, which originated in the Bay of Bengal, traveled more than 2,000 km to wreak havoc on India’s western coast — the first cyclone to do so in 30 years.
    • The IPCC report warns of more “frequent El Nino and La Nina events”. These events in the Pacific Ocean are critically linked to the southwest monsoons in India. An El Nino caused a severe drought in the country in 2015. 

Way ahead

    • Countries will have to upscale efforts to check GHG emissions.
    • Ramp up investments in infrastructure and knowledge systems to build up peoples’ resilience against extreme weather events. 
    • The latest IPCC report should serve as a wake-up call.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate Vulnerability Map of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Climate Vulnerability Map of India

Mains level : Need and significance of such maps

  • For preparing communities and people to meet the challenge arising out of climate, information specific to a state or even district is needed.
  • In order to meet this need, a pan India climate vulnerability assessment map is being developed.

Climate Vulnerability map of India

  • The map is being developed under a joint project of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
  • This research programme of DST is being implemented as part of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC).
  • Such climate vulnerability atlas has already been developed for 12 states in the Indian Himalayan Region, using a common framework.
  • Now this methodology will be extended to non-Himalayan states so that we can have a national level climate vulnerability profile for India.
  • The atlas is expected to be ready by the middle of 2020.

Why such move?

  • Climate risk is interplay of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. There is a rise in climate-sensitive livelihood of people.
  • While the occurrence of natural hazards such as landslides, droughts and floods is projected to go up, their impact depends on the level of exposure such as presence of people and infrastructure in areas.
  • Hence a common methodology for assessing vulnerability was critical for comparison and for planning adaptation strategies.
  • Vulnerability is the propensity to be adversely affected and can be measured in terms of both biophysical as well as socio-economic factors.
  • Addressing vulnerability can help reduce risk to climate change. It also helps in identifying what makes a state or district vulnerable to climate change.

Mapping strategy

  • The map for the Himalayan region, developed in consultation with states, has details up to the district level.
  • The national map will also do the same, as vulnerability within a state may differ from one region or district to another.
  • A common set of indicators will be used vulnerability profile and ranking of 650 districts all over the country.
  • Among the priority areas identified for research are glaciology, climate modeling, urban climate, extreme events and Himalayan ecosystem studies.
  • In all, climate change cells have been in 25 states in the country and centres of excellence are also being established in states for capacity building.
  • Sensitivity of agricultural production is captured by indicators like percentage area under irrigation; yield variability; and percentage area under horticulture crops.

Take a look at following infographs:

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] The food industry’s role in sustainable development

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Sustainable food production

CONTEXT

Feeding a planet of 7.7 billion people is not easy. 

Stakeholders

    • Every person on the planet has the right to a healthy diet
    • Every farmer has the right to a decent livelihood
    • The roughly ten million other species on the planet need a habitat in which they can survive. 
    • Every business that produces, processes and transports food needs and expects to earn a profit.

Challenges to food security

    • Over 820 million people are chronically hungry
    • Another two billion or so suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamins or proteins. 
    • Around 650 million adults are obese. This is caused in part by ultra-processed foods stuffed with sugar, saturated fats, and other chemical additives.

Agri Industry – Issues

    • Healthfulness of products – Too few companies report on the healthfulness of their product lines or how their products contribute to healthy and sustainable dietary patterns. 
    • Environmental contribution – Too few recognize that they are part of the environmental crisis, either directly in their own production, or as buyers of products produced in environmental hotspots such as the Amazon or Indonesia. 
    • Tax practices – Companies don’t report in detail on their tax practices.

Agri industry – what can be done

    • It is a powerhouse of the global economy. 
    • Solving food crises needs the industry to change its ways.
    • Their practices are the main cause of deforestation, freshwater depletion and pollution, soil erosion, and the collapse of biodiversity
    • Human-induced climate change is wreaking havoc on crop production. 
    • In 2015, all 193 members of the United Nations agreed unanimously to two vital agreements.
      • Agenda 2030 – adopts 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a roadmap to human well-being and planetary safety. 
      • Paris climate agreement – commits the world’s governments to take decisive action to keep global warming to less than 1.5º Celsius. 
    • All companies in the food sector should adopt clear guidelines, metrics and reporting standards to align with the global goals. 
    • Each company must address four critical questions:
      • Do their products and strategies contribute to healthy and sustainable diets? The fast-food culture has to change to promote healthy diets.
      • Too many companies are engaged in chemical pollution, massive waste from packaging, deforestation, excessive and poorly targeted fertilizer use, and other environmental ills.
      • Company’s upstream supplier’s sustainability – no consumer food company should use products from farms that contribute to deforestation.
      • Good corporate behavior – aggressive tax practices that exploit legal loopholes should be avoided, as they deprive governments of the revenues needed to promote public services.

Way ahead

Around the world, young people are demanding a sustainable and safe way of living and doing business. Companies will change. The business sector must urgently recognize, acknowledge and act upon its global responsibilities.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

IPCC report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IPCC

Mains level : Key highlights of the report

  • With representatives from nearly 200 countries at the UN Climate Summit underway in the United States, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made public a special report.
  • It underlined the dire changes taking place in oceans, glaciers and ice-deposits on land and sea.

About the report

  • The ‘Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate’ was prepared following an IPCC Panel decision in 2016 to prepare three Special Reports.
  • It follows the Special Reports on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5), and on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL).

 Unprecedented conditions ahead

  • Over the 21st century, the ocean is projected to transition to unprecedented conditions with increased temperatures, further ocean acidification, marine heatwaves and more frequent extreme El Niño and La Niña events,” according to the report.
  • It is virtually certain that the global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system (high confidence).
  • Since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled.
  • Marine heatwaves have very likely doubled in frequency since 1982 and are increasing in intensity, the report notes.
  • The Southern Ocean accounted for 35%–43% of the total heat gain in the upper 2,000 m global ocean between 1970 and 2017, and its share increased to 45%–62% between 2005 and 2017.

Sea level rise

  • Globally sea levels are estimated to rise 1.1 metre by 2100, if countries are not able to restrict emissions “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • This is likely to have a direct impact on the lives of 680 million people living in low-lying coastal zones.

Back2Basics

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

  • The IPCC is an intergovernmental body of the UN dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change, its natural, political and economic impacts and risks, and possible response options.
  • The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and was later endorsed by the UNGA.
  • Membership is open to all members of the WMO and UN.
  • The IPCC produces reports that contribute to the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the main international treaty on climate change.
  • In addition to climate assessment reports, the IPCC publishes Special Reports on specific topics.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[oped of the day] The nationalist hindrance to climate actions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Action on climate change - global challenges

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.

CONTEXT

Global Climate Action Summit backed by the United Nations Secretary General seeks to bring concrete climate action with the support of global youth protests. It seeks to spur action to address climate change.

Climate change is a reality

  • The scientific advisory group to the summit reports the following
    • five years since 2015 is set to be the warmest of any equivalent recorded period
    • sea-level rise is accelerating
    • oceans have become 26% more acidic since the dawn of the Industrial era
  • Recent weather events show the implications of a warming world
    • this summer saw Delhi-like temperatures across southern Europe
    • Hurricane Dorian rendered large parts of the Bahamas unliveable
    • simultaneous raging fires in the Amazon, central Africa, and even Siberia
  • Scientists are able to link these individual events with climate change. Heatwave in France and Germany was made 8 to 10 times more likely by climate change. 

Root causes continue

Concentrations of CO2 continue to rise and current country pledges would not stem this increase even by 2030.

Rising youth

  • This has spurred an upwelling of social action among the youth. 
  • An estimated 4 million youth turned out in protest on Friday against inaction on climate change around the world.

Problems in addressing the issue at hand

  • A turn toward nationalism in multiple countries has created a short-term, look-out-for-our-own mentality inimical to the global collective action.
  • United States president not only refuses to enhance actions but has actively rolled back measures in the electricity sector and actions to limit methane emissions in the name of competitiveness. 
  • In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has made it clear he sees environmental protections as limiting Brazilian business. 

UN Summit – possibilities

  • Countries have been urged to enhance their pledges for action made as part of the Paris Agreement. 
    • A number of small and mid-sized countries, including the United Kingdom, have already committed to achieving the objective of making their economies net carbon neutral by 2050. 
    • Several large countries such as the United States, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Japan, and Mexico are reportedly not even going to participate in the event at a high level. 
    • China and India have issued hinted that they are doing quite enough.
    • India has highlighted the need for enhanced finance if it is to do more. 
  • By the use of diplomacy, it seeks to induce changes in real economies around a set of ‘action portfolios’.
    • Furthering and accelerating an energy transition toward low-carbon energy
    • Making cities more climate-friendly and more resilient to climate disruption
    • Starting the process of turning energy-intensive sectors such as steel and cement more carbon friendly. 
    • Domestic objectives are central to these actions: 
      • promoting solar energy for energy security reasons
      • making cities more liveable
      • making industries more efficient and competitive

What India should do

  • India is a deeply vulnerable country to climate impacts. It should argue for enhanced global collective action.
  • India has the potential to show the pathway to accelerating action on climate change while pursuing its development interests. 
  • Its energy efficiency track record helps limit greenhouse gases even while saving the nation’s energy. 
  • India is recognised for promoting renewable energy but is working on future coal use. 
  • While some increase in fossil fuel is inevitable for India, it needs domestic energy policies that are more clearly and coherently tuned to a future low carbon world.
  • India should be a truly global climate leader, rather than a leader only among climate laggards. 
  • India and China can jointly help ensure that Africa’s development is powered by renewable energy rather than fossil fuels and based on an energy-efficient future.

CONCLUSION

  • The pathway to enhanced action is unlikely to override entrenched national politics. 
  • The aim should be to make accelerated climate action congruent with national interest by focusing on areas such as energy and urbanisation.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Explained: Global Climate Strike movement

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Climate Strike movement

Mains level : Consequences of inaction on climate change


  • Students in more than 2,000 cities across the world are holding demonstrations under the #FridaysforFuture movement, protesting inaction towards climate change.

The Global Climate Strike movement

  • The #FridaysforFuture movement, also known as the Youth Strike for Climate Movement was started in August 2018 by Greta Thunberg.
  • She sat outside the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks to protest against inaction towards climate change and called for concrete government action.
  • Then in September 2018, Thunberg called for a strike every Friday until the Swedish parliament revised its policies towards climate change.
  • Gradually, students and adults from across the world started mobilizing and demonstrating in front of parliaments and local city halls in their respective countries, making global, a local movement.

Who is Greta Thunberg?

  • Thunberg describes herself as a “16-year-old climate activist with Asperger’s”.
  • She says that she first heard about “something called climate change or global warming” when she was eight years old.
  • Since 2018, when she started skipping school, Thunberg has come a long way to become one of the world’s youngest climate change crusaders.
  • She has delivered speeches at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the EU Parliament, COP24, and to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
  • Earlier this year, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2019, the winners of which will be announced in October.

Why such strike?

  • In the present phase of the strikes, students are demanding “urgent” and “decisive” action in order to keep global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 degree Celsius.
  • The global strikes will commence just as the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 is set to take place in New York on September 23, where Thunberg has been invited.

What started the global school student movements?

  • The global school movements began in 2015.
  • A Climate Strike was organised in November 2015, the idea for which came to the organisers at the Global Youth Summit of 2015.
  • Under this strike, students were urged to skip school and join other protestors. The strike was meant to be a “wake-up call” for the young generation.
  • Their demands at that time were to stop the extraction of fossil fuels and to make the transition to 100 per cent clean energy.

Why are students protesting this time?

  • Even though climate change affects everyone, the present generation of youngsters is the ones who are going to be bearing the brunt of it in the coming decades.
  • The sentiments behind these are the “broken promises” of older generations, members of which continue to extract and use fossil fuels, leading to increased CO2 emissions and subsequently, increasing average global temperatures.
  • Distrust of political leaders among the younger generation is also a reason why they feel the need to take things into their own hands.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AMOC

Mains level : Impacts of oceanic warming


  • While greenhouse warming caused by human activity is heating up the Indian oceans, it is likely to boost a key system of currents in the Atlantic Ocean that plays a key role in determining the weather across the world.

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)

  • AMOC is sometimes referred to as the “Atlantic conveyor belt”.
  • It is one of the Earth’s largest water circulation systems where ocean currents move warm, salty water from the tropics to regions further north, such as western Europe and sends colder water south.
  • It aids in distributing heat and energy around the earth, as the warm water it carries releases heat into the atmosphere, and in absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon.

Why in news?

  • For thousands of years, AMOC has remained stable, but since the past 15 years, it has been weakening.
  • This change could have dramatic consequences for Europe and other parts of the Atlantic rim.

Impact of AMOC slowdown

  • AMOC last witnessed a slow down 15,000 to 17,000 years ago.
  • It caused harsh winters in Europe, with more storms or a drier Sahel in Africa due to the downward shift of the tropical rain belt.
  • The mere possibility that the AMOC could collapse should be a strong reason for concern in an era when human activity is forcing significant changes to the Earth’s systems.

Need for delaying AMOC slowdown

  • Researchers found that rising temperatures in the Indian Ocean can help boost the AMOC and delay slow down.
  • Warming in the Indian Ocean generates additional precipitation, which, in turn, draws more air from other parts of the world, including the Atlantic.
  • This higher level of precipitation in the will reduce precipitation in the Atlantic and increase salinity in the waters.
  • This saline water in the Atlantic, as it comes north via AMOC, will get cold much quicker than usual and sink faster, acting as a jump start for AMOC, intensifying the circulation.

Uncertainty ahead

  • Scientists don’t know for how long this enhanced warming in Indian Ocean will continue.
  • If other tropical oceans’ warming, especially the Pacific’s, catches up with the Indian Ocean, the advantage for AMOC will stop.
  • Moreover, it isn’t clear whether slowdown of AMOC is caused by global warming alone or it is a short-term anomaly related to natural ocean variability.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Delhi Declaration to restore degraded land by 2030

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LDN, UNCCD

Mains level : Global mechanisms against desertification

  • The two week long UNCCD COP ended with a commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030.

Delhi Declaration

  • The Delhi Declaration, a consensus document, agreed upon by more than 100 countries “welcomed” the proposed adoption of a “voluntary” land degradation neutrality target by India.
  • India has committed to restoring at least 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. The Declaration doesn’t detail commitments by other countries.
  • Almost 122 nations, including India, have made voluntary commitments in previous years to ensure that a certain percentage of their degraded land was restored.
  • India had agreed, again on a voluntary basis, to restore 20 million hectares by 2020.
  • Nearly 96 million hectares of land is deemed ‘degraded’ in India.
  • Countries will address insecurity of land tenure, promote land restoration to reduce land-related carbon emissions and mobilise innovative sources of finance from public and private sources.

Click here to access complete draft of the declaration (Not important)


Back2Basics

Explained: Land Degradation Neutrality

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] A case for a differential global carbon tax

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Financing global climate transition

CONTEXT

Climate change is a global problem, and a global problem needs a global solution. 

Background

  • The most recent IPCC report suggests that we might have just over a decade left to limit global warming. 
  • It says total global emissions will need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. 
  • If these targets are not met, tropical regions of the world, which are densely populated in the global South are likely to be most negatively affected because of their low altitudes and pre-existing high temperatures. 
  • Some impact of this was already felt during the Tamil Nadu water crisis this year.

Sharing the burden

  • The global South has historically contributed less to the problem and even at present its per capita carbon emissions are much smaller in comparison to the countries in the global North.
  • But they happen to be at the receiving end of the lifestyle choices made by the global North. 
  • Though time is running out, a genuine global consensus on the mitigation of this problem is missing. 
  • In the absence of a collective agreement, the environment is becoming a casualty. 
  • Both worlds need to contribute to averting this danger in their self-interest. 
  • The burden of adjustment cannot be equal when the underlying relationship between the two worlds has been historically unequal. 
  • A just approach would involve a global sharing of responsibility among countries according to their respective shares in global emissions. 
  • Currently, the most accepted model of mitigating strategy has been the carbon trading process. It has its own limitations.

A new burden-sharing model – Just Energy Transition (JET)

  • It is premised on a sense of global justice in terms of climatic fallouts and the respective contributions of the countries. 
  • It will also help the resource-poor developing countries to make the energy transition without having to worry about finances unduly.

A new way for Climate Financing

  • Fundamentally change the energy infrastructure. It requires massive investments for the green energy program across the world. 
  • Financing
    • On the top of the funnel, apart from funding their own energy transition, countries should partially support the transition for the countries at the bottom.
    • This sharing of the burden of development should be done in a way that inverts this injustice funnel. 
    • Countries have to spend around 1.5% of their GDP. 
  • Global energy transition should be financed through a system of the global carbon tax. Total global carbon emissions are 36.1 billion metric tonnes of CO2. This amounts to a global carbon tax of $46.1 per metric tonne.
  • Those at the receiving end of climate injustice are duly compensated for even as the entire world transitions to greener earth as a result of this process of carbon tax sharing.
  • Currently, the global average of carbon emissions is 4.97 metric tonne per capita. All the countries with emissions above this level are “payers” to finance energy transition for ‘beneficiary’ countries which are emitting below this level.
  • The total amount of “carbon compensation” made by the payer nations comes to around $570 billion. The distribution of this amount across the payer countries is based on their distance from the global average. 
  • Compensated countries and the distribution of this fund across them is also based on how to lower their emissions are in comparison to the global average.
  • Once you add (subtract) the carbon compensation amount to (from) each of the countries, you get the effective carbon tax for them.
  • The two top ‘payer’ countries in terms of absolute amounts of transfers are the U.S. and China since their emissions are higher than the global average. 
  • The effective tax rate for the Chinese is lower than the possible universal tax rate of $46.1 per metric tonne and that’s because their own energy transition (1.5% of China’s GDP) plus the global compensation they make requires a tax rate only of $34.4 per metric tonne. 
  • The burden of adjustment is only partially falling on their shoulders and only because they emit more than the global average.

Robin Hood Tax

  • In terms of ‘compensated’ countries, India comes at the top due to its population size and its distance from the global emissions’ average. India has per capita emissions of 1.73 metric tonnes. 
  • Countries like France, Sweden, and Switzerland are also in the compensated list. Even high-income countries that have currently kept their per capita emissions low are beneficiaries of this globally-just policy. 

Conclusion

It wants all nations to climb down the emissions ladder without necessarily having to give up on their standard of living. It’s a global green Robin Hood tax!

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Basel Ban amendment becomes law

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Basel Ban

Mains level : Global mechanisms against desertification

  • The 1995 Basel Ban Amendment, a global waste dumping prohibition, has become an international law after Croatia ratified it on September 6, 2019.

Basel Convention against global waste dumping

  • Basel Convention in 1995, to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes, according to Basel Action Network (BAN).
  • BAN is a Unites States-based charity organisation and is one among the organisations and countries, which created the Basel Ban Amendment — hailed as a landmark agreement for global environmental justice.
  • The Ban Amendment was originally adopted as a decision of the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties in March 1994.
  • The Ban Amendment prohibits all export of hazardous wastes, including electronic wastes and obsolete ships from 29 wealthiest countries of the OECD to non-OECD countries.
  • The Ban Amendment had been stalled for all these years due to uncertainty over how to interpret the Convention.

Giants are yet to ratify

  • Most countries like the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, India, Brazil, and Mexico are yet to ratify the ban.
  • The US produces the most waste per-capita but has failed to ratify the Basel Convention and has actively opposed the Ban Amendment.
  • Non-adherence to international waste trade rules has allowed unscrupulous US ‘recyclers’ to export hazardous electronic waste to developing countries for so-called recycling.
  • Nearly, 40 per cent of e-waste delivered to US recyclers is exported to Asian and African countries.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] Shades of green

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Land Degradation

Mains level : Land Degradation - Importance for India

CONTEXT

Prime Minister announced that India will scale up its ambition to restore degraded land at the ongoing 14th CoP of the United Nation’s Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Impact

  • The step is significant for India’s global environmental commitments. 
  • This move will now restore 26 million hectares by 2030. That is 5 million hectares more than what is pledged at the Paris Climate Change Meet.
  • This also acknowledges the growing crisis of desertification. According to ISRO’s Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas, nearly 30% of land in the country is degraded. 

Landscape restoration

  • The plan is to reverse degradation by adopting a landscape-restoration approach. 
  • This needs a shift from plantation-oriented afforestation schemes to recognising the importance of ecosystem services of land and forests such as watershed management, biodiversity conservation and improving soil health.

Increasing forest cover

  • Over the past two decades, the Forest Survey of India has reported a consistent increase in the country’s forested area. 
  • But the question of how forests have not been impacted by pressure on land is not answered. 
  • The answer lies in a methodological problem with the FSI’s audits: it uses satellite images to identify green cover as forest and does not discriminate between natural forests and plantations. 
  • Several studies show the limitations of monoculture plantations in sequestering GHG emissions. A study published in the journal Science in 2016 found that the capacity of the green areas in Europe to absorb CO2 has come down significantly despite recording an increase in such areas over the past 250 years.

Land degradation and climate change

  • An IPCC report last month has shown the links between global warming and land degradation. 
  • Climate change not only exacerbates land degradation processes but it becomes a dominant pressure that introduces degradation pathways in ecosystems. 

CONCLUSION

India’s environment establishment now needs to re-evaluate the methods to measure the country’s green cover.

 


Back2Basics

Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry area of land becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] India’s climate score: high on vulnerability, low on resilience

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Climate change risk and importance of resilience

CONTEXT

HSBC’s 2018 assessment of India ranks it as the country most vulnerable to climate change.

Problems

  • Against scientific warnings, carbon emissions continue to rise in China, the U.S., and India.
  • Brazil is encouraging unprecedented deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. As forest fires worsen global warming, the hardest hit by the resulting floods, storms, heatwaves, and droughts will be in India.
  • Cutting hurdles to investment can boost short-term growth and benefit interest groups. But damaging the environment would be self-defeating as it would impact long-term growth and well-being.

India – vulnerability

  • A number of Indian States have experienced extreme heatwaves in the past three years, and Delhi recently recorded a temperature of 48°C, its hottest day in 21 years. 
  • India’s exposure to climate hazards is heightened by the location of its coastline in the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. 
  • India also has a high population density located in the danger zone. For instance, Kerala, which experienced intense floods and landslides in 2018 and 2019, is among the States with the highest density.
  • Increasing temperatures and changing seasonal rainfall patterns are aggravating droughts and hurting agriculture across the country. 
  • Extreme storms like the one that hit Odisha this year and the floods that swept Chennai in 2015 are damaging when infrastructure is not resilient.

Importance of resilience

  1. India must boost its coastal and inland defences. 
  2. It needs to do more to build resilience in the sectors of agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, energy, transport, health, and education. 
  3. The priority for spending at the national and State levels for disaster management needs to rise. 
  4. Adequate resources must also be allocated for implementing climate action plans that most States have now prepared.
  5. India must reinforce its infrastructure and adapt its agriculture and industry.
  6. India should replace urgently its fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Way ahead

  • Global leadership must act with greater urgency.
  • Countries should switch rapidly from polluting fossil fuels to cleaner renewable energy.
  • There is a need for building much stronger coastal and inland defences against climatic damage.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

ANDREX Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ANDREX Project

Mains level : Oceans as carbon sink


  • Scientists have made a new discovery challenging the previous understanding of the link between the Southern Ocean — next to Antarctica — and the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
  • The study published in a journal shows that biological processes far out at sea are the most important factors determining how the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide.

ANDREX Project

  • Researchers studied the ocean circulation and carbon concentration of the Weddell Gyre — a region lying east of the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • The team studied data collected as part of the ANDREX project (Antarctic Deep water Rates of Export) which measured the physical, biological, and chemical properties of the waters in the gyre between 2008 and 2010.
  • The data considered in this study showed unambiguously that, in the Weddell Gyre, the dominant process enabling the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and its removal to the deep ocean included the role of phytoplanktons.
  • The researchers reasoned that as phytoplankton in the centre of the gyre grow and sink, they remove carbon from the surface of the ocean, causing an uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – a process known as the ‘biological carbon pump’.

Role of Southern Ocean in CO2 absorption

  • Carbon dioxide is absorbed in the surface oceans and stored in the deep seas, gradually, over a timescale of 100s to 1,000s years.
  • The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in how the carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere.
  • It helps scientists understand its role during dramatic climate transitions in the past, such as the ice ages, and better predict the current and future climate change.
  • Whether carbon is released into the atmosphere or trapped in the deep ocean, is crucially determined by the transformation of the water from light to dense which is in turn caused by cooling at the ocean’s surface.

Outcomes

  • The dominant factor driving the uptake of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean was not related to dense water formation in the shallow seas close to Antarctica, but rather to biological processes further out in the sea.
  • The results carry implications for our understanding of how the high-latitude Southern Ocean, close to the Antarctic continent, influences atmospheric carbon and global climate on 100 to 1000-year timescales.
  • The findings are important both for our understanding of climate transitions in the past, such as the ice ages, as well as our projections of future climate change.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] A polar region we must keep on the radar in a multipolar world

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Arctic - climate change - geopolitics

CONTEXT

Recent offer by the US president to buy Greenland is indicative of the emerging geopolitics of the Arctic region. Climate change and China are fast destabilizing the status quo and throwing up political, security, legal, and environmental challenges. Autonomous vehicles and robots can populate uninhabitable regions and the next few decades could see the Arctic emerge as a hotspot of great power competition.

Background 

  1. Rising global temperatures are causing the frozen Arctic ocean to melt, opening up new sea routes and opportunities to extract hydrocarbons and minerals from the seabed and the newly exposed land surfaces. 
  2. Countries of the Arctic are trying to take advantage of these opportunities. 
  3. China declared itself a “near Arctic” country and is making determined efforts to extend its footprint in the polar region. Chinese firms have tried to purchase large tracts of land in Iceland, Norway and Denmark. 
  4. There are concerns that Chinese investments in Greenland’s natural resource economy might persuade the local population to secede from Denmark, creating a Laos-like Chinese satellite state between North America and Europe. 

History of superpower behavior

  1. In the 19th century, the US acquired Louisiana, Florida, Alaska and parts of Arizona and New Mexico through purchases. 
  2. China drew dashed lines on a map around the South China Sea it coveted and claimed that it had always belonged to Beijing. 
  3. Russia annexed Crimea by sending unmarked, masked troops to just take over the place.

Arctic politics

  1. How should the region be shared among the eight Arctic countries – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US as there are overlapping territorial claims among them. 
  2. Should these countries be allowed to assert territorial claims at all? They have formed the Arctic Council to institutionalize their self-assigned rights, but many in China, the European Union, India are against conceding sovereignty to the Arctic countries. 
  3. Russia, Canada and Denmark are all claimants to the ownership of the Arctic pole.
  4. Russia is both building up its military capabilities in the region and promoting the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as a new artery of global shipping. It  recently announced that it will impose rules on commercial and naval vessels using the route. 
  5. Both China and the US will contest Russia’s jurisdiction on this water. 
  6. China’s position in the Arctic is all for freedom of navigation, while its position over the South China Sea is denial of freedom to other countries.
  7. China has declared that it wants to be a polar great power. To be considered a polar great power, it must have high levels of polar scientific capacity,scientific research funding, presence in the polar regions, economic, military, political, and diplomatic capacity and international engagement in polar governance.
  8. Russia is keen for India to get involved in the Russian Far East and the Arctic. It liberalized visa procedures to enter Vladivostok, invited Prime Minister as the chief guest at this week’s Eastern Economic Forum.

Indian position

  1. So far, Indian involvement in the Arctic has centred around scientific and environmental studies, mostly in partnership with Norway. 
  2. Indian and Russian energy companies have signed agreements worth billions of dollars on exploration and joint production. 
  3. Conditions are favourable for private Indian investors to go beyond these and explore the Siberia and further North.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[op-ed snap] A new ethics for a sustainable planet

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Climate change - land degradation

CONTEXT

Brazil’s Amazon forests are ablaze with dozens of fires mostly set intentionally by loggers and others seeking greater access to forest land. They are paving the way for a global climate catastrophe. 

Climate Change

  1. Energy and transport are mainly responsible for the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
  2. Changes in land use patterns also have made significant contributions. 
  3. Deforestation, industrial agricultural systems and desertification are major drivers of climate change. 
  4. Agriculture, forestry and other land use activities accounted for a little less than a quarter (23%) of the total net anthropogenic emissions of GHGs between 2007-2016.
  5. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently brought out a special report on Climate Change and Land that covers desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. It makes it clear that unless land is managed in a sustainable manner, the chances for humanity to survive climate change will become smaller.

Examples of Climate Change

  1. Many cities in Europe and elsewhere have seen high temperatures never before experienced. 
  2. Heat waves have also accelerated melting of glaciers in Greenland at a rate that was not anticipated by scientific models until much later this century.
  3. The burning of the world’s largest forest reserves as witnessed in Amazon recently.

Problems in tackling climate change action

  1. The USA has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement stating that it is against the national interests of the U.S.

Importance of Land Management

  1. Land is part and parcel of people’s lives. It provides food, water, livelihoods, biodiversity and a range of other benefits from its ecosystems. 
  2. Decades of poor land management in the agricultural system destroyed farm systems
    • soils have become depleted with heavy use of chemicals
    • farms have few or no friendly insects
    • monoculture has led to a reduction in the use of indigenous crop varieties with useful characteristics
    • groundwater is depleted
    • polluted farm runoff is contributing to contaminated water bodies while destroying biodiversity

Efficient land management

  1. Implementing more sustainable agricultural practices: 
    • reducing chemical input drastically
    • food production through natural methods of agroecology to reduce emissions and enhance resilience to warming
    • avoiding conversion of grassland to cropland
    • bringing equitable management of water in agriculture
    • crop diversification
    • agroforestry 
    • investment in local and indigenous seed varieties that can withstand higher temperatures
    • practices that increase soil carbon and reduce salinisation
  1. Sustainable food systems reduce food waste, which is estimated to be a quarter of the food produced. 
  2. It also necessitates eating locally grown food and cutting meat consumption. 
  3. It is important to put an end to deforestation, conserve mangroves, peatland, and other wetlands.

Examples of change

To address the transnational challenges of climate change and land, the narrow lens of nationalism is not serving us. La Via Campesina, The Transition Network, and Ecoregionalism are civil society movements in that direction. Fridays for Future and Fossil Fuel Divestment are part of such evolving sensibilities. 

CONCLUSION

Land use policy should incorporate better access to markets for small and marginal farmers, empower women farmers, expand agricultural services and strengthen land tenure systems. 

In the Great Transition Initiative, Paul Raskin has said that seeing our place as part of the web of life, instead of at its center, requires a Copernican shift in world views.