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

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

The citizen’s ‘climate rights’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fundamental Rights; Article 14 and 21;

Mains level: Judiciary;

Why in the news? 

The Supreme Court recently held that people have a fundamental right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change while emphasizing that countries like India must uphold their international obligations for healthy and sustainable development [M K Ranjitsinh & Ors. vs Union of India].

 

Background of M K Ranjitsinh & Ors. vs Union of India Case:

    • The case was related to the conservation of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB).
    • In 2021, a writ petition was filed by retired government official and conservationist M K Ranjitsinh, seeking protection for the GIB and the Lesser Florican, which are on the verge of extinction.
    • On April 19, 2021 order by SC was imposed restricting the setting up of overhead transmission lines in a territory of about 99,000 sq km in the GIB habitat in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled that people have a “right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change”, which should be recognized by Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • This judgment was by a three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

The Recent Modification over Earlier Judgement given by the SC:

Who applied for modification of an earlier case?

  • The Ministry of Power, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had applied to modify the 2021 order on grounds that
  • It had adverse implications for India’s power sector, and undergrounding power lines was not possible
  • The Paris Climate Treaty (2015) is one of the key grounds for seeking a modification of the 2021 order.

What SC did say in this case?

  • Underground powerlines: The apex court modified its April 2021 order giving directions for underground high-voltage and low-voltage power lines, and directed experts to assess the feasibility of undergrounding power lines in specific areas after considering factors such as terrain, population density, and infrastructure requirements
  • The earlier direction was not feasible: The ruling acknowledged that its earlier directions, “besides not being feasible to implement, would also not result in achieving its stated purpose, i.e., the conservation of the GIB”.
  • Suitable relationship between FR and DPSP: The court emphasized that when addressing environmental concerns outlined in the Directive Principles of State Policy, they must be interpreted in conjunction with the right to life and personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21.

How have the Courts interpreted Article 21 earlier?

  • Article 21 as the Heart of Fundamental Rights: The Supreme Court (SC) recognizes Article 21 of the Constitution as central to fundamental rights, emphasizing that the right to life encompasses more than mere existence but includes all rights necessary for a meaningful and dignified life.
  • Inclusion of Environmental Rights within Article 21: In the 1980s, the SC expanded Article 21 to include the right to a clean environment, along with various other rights such as education, shelter, clean air, livelihood, and medical care.
  • Actualizing New Rights: Despite the recognition of these new rights, citizens often face challenges in exercising them, particularly in cases concerning environmental issues like clean air.

 

What are the implications of the judgment for environmental jurisprudence?

  • Strengthening Environmental and Climate Justice: The judgment emphasizes bolstering environmental and climate justice by recognizing the multifaceted impacts of climate change on various communities.
  • Expansion of Article 14 and Right to Life: The judgment expands the scope of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law, to encompass environmental concerns.
  • Influence on Public Discourse and Government Policies: The judgment is expected to influence public discourse on environmental issues, shaping perceptions and priorities regarding environmental protection.
  • Establishment of Legal Precedent: By acknowledging the “right against adverse effects of climate change,” the judgment establishes a significant legal precedent.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court’s recognition of citizens’ “right to be free from adverse effects of climate change” expands constitutional protections, strengthens environmental justice, influences policy discourse, and sets a crucial legal precedent.

Mains PYQ 

Q Does the right to clean environment entail legal regulation on burning crackers during Diwali? Discus in the light of Article 21 of Indian Constitution and judgements of the apex in this regard.(UPSC IAS/2015) 

Q The most significant achievement of modern law in India is the constitutionalization of environmental problems by the Supreme Court.” Discuss this statement with the help of relevant case laws. (UPSC IAS/2022) 

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Why Uttarakhand govt wants to evaluate the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate Change; GLOFS;

Mains level: Climate change and concerns;

Why in the news? 

Recently, the Uttarakhand government has constituted two teams of experts to evaluate the risk posed by five potentially hazardous glacial lakes in the region.

Context:

  • The Hazardous Glacial Lakes are prone to Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), the kind of events that have resulted in several disasters in the Himalayan states in recent years.
  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which operates under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, has identified 188 glacial lakes in the Himalayan states that can potentially be breached because of heavy rainfall. Thirteen of them are in Uttarakhand.

About Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs):

GLOFs are disaster events caused by the abrupt discharge of water from glacial lakes  large bodies of water that sit in front of, on top of, or beneath a melting glacier. As a glacier withdraws, it leaves behind a depression that gets filled with meltwater, thereby forming a lake. Example: 4 october 2023 GLOFs in Sikkim.

Factors behind the GLOFs:

  • Avalanches or Landslides: Incidents such as avalanches or landslides can also impact the stability of the boundary around a glacial lake, leading to its failure, and the rapid discharge of water.
  • Due to climate change: Rising surface temperatures across the globe, including India, have increased the risk of GLOFs. Studies have shown that around 15 million people face the risk of sudden and deadly flooding from glacial lakes, which are expanding and rising in numbers due to global warming.
  • Rapid infrastructure development in vulnerable areas has also contributed to the spike in such incidents.
  • Sizable ice chunks in the lake: GLOFs can be triggered by various reasons, including glacial calving, where sizable ice chunks detach from the glacier into the lake, inducing sudden water displacement.

Why are GLOFs under the spotlight?

  • Increased Frequency of GLOFs: Since 1980, GLOFs have become more frequent in the Himalayan region, particularly in southeastern Tibet and the China-Nepal border area. This indicates a concerning trend of glacial melting and lake formation as per Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research in China
  • Extent of Potential Risk: The analysis by  Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research in China suggests that approximately 6,353 sq km of land could be at risk from potential GLOFs.
  • Regional Impacts: Another analysis conducted by Caroline Taylor, Rachel Carr, Stuart Dunning (Newcastle University, UK), Tom Robinson (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), and Matthew Westoby (Northumbria University, UK) indicates that GLOFs are not just a localized issue but have broader regional impacts.
    • Around 3 million people in India and 2 million in Pakistan are identified as facing the risk of GLOFs, highlighting the potential humanitarian consequences of these events.

What is the situation in Uttarakhand?

  • Past GLOF events: Uttarakhand has experienced two major GLOF events in recent years. The first occurred in June 2013, affecting large parts of the state, particularly the Kedarnath valley, resulting in significant loss of life.
    • The second event happened in February 2021 in Chamoli district, leading to flash floods due to the bursting of a glacier lake.
  • Categorization of Glacial Lakes: Uttarakhand has 13 glacial lakes categorized into three risk levels: ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’.
    • Five highly sensitive lakes fall into the ‘A’ category, including Vasudhara Tal in the Dhauliganga basin (Chamoli district), Maban Lake, Pyungru Lake, and two unclassified lakes in Pithoragarh district.
  • Size and Elevation of High-Risk Lakes: The lakes in the ‘A’ category have areas ranging from 0.02 to 0.50 sq km and are situated at elevations between 4,351 to 4,868 meters above sea level. These characteristics make them particularly vulnerable to glacial lake outburst events.
  • Impact of Rising Temperatures: A 2021 study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (PIK) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) suggests that rising surface temperatures could worsen the situation in Uttarakhand.
    • The state’s annual average maximum temperature may increase by 1.6-1.9 degrees Celsius between 2021-2050, potentially exacerbating the risk of GLOFs.

Conclusion: Uttarakhand government forms expert teams to assess risk from 5 hazardous glacial lakes prone to GLOFs. With rising temperatures and past disasters, urgent action is needed to mitigate potential catastrophic flooding.

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On Sustainable Building Materials | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Residential Envelope Transmittance Value (RETV)

Mains level: Measures to improve sustainable material

Why in the News? 

Recently, post COVID-19, India is experiencing a sudden increase in construction. Although expansion offers economic prospects and enhanced living conditions, yet it also presents notable environmental hurdles.

The Major Environmental Concerns Due to the Construction Sector:

  • The cement sector is a hard-to-abate sector in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is an equally critical contributor to the economic development of the country.
  • India is the second largest producer of cement in the world and plans to almost double its production by 2030. It accounts for over 33% of India’s electricity usage, contributing to environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Globally, about 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to the built environment sector, which includes buildings, the distribution systems that supply water and electricity, and the roads, bridges, and transportation systems.
  • The UNEP report makes a case for “Avoid-Shift-Improve” strategies to reduce emissions.

Government Initiatives to make the Construction Sector become energy efficient:

  • The India Cooling Action Plan: It forecasts an eight-fold increase in cooling demand between 2017 and 2037, emphasizing the need for thermal comfort while reducing active cooling demand. Reducing cooling demand by 20-25% and refrigeration demand by 25-30% by the year 2037 are the goals of this plan.
  • Eco-Niwas Samhita (ENS): Initiatives like the Eco-Niwas Samhita (ENS) and Residential Energy Conservation Building Code are crucial steps towards improving energy efficiency in residential buildings.
  • Residential Envelope Transmittance Value (RETV): Introducing metrics such as the Residential Envelope Transmittance Value (RETV) play a significant role in measuring heat transfer through a building’s envelope, thereby enabling better energy efficiency. Lower RETV values are associated with cooler indoor environments and reduced energy consumption. The recommended RETV of 15W/m2 or less promotes optimal efficiency, improved occupant comfort, and lower utility expenses.

 

Materials used in the Construction sector

  • Popular Building Materials: Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) blocks, red bricks, fly ash, and monolithic concrete (Mivan) are commonly used materials in construction.
  • Preference for Monolithic Concrete: Despite sustainability concerns, monolithic concrete construction is favored by developers for its speed, strength, quality, and scalability, particularly in high-rise buildings and skyscrapers.
  • AAC Blocks as Thermally Efficient: RETV evaluation shows AAC blocks consistently have the lowest RETV across all climatic conditions, indicating their potential as a thermally efficient material.
  • Embodied Energy Differences: The literature review reveals substantial differences in embodied energy among materials, with monolithic concrete having an embodied energy 75 times greater than AAC blocks.
  • Sustainability Concerns: Sustainability concerns are prominent across all materials. Red bricks contribute to resource depletion, emissions, and waste, while AAC blocks and monolithic concrete also have environmental impacts

Measures to improve sustainable material

  • Adopt “Avoid-Shift-Improve”: Implement policies and regulations that incentivize the use of sustainable building materials and practices, such as tax incentives, subsidies, and green building certifications.
  • Investing in R&D: Allocate resources for research and development initiatives aimed at creating new, sustainable building materials with improved thermal performance, reduced embodied carbon, and enhanced climate resilience.
  • Promote Market Collaborations: Foster partnerships between academia, government agencies, and industry stakeholders,  in sustainable construction practices and materials development.
  • Awareness: Create consumer awareness campaigns to highlight the benefits of sustainable construction and encourage demand for eco-friendly building materials, driving market demand and adoption.

Conclusion: India’s construction boom poses environmental challenges. Initiatives like Eco-Niwas Samhita improve energy efficiency. AAC blocks show promise for thermal efficiency. Future steps include R&D, industry collaboration, policy support, and fostering market demand for sustainable materials.


Mains PYQ

Q) Adoption of PPP model for infrastructure development of the country has not been free of criticism. Critically discuss the pros and cons of the model. (UPSC IAS/2013)

Q) Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart vilages. Discuss this statement in the backdrop of rural urban integration. (UPSC IAS/2015)

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Live Coral cover in Gulf of Mannar down to 27%

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Corals, Coral bleaching, Gulf of Mannar

Mains level: NA

What is the news?

  • Rising sea temperatures have triggered severe bleaching events, leading to significant coral mortality in Gulf of Mannar.
  • Annual surveys show a decline in live coral cover from 37% in 2005 to 27.3% in 2021.

Corals in Gulf of Mannar

 

  • The Gulf of Mannar is a large shallow bay forming part of the Laccadive Sea in the Indian Ocean with an average depth of 5.8 m.
  • It lies between the southeastern tip of India and the west coast of Sri Lanka, in the Coromandel Coast region.
  • A significant portion of the Gulf of Mannar is designated as the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, established to protect its marine ecosystems, including coral reefs.
  • The park covers approximately 560 square kilometers and encompasses 21 islands and coral reefs.
  • Around 117 hard coral species have been recorded in the Gulf of Mannar.
  • Many islands, like Shingle, Krusadai, and Pullivasal, have witnessed substantial losses in coral cover.
  • For instance, Shingle Island suffered the most with the loss of 72% of its coral cover.

About Corals

  • Coral are made up of genetically identical organisms called polyps.
  • These polyps have microscopic algae called zooxanthellae living within their tissues in a mutualistic relationship.
  • The coral provides the zooxanthellae with the compounds necessary for photosynthesis.
  • In return, the zooxanthellae supply the coral with organic products of photosynthesis, like carbohydrates, which are utilized by the coral polyps for synthesis of their calcium carbonate skeletons.
  • Corals are marine invertebrates or animals which do not possess a spine.
  • They are the largest living structures on the planet.
  • Each coral is called a polyp and thousands of such polyps live together to form a colony, which grow when polyps multiply to make copies of themselves.
  • Coral reefs are also called the “rainforests of the seas”.

Types of Coral

Corals are of two types — hard corals and soft corals:

  1. Hard corals extract calcium carbonate from seawater to build hard, white coral exoskeletons. Hard corals are in a way the engineers of reef ecosystems and measuring the extent of hard coral is a widely-accepted metric for measuring the condition of coral reefs.
  2. Soft corals attach themselves to such skeletons and older skeletons built by their ancestors. Soft corals also add their own skeletons to the hard structure over the years. These growing multiplying structures gradually form coral reefs.

Conditions needed for Corals to Flourish

  • Extensive submarine platforms for the formation of colonies by the coral polyps (not more than 90m below sea level).
  • High mean annual temperature ranging 20-21 degree Celsius.
  • Clean sediment-free water because muddy water or turbid water clogs the mouths of coral polyps resulting into their death.
  • Oceanic salinity ranging between 27-30 ppt.
  • Ocean currents and waves, as they bring food supply for the polyps.

How do corals bleach?

  • When exposed to conditions like heat stress, pollution, or high levels of ocean acidity, the zooxanthellae start producing reactive oxygen species not beneficial to the corals.
  • So, the corals kick out the colour-giving algae from their polyps, exposing their pale white exoskeleton and leading to coral starvation as corals cannot produce their own food.
  • Severe bleaching and prolonged stress in the external environment can lead to coral death.

Reasons for the Decline

  • Climatic Vagaries: Predicted coral bleaching events pose a dire threat to the already fragile ecosystem of the Gulf of Mannar. The IPCC predicts a decline of 70-90% in global coral reefs with a warming of 1.5°C.
  • Ocean Acidification: Increased acidity levels in the ocean due to carbon dioxide absorption exacerbate coral stress and hinder their ability to calcify.

 

PYQ:

2014: Which of the following have coral reefs?

  1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  2. Gulf of Kachchh
  3. Gulf of Mannar
  4. Sunderbans

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 2 and 4 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2, 3 and 4

 

2018: 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 Philippines.
  3. Coral reefs host far more number of animal phyla than those hosted by tropical rainforests.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 1and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

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Navigating the global Waterscape, its challenges

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: World Water Day

Mains level: Issues related to water in rural areas and key measures

Why in the news? 

Today, March 22, 2024, is the 31st World Water Day, with the theme, “Leveraging water for peace”

Context-

  • In the context of climate change-related pressures, the world also needs to foster improved cooperation over water-sharing
  • The global challenge for securing access to clean water persists for about two billion people and its demand keeps rising. Beyond threatening our basic human needs, this scarcity also risks our collective prosperity and peace.

Water diplomacy in a time of extremities-

  • Climate Crisis Impact: Meteorological extremities like heat waves and floods exacerbate concerns about the climate crisis. In India, erratic monsoons affect agriculture, crucial for the $3 trillion economy.
  • Need for Improved Cooperation: Amid climate change pressures, fostering cooperation over water-sharing and embracing universal principles of International Water Law is imperative.
  • Water Diplomacy: Effective governance of shared waters and sustainable water use are essential for better water diplomacy, promoting peace and stability regionally and internationally.
  • Collaborative Governance: Collaborative governance ensures equitable water allocation among nations, fostering regional stability and peace.
  • Inclusive Approaches: Water diplomacy should include indigenous and local communities’ cross-border networks and involve civil society and academic networks to prevent, mitigate, and resolve water-related disputes.
  • Water Quality Data Shortage: There’s a general shortage of water quality data globally, with a significant urban-rural divide, highlighting the need for better access to basic drinking water services, particularly in rural areas.

Addressing rural India’s needs-

70% of India’s rural population relies on water for household activities, with agriculture being the primary livelihood source. Globally, agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater use.

  • Water Accessibility: Improved water accessibility in rural areas can lead to positive outcomes in health, education, employment, and basic human needs and dignity.
  • Water Investments: Increased water investments in rural areas can yield positive outcomes across various sectors, benefiting communities in multiple ways.
  • AI Technology in Agriculture: The efficient use of emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology in agriculture can aid in water conservation efforts. AI can help tackle crop and food loss, minimize chemical and fertilizer usage, and optimize water usage for sustainable and productive outputs.

The issue of transboundary waters

  • Water Pollution: Transboundary rivers like the Meghna, Brahmaputra, Ganga, and Indus are experiencing worsening water pollution, posing significant environmental and health risks to communities relying on these water sources.
  • Lack of Governance: There is a need for sophisticated cross-border water governance to address issues related to equitable water allocation, pollution control, and sustainable management of shared water resources among neighboring countries.
  • Cooperation Challenges: Despite the importance of transboundary water cooperation, many countries face challenges in reaching agreements and implementing effective mechanisms for managing shared water resources. Disputes over water usage, infrastructure development, and environmental impacts hinder cooperation efforts.
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Transboundary water management is crucial for achieving the SDGs, particularly Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). However, inadequate cooperation and governance frameworks pose obstacles to fulfilling SDG targets related to water security, environmental sustainability, and poverty alleviation.
  • Peace and Security: Scarcity of freshwater in transboundary river basins can exacerbate tensions and conflicts among riparian states. Effective management and cooperation on shared water resources are essential for promoting regional stability and preventing water-related conflicts.
  • Ecosystem Services: Transboundary rivers support diverse ecosystems and provide essential ecosystem services such as water purification, habitat for biodiversity, and regulation of water flow. Pollution and overexploitation of these waters threaten the integrity of ecosystems and the services they provide.
  • Climate Change Impacts: Climate change exacerbates challenges related to transboundary water management by altering precipitation patterns, increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and affecting water availability and quality. Adaptation and resilience-building measures are needed to address climate-related risks in transboundary river basins.

Suggestive Measures to Resolve Transboundary Water Issues:

  • Strengthen Governance Structures: Establish comprehensive cross-border water governance frameworks, including bilateral or multilateral agreements, to facilitate equitable water allocation, pollution control, and sustainable management of shared water resources.
  • Enhance Cooperation Mechanisms: Foster dialogue and collaboration among riparian states through platforms such as joint commissions, river basin organizations, and diplomatic negotiations to address disputes and promote mutual understanding of water management challenges.
  • Implement Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM): Adopt IWRM approaches that consider social, economic, and environmental factors to promote sustainable development and ensure the efficient use of transboundary water resources while minimizing negative impacts on ecosystems and communities.
  • Enhance Monitoring and Data Sharing: Improve monitoring systems and data-sharing mechanisms to assess water quality, quantity, and usage trends in transboundary river basins. Enhanced transparency and information exchange can facilitate informed decision-making and cooperation among riparian states.
  • Promote Community Engagement: Involve local communities, indigenous groups, and civil society organizations in decision-making processes related to transboundary water management. Empowering stakeholders at the grassroots level can enhance accountability, foster cooperation, and promote sustainable practices.
  • Strengthen Legal Frameworks: Develop and enforce robust legal frameworks at national and international levels to regulate transboundary water resources effectively. Clear and enforceable laws can provide a basis for resolving disputes and ensuring compliance with agreed-upon water management principles.
  • Build Climate Resilience: Implement adaptation measures to address climate change impacts on transboundary water resources, such as enhancing water storage infrastructure, promoting water-efficient technologies, and integrating climate resilience into water management strategies.

Conclusion-

Navigating the global waterscape’s challenges requires robust governance, enhanced cooperation, and sustainable practices. By addressing transboundary water issues collectively, we can promote peace, ensure water security, and achieve sustainable development goals.

Mains PYQ-

Q- The interlinking of rivers can provide viable solutions to the multi-dimensional inter-related problems of droughts, floods, and interrupted navigation. Critically examine. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Insights from the WMO’s State of the Climate Report, 2023

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: State of the Climate Report, 2023, Key Highlights

Mains level: Surging impact of Climate Change

What is the news-

  • The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) recent State of the Climate report highlights unprecedented climatic shifts, with numerous indicators reaching record levels.

About World Meteorological Organization

  • It is an intergovernmental organization and a specialized agency of the UN for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences.
  • It was established in 1950 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • It origin traces to the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873.
  • Currently it has a membership of 191 countries. India is also a member.

Key Highlights of the State of the Climate Report, 2023

[1] Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)

  • Record-High Concentrations: GHGs like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide reached record levels in 2022, contributing to global warming. The concentration of GHGs observed in 2022 is the latest year for which consolidated global values are available (1984–2022).
  • Long-term Trend: The rise in GHG concentrations underscores the urgent need for concerted efforts to mitigate their impact.

[2] Surface Temperature

  • Historic Spike: Global surface temperatures in 2023 surged to 1.45 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, marking the highest recorded temperature. This temperature rise is attributed to the combined effects of rising GHG concentrations and the onset of El Nino in 2023.
  • El Nino Influence: The onset of El Nino exacerbated temperature extremes globally, amplifying the impacts of climate change.

[3] Ocean Heat Content (OHC)

  • Unprecedented Heat: Ocean heat content reached its highest level in the observational record of 2023. The ocean heat content (OHC) refers to the total amount of heat the oceans store.
  • Long-term Trend: The continual increase in OHC underscores the ongoing challenge of ocean warming and its implications for marine ecosystems.

[4] Marine Heat Waves (MHWs)

  • Widespread Occurrence: The global ocean experienced a significant increase in marine heatwave (MHW) coverage in 2023. The average daily marine heatwave coverage reached 32%, surpassing previous records set in 2016.
  • Duration and Intensity: Prolonged MHWs pose threats to marine biodiversity, ecosystems, and fisheries, highlighting the urgency of climate action.

[5] Antarctic Sea-Ice Extent

  • Record Low: Antarctic sea-ice extent plummeted to 1.79 million km2 in February 2023, the lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. The extent remained below average throughout the year, signalling ongoing trends of sea-ice loss in the Antarctic region.
  • Persistent Decline: The continued decline in Antarctic sea-ice extent underscores the vulnerability of Polar Regions to climate change.

[6] Glacier Mass Balance

  • Unprecedented Loss: Glaciers worldwide experienced the largest annual loss of ice on record in 2022-2023. The annual mass balance, which measures the amount of mass gained or lost by glaciers, dropped to a new low of ‘–1.2 metre water equivalent’.
  • Regional Disparities: Glacial mass balance varied across regions, with North American and European glaciers particularly affected by ice loss.

Significance of the report

  • The figures presented in the WMO report underscore the magnitude of climate change impacts on various Earth systems.
  • Urgent action is needed to address rising GHG emissions, mitigate temperature extremes, protect marine environments, and preserve critical cryospheric regions.

PYQ:

2018: “Momentum for Change: Climate Neutral Now” is an initiative launched by

  1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  2. The UNEP Secretariat
  3. The UNFCCC Secretariat
  4. The World Meteorological Organisation

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[pib] Mission LiFE

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mission LiFE

Mains level: Not Much

Why in the news-

  • Recently an EIACP Event (Environment Information, awareness, capacity building and livelihood Programme) was held on the ‘Mission Life’.

About Mission LiFE

  • Mission LiFE, or Lifestyle for Environment, is a global mass movement initiated by India to encourage individual and community action towards environmental protection and preservation.
  • It was inaugurated by the PM Modi at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021.
  • The program aims to mobilize one billion Indians and individuals worldwide to adopt sustainable lifestyles.

Salient Features of Mission LiFE

  • It serves as a platform to showcase sustainable goals and climate actions implemented by countries and individuals globally.
  • It aligns with the P3 model, promoting Pro Planet People and fostering a sense of collective responsibility.
  • It operates based on the principles of ‘Lifestyle of the planet, for the planet, and by the planet’.

Strategy of Mission LiFE

  • Mission LiFE adopts a three-pronged strategy to shift people’s collective approach towards sustainability:
    1. Nudging individuals to practice simple yet effective environment-friendly actions in their daily lives (demand).
    2. Enabling industries and markets to respond swiftly to the changing demand (supply).
    3. Influencing government and industrial policy to support both sustainable consumption and production (policy).

Practice MCQ:

With reference to the Mission LiFE, consider the following statements:

  1. It is a mass movement initiated by India to encourage individual and community action towards environmental protection and preservation.
  2. It was inaugurated at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021.

Which of the given statements is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

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The problem of equity in IPCC reports | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Important Reports and Analysis;

Mains level: Conservation and Mediation; Government Initiatives; IPCC Reports;

Why in the news?

In a study published on March 4, researchers analyzed more than 500 future emissions scenarios the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessed in its latest reports.

Context-

  • These scenarios relate to mitigation actions like reducing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels and increasing carbon sequestration through forestry.
  • It found that across all 556 scenarios, income, energy use, and emissions disparities between developed and developing countries are projected to continue up to 2050.

What are IPCC assessment reports?

  • The IPCC’s Seventh Assessment Cycle (AR7) includes three Working Group reports covering physical science, climate adaptation, and mitigation action, along with a synthesis report consolidating their findings.
  • Thematic special reports are also issued, all aimed at assessing climate-related scientific literature to provide comprehensive knowledge on climate change.

How does it assess future scenarios?

  • Modeled Pathways: The IPCC utilizes “modeled pathways” to estimate the measures necessary to limit the warming of the Earth’s surface. These pathways are constructed using Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), which analyze human and earth systems.
  • Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs): IAMs are sophisticated models that encompass various disciplines, including macroeconomics, energy, vegetation, and earth systems. They provide insights into potential futures of the energy and climate system, as well as economies.
  • Components of IAMs: IAMs include macroeconomic models that forecast GDP growth, energy models that project consumption patterns, vegetation models that assess land-use changes, and earth-system models that predict climate evolution based on physical laws.
  • Policy-Relevant Guidelines: IAMs aim to offer policy-relevant guidance on climate action by integrating insights from diverse disciplines. They help policymakers understand the potential implications of various mitigation strategies and inform decision-making processes.
  • Shortcomings of IAMs: Despite their usefulness, IAMs have limitations. They primarily prioritize least-cost assessments, which may not adequately address equity concerns. For example, the cost of implementing climate mitigation measures varies across countries and regions.
  • Equitable Burden Sharing: Experts suggest that IAMs could be modified to enable countries to equitably share the burden of climate action. This approach could involve wealthier nations undertaking more substantial mitigation efforts, considering their greater capacity to bear the costs.
  • Global Cooperation: Addressing climate change requires global cooperation and equitable distribution of responsibilities. IAMs can play a crucial role in informing international climate negotiations and agreements by providing insights into the potential impacts of different policy scenarios.

What did the new study find?

  • Projection of Inequities in GDP: The scenarios indicate that per-capita GDP in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, West Asia, and the rest of Asia will remain below the global average even by 2050. These regions collectively represent 60% of the world’s population.
  • Inequities in Consumption and Energy Use: The study identifies disparities between the Global North and the Global South in terms of consumption of goods and services, as well as energy and fossil fuel consumption.
  • Carbon Sequestration and Mitigation Burden: Developing countries are projected to have higher carbon sequestration from land-based carbon sinks (e.g., forests) and greater deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies compared to developed countries. This indicates that poorer countries would bear the burden of both mitigation action and carbon dioxide removal.
  • Disregard for Historical Responsibility: The study highlights that the scenarios disregard the historical responsibility of the Global North in contributing to climate change.
  • Neglect of Future Energy Needs: The scenarios also overlook the future energy requirements of the Global South to achieve development goals, indicating a lack of consideration for the development needs of these regions in the models.

Why does equity matter?

  • Principles of Equity and Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR): Enshrined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), these principles emphasize that climate action should be guided by equity and recognize the differing responsibilities and capabilities of countries.
  • Article 3 of UNFCCC: Article 3 underscores the obligation to protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations based on equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. Developed countries are urged to take the lead in combating climate change.
  • Differential Responsibilities: The principles acknowledge that while addressing climate change is a global imperative, developed nations, being wealthier and more technologically advanced, should bear a greater burden of climate action compared to developing nations.
  • Equity Considerations in Climate Action: Researchers argue that mitigation pathways modeled using Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) often neglect equity considerations. These models may not align with the principle of equity, as they may not prioritize the responsibility of developed regions to accelerate towards net negative emissions and support less developed regions.
  • Contradictory Scenarios: Despite the principles of equity and CBDR, the scenarios projected by IAMs may indicate the opposite, with developed regions not accelerating towards net negative emissions and potentially exacerbating global inequalities in climate action.
  • Need for Redistribution of Carbon Budget: Equity principles imply that developed regions should expedite efforts towards achieving net negative emissions and allocate the remaining carbon budget to less developed regions. However, IAM scenarios may not reflect this redistribution of responsibility.

To address the equity issues highlighted in IPCC reports, several measures can be suggested: (Way Forward)   

  • Equity-Centered Modeling: Modify Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) to prioritize equity considerations, ensuring that mitigation pathways promote fair burden-sharing between developed and developing countries.
  • Redistribution of Resources: Advocate for the redistribution of financial resources and technology transfer from developed to developing countries to support their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • Climate Finance: Increase funding for climate adaptation and mitigation projects in developing countries through mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund, ensuring that resources are allocated equitably and reach the most vulnerable communities.
  • Technology Transfer: Facilitate the transfer of clean and sustainable technologies to developing countries at affordable rates, enabling them to transition to low-carbon development pathways.
  • Policy Coordination: Strengthen international cooperation and coordination on climate policies to ensure coherence and alignment with equity principles, fostering trust and collaboration among countries.
  • Empowerment of Marginalized Communities: Prioritize the inclusion and empowerment of marginalized communities, including indigenous peoples and women, in climate decision-making processes to ensure their voices are heard and their needs addressed.
  • Public Awareness and Education: Promote public awareness and education on the importance of equity in climate action, fostering a sense of shared responsibility and solidarity across countries and communities.

Conclusion:

The study on IPCC’s AR6 scenarios reveals persistent inequities in GDP, consumption, and mitigation burden between developed and developing countries. It underscores the importance of integrating equity considerations into climate action to address historical responsibilities and promote fair burden-sharing.

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Early Bloom of Jacaranda sparks Climate Debate in Mexico

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Jacaranda Trees

Mains level: Impact of climate change on plants blossoms

Jacaranda

Introduction

  • Mexico City’s iconic jacaranda trees, known for their stunning purple blooms in spring, are experiencing an unusual phenomenon this year, with some trees blooming as early as January instead of their typical spring awakening.

About Jacaranda Trees

  • Jacaranda is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Bignoniaceae.
  • Native to tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, with some species found in the Caribbean and Africa.
  • Known for its stunning clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of purple, blue, or white, Jacaranda trees are prized as ornamental plants in parks, gardens, and urban landscapes worldwide.
  • Jacaranda trees hold cultural significance in various regions, such as Brazil, where their blooming heralds the arrival of spring, and South Africa, where they are commonly planted in urban areas.
  • Some species of Jacaranda produce valuable timber, prized for its lightweight nature, durability, and attractive grain pattern, suitable for furniture and decorative woodworking.
  • While generally not invasive, Jacaranda trees can become weedy in introduced regions, though their ornamental value often outweighs any negative impacts, making them well-tolerated in urban landscapes.

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What are IPCC’s Assessment Reports?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: AR6 Report, IPCC, Global Stocktake

Mains level: Not Much

ipcc

Introduction

  • Since 1988, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been pivotal in assessing climate science and guiding global responses to climate change through its assessment reports and special publications.
  • Last years’ Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) underscores the urgency of addressing climate change, highlighting the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

About IPCC

Description
Establishment Established in 1988 by WMO and UNEP
Membership 195 member countries.
Objective Assess scientific info on human-induced climate change, impacts, and mitigation/adaptation options.
Main Activity Prepares assessment, special, and methodology reports, crucial for international climate negotiations.
Scientific Research Relies on global scientific community for literature review and conclusions.
Working Groups Comprises three groups:

  1. I (climate physics),
  2. II (impacts/adaptation), and
  3. III (mitigation)
Reports Each group issues reports, compiled into a synthesis report.

Key Findings of AR6

  • Urgent Warning: AR6 warns that time is running out to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and stresses the need for immediate action to mitigate climate change impacts.
  • Adaptation Challenges: The report highlights challenges in adapting to climate change and offers strategies to enhance resilience in natural and human-made systems.

Initiation of AR7 Cycle

  • IPCC Bureau Meeting: In January 2024, the IPCC initiated its seventh assessment cycle (AR7) with a bureau meeting in Turkey to discuss budgeting, timelines, and the work program.
  • Lessons from AR6: Insights from the AR6 cycle, along with member country submissions, informed discussions on the structure and focus of the upcoming reports.

Global Stocktake and IPCC’s Role

  • Assessing Progress: The global stocktake (GST) evaluates progress towards the Paris Agreement goals, with the IPCC playing a crucial role in providing scientific input.
  • Alignment with Stocktake: Member countries request IPCC reports to align with the GST, facilitating comprehensive assessments of climate action effectiveness.

Scope and Timeline of AR7 Cycle

  • Report Components: The AR7 cycle will include full assessment reports, synthesis reports, methodology reports, and a special report on climate change and cities.
  • Revised Guidelines: Methodology reports will cover short-lived climate forcers and carbon removal, while technical guidelines on impacts and adaptation will be updated.
  • Publication Timeline: The bureau aims to publish special and methodology reports by 2027, with the timeline for assessment reports pending further discussion.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Time Constraints: Balancing the need for timely reports with the rigorous review process and evolving climate research poses challenges.
  • Content Integrity: Shortened timelines may affect the depth and breadth of the reports, potentially compromising their scientific rigor and inclusivity.
  • Engagement Complexity: Limited timeframes may hinder effective engagement with under-represented communities and stakeholders, impacting report quality.

Conclusion

  • The initiation of IPCC’s AR7 cycle marks a critical juncture in global climate science, emphasizing the urgency of addressing climate change.
  • Despite challenges, the IPCC remains committed to delivering comprehensive and scientifically robust assessments to guide climate action.
  • Collaboration between scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders will be essential in navigating the complexities of climate science and fostering sustainable solutions for a resilient future.

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Collapse of the Gulf Stream System

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gulf Stream System

Mains level: Not Much

gulf stream

Central Idea

  • Recent research warns that the Gulf Stream System, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), faces a critical threat of collapse due to unabated global carbon emissions.
  • If left unchecked, this collapse could occur between 2025 and 2095, with a central estimate of 2050.

What is Gulf Stream System?

Description
Origin Begins in the Gulf of Mexico, merging warm waters from the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
Flow Flows northward along the eastern coast of the United States.
Current Carries warm waters from the tropics towards higher latitudes.
Speed and Volume Swift ocean currents with speeds of 2 to 5 miles per hour, transporting 30 million cubic meters per second.
Function Redistributes heat towards the North Atlantic region, influencing climate and weather patterns.
Climate Impact Moderates the climate of Western Europe, keeping it relatively warmer than other regions at similar latitudes.
Interaction with Atmosphere Releases heat and moisture, influencing weather and precipitation.
Importance for Marine Life Supports diverse marine life, serving as a migratory route for fish and marine mammals.

Gulf Stream’s Vulnerability

  • Gulf Stream, currently at its feeblest point in 1,600 years, is grappling with the consequences of global heating.
  • Alarming signals of a tipping point were already observed back in 2021.
  • Past collapses during ice ages have triggered rapid temperature shifts of up to 10 degrees Celsius in just a few decades, underlining the immense climatic impact it holds.

Implications of Collapse

The potential collapse of Gulf Stream could lead to dire consequences worldwide, including:

  • Disrupted Rainfall Patterns: Billions of people in regions like India, South America, and West Africa, reliant on these patterns for food production, would face food insecurity.
  • Intensified Storms and Colder Temperatures: Europe would experience increased storm activity and colder temperatures.
  • Rising Sea Levels: The eastern coast of North America would be at risk of rising sea levels, posing threats to coastal communities.
  • Endangered Ecosystems: The Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets could face severe endangerment.

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Why fashion industry’s ‘recycling’ methods are not saving the planet?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Emissions from Fashion Industry

fashion

Introduction

  • From fast-fashion giants to luxury brands, many have embraced recycled fabrics and eco-friendly messaging as part of their marketing strategies.
  • However, a closer look reveals that these recycling methods often fall short of delivering meaningful environmental benefits.

Challenges in Fashion Industry Recycling

[1] Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

  • Polyester, a ubiquitous fabric, contributes substantially to emissions, with 28.2 million tonnes used in 2016 alone, emitting nearly triple the CO2 compared to cotton.
  • Nylon production generates nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, exacerbating climate change.

[2] Water Intensity:

  • Cotton cultivation, vital for clothing production, consumes vast amounts of water, with estimates suggesting up to 20,000 liters required for a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
  • Predictions indicate potential water crises by 2030 due to escalating water consumption in clothing production.

[3] Water Pollution:

  • Chemical dyeing, essential for vibrant textiles, ranks as the second-largest polluter of clean water globally, introducing harmful substances into waterways.
  • Cotton cultivation’s heavy reliance on chemicals poses health risks and environmental degradation.

[4] Plastics and Microfibers:

  • Polyester clothing sheds microfibers during washing, contaminating oceans and endangering marine life, with significant quantities entering waterways annually.
  • Non-biodegradable microfibers pose risks to human health and ecosystems, persisting in the environment indefinitely.

[5] Landfill Waste:

  • The fashion industry contributes substantially to landfill waste, with discarded clothing doubling over the past two decades due to fast fashion trends.
  • Limited textile recycling exacerbates the landfill problem, with less than 1% of clothing material being reused.

[6] Inability to Recycle:

  • Complex fabric blends and non-biodegradable materials like polyester and nylon present challenges to recycling technologies, hindering effective reuse.
  • China’s ban on recycled textile imports exacerbates recycling issues, limiting disposal options.

[7] Economic and Ethical Considerations:

  • Economic incentives often prioritize short-term profits over sustainability, perpetuating greenwashing tactics and undermining genuine recycling efforts.
  • Unethical labor practices compound sustainability challenges, highlighting systemic issues in the fashion industry’s supply chain.

Methods for Recycling

  • Mechanical recycling: It breaks down textiles into fibers without altering their chemical composition, suitable for natural fibers like cotton.
  • Chemical recycling: It breaks down textiles into basic chemical components, ideal for synthetic fibers like polyester.
  • Steps involved: Both methods involve sorting, shredding, cleaning, processing, and quality control to produce new fabrics or products, reducing waste in the fashion industry.

Moving Towards True Sustainability

  • Research and Development: Invest in innovative recycling technologies capable of processing complex fabric blends.
  • Transparency and Standards: Implement transparent supply chains and rigorous recycling standards to ensure accountability.
  • Consumer Education: Educate consumers about the true environmental and ethical impact of their clothing choices.
  • Regulation and Accountability: Enforce regulations and industry standards to hold fashion brands accountable for sustainability commitments.
  • Circular Economy Promotion: Embrace circular economy principles, such as extended producer responsibility and product lifecycle management, to minimize waste and resource consumption.

Conclusion

  • While recycling initiatives in the fashion industry offer some benefits, they fall short of addressing the sector’s overarching environmental and ethical challenges.
  • Achieving true sustainability demands systemic changes, including technological innovation, transparent practices, consumer awareness, regulatory enforcement, and circular economy promotion.
  • By embracing these principles, the fashion industry can pave the way towards a genuinely sustainable and equitable future.

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India set to transition to Hyperlocal Extreme Weather Forecasting

weather
Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: History of IMD

Mains level: Hyperlocal Extreme Weather: Prediction Challenges

Introduction

  • Weather forecasting is vital for disaster management and decision-making in India, where extreme weather events like rain, cyclones, heatwaves, and droughts pose significant challenges.
  • The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) specializes in predicting weather patterns using sophisticated observation, modelling, and interpretation techniques.

About the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD)

Details
About
  • National Meteorological Service of India;
  • Principal government agency for meteorology and allied subjects
Ministry Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India
Objectives
  1. Provide meteorological observations and forecasts
  2. Warn against severe weather phenomena
  3. Provide meteorological statistics
  4. Conduct and promote research in meteorology
Evolution
  • Established in 1875 after devastating cyclones;
  • Started with just one individual
Advancements
  • Significant progress in understanding monsoons;
  • Enhanced cyclone forecasting post-1999 Odisha super cyclone
Diversified Roles
  • Expanded services beyond weather forecasting;
  • Provides specialized services for various sectors
Global Recognition
  • Recognized as Regional Climate Centre for South Asia;
  • Contributes to UN’s ‘Early Warning for All’ programme
Major Initiatives
  1. National Monsoon Mission (NMM)
  2. Mausam App
  3. Doppler Weather Radars

Challenges in Weather Forecasting

  • Variability in Tropical Regions: Tropical countries like India face inherently higher weather variability.
  • Hurdles: Despite advancements, IMD forecasts still encounter inaccuracies, particularly during winter and summer monsoons.
  • Insufficient Ground Stations: The limited number of ground stations hinders accurate monitoring, with only around 800 automatic weather stations (AWS) and 37 doppler weather radars (DWR) against the required thousands.

Transition to Modern Technologies

  • Prediction Software: Current forecasting software relies on global forecasting and weather research models, which are not the most modern.
  • Emerging Technologies: Start-ups are adopting artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) for predictions, necessitating an integrated data system to fill existing gaps.

Initiatives for Improvement

  • WINDS Program: The Weather Information Network and Data System (WINDS) aim to install over 200,000 ground stations (AWS and ARG) to enhance weather data utilization and promote wider applications in agriculture and other sectors.
  • Air Quality Monitoring: Make in India initiatives facilitate the production of low-cost, reliable sensor-based air quality monitoring systems, aiding in quick installations, particularly in urban areas.

Addressing Air Pollution Challenges

  • Fog and Air Pollution: Dense fog exacerbates air pollution issues, trapping pollutants and posing health risks. Initiatives to manufacture affordable air quality sensors and establish nationwide networks are underway.
  • Role of AI/ML: Integrated AI/ML-based models leveraging data from new sensors can improve fog prediction and aid in timely decision-making regarding transportation and health impacts.

Towards a Comprehensive Infrastructure

  • Advancements: India is on track to establish a robust air quality and weather information network.
  • Integration and Collaboration: Seamless data sharing and system integration among stakeholders are crucial for achieving this national infrastructure.
  • Potential Impact: A unified information gateway will play a vital role in addressing climate and environmental challenges.

Conclusion

  • India’s strides in weather forecasting and air quality monitoring underscore its commitment to enhancing disaster preparedness and environmental sustainability.
  • With concerted efforts and technological advancements, India is poised to establish a world-class infrastructure crucial for tackling climate-related issues.

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Equity concerns in banning fossil fuel extraction

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: COP28

Mains level: urgent need for action on climate change and the challenges associated with transitioning away from fossil fuels

Fossil Fuels are Dead, Long Live Fossil Fuels – Energy Institute Blog

Central Idea:

The inadequate response from governments and corporations to address climate change is fueling a rise in climate change litigation and a push for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and extraction. This momentum is underscored by proposals like a coal elimination treaty by 2030 due to the significant gap between planned fossil fuel production and Paris Agreement goals. However, challenges exist in aligning these proposals with existing climate change principles, particularly regarding equitable transitions for heavily dependent fossil fuel economies like India.

Key Highlights:

  • Rise in climate change litigation due to insufficient action from governments and corporations.
  • Growing momentum to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and extraction, exemplified by proposals such as a coal elimination treaty by 2030.
  • Challenges in aligning proposals with existing climate change principles like Common but Differentiated Responsibilities.
  • Heavily dependent fossil fuel economies, such as India, face difficulties transitioning due to economic reliance on fossil fuels.

Key Challenges:

  • Balancing the need for transitioning away from fossil fuels with the economic dependence of certain countries on fossil fuel revenues.
  • Ensuring equitable transitions for heavily dependent fossil fuel economies.
  • Aligning proposals for phasing out fossil fuels with existing climate change principles like Common but Differentiated Responsibilities.
  • Addressing the discrepancy between planned fossil fuel production and Paris Agreement goals.

Key Terms/Phrases:

  • Climate change litigation
  • Fossil fuel subsidies
  • Coal elimination treaty
  • Production Gap Report
  • Common but Differentiated Responsibilities
  • Nationally Determined Contributions
  • Equitable transitions
  • Heavily dependent fossil fuel economies

Case Studies/Best Practices:

  • India’s reliance on fossil fuels despite progress in renewable energy.
  • The transition strategy of countries like Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom with more diversified economies.
  • COP26 and COP28 decisions regarding phasing out coal and transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Key Quotes/Anecdotes/Statements:

  • “The inadequate response from governments and corporations in dealing with the issue of climate change is leading to… dramatic rise in climate change litigation.”
  • “Those countries that are heavily dependent on revenues and employment in the fossil fuel sector are likely to experience serious difficulties in transitioning away from fossil fuel.”
  • “India’s subsidies on kerosene oil have come under scrutiny in the West as it is found to be inconsistent with Article 2(1)(c) of the Paris Agreement and is also considered as inefficient subsidies.”

Key Examples/References/Facts/Data:

  • The Production Gap Report indicating a significant gap between planned fossil fuel production and Paris Agreement goals.
  • India’s reliance on fossil fuels dominating its power sector despite progress in renewable energy.
  • COP26 and COP28 decisions regarding phasing out coal and transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Critical Analysis:

The article highlights the urgent need for action on climate change and the challenges associated with transitioning away from fossil fuels. It underscores the discrepancy between proposed fossil fuel production and climate goals, as well as the economic dependence of certain countries on fossil fuel revenues. However, it also acknowledges the need for equitable transitions and the complexities of aligning proposals with existing climate change principles.

Way Forward:

  • Implementing equitable transition strategies for heavily dependent fossil fuel economies.
  • Strengthening international cooperation and commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and extraction.
  • Addressing discrepancies between proposed fossil fuel production and climate goals.
  • Integrating principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities into transition strategies.
  • Providing support and creating economic opportunities for those affected by the transition away from fossil fuels.

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Alarm Bells for Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) Region

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hindu Kush Himalayas

Mains level: Read the attached story

Hindu Kush Himalaya

Introduction

  • The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) called for ‘bold action’ and ‘urgent finance’ to prevent collapse of Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH).

About Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH)

Description
Geographic Location South Asia, spanning Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Area Approximately 3,500,000 square kilometers
“Water Tower of Asia” At least 12 rivers fan out in every direction across the Asian continent from it, including:

– Syr Darya and Amu Darya towards the now-dead Aral Sea

– Tarim toward the Taklamakan

– Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra towards the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal

– Yellow river towards the Gulf of Bohai

– Yangtze towards the East China Sea

– Mekong towards the South China Sea

– Chindwin, Salween, and Irrawaddy towards the Andaman Sea

Glaciers Home to thousands of glaciers, including Mount Everest and K2.

A Region on the Brink

  • Biodiversity Hotspot: The HKH region, characterized by its remarkable biodiversity, is described as a ‘biosphere on the brink’ by experts.
  • Scope of Crisis: The speed and scale of habitat and nature loss in the HKH region are deemed ‘catastrophic,’ and urgent action is required.

Alarming Statistics

  • Biodiversity Richness: The HKH region boasts four of the world’s 36 global biodiversity hotspots, 575 Protected Areas, and 335 important bird areas.
  • Biodiversity Loss: Despite conservation efforts, the region has witnessed the loss of 70% of its original biodiversity over the last century.
  • Human Dependence: 85% of mountain communities in the HKH region rely on this biodiversity for food, water, flood control, and cultural identity.
  • Population Pressure: With 241 million people residing in the HKH region, 31% face food insecurity, and half experience various forms of malnutrition.

Human Impact

  • Threat to Humanity: The declining nature in the HKH region now endangers not only animal and plant life but also human societies.
  • Water Tower of Asia: This region, known as the ‘Water Tower of Asia,’ supplies essential ecosystem services, including clean water for one-third of the global population.

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1.5 degree Celsius Threshold: Is Climate Change real?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: 1.5 degree Celsius Threshold

Mains level: Read the attached story

climate change

Introduction

  • The year 2023 witnessed alarming signs of climate change, from record-breaking summer temperatures to shrinking Antarctic sea ice and extreme weather events across the globe.
  • Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, there remains confusion and misinformation on this critical issue.

Is the Earth Becoming Warmer?

  • Temperature Measurement: Temperature measurements since the late 1880s show global warming trends. Satellite data confirms an increase of at least 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1880.
  • Indirect Verification: Analyzing natural indicators like tree rings and ice cores. Observing effects such as warming oceans, shrinking ice cover, and rising sea levels. Multiple monitoring systems enhance confidence in global-scale warming.
  • Acceleration of Warming: Recent decades witness unprecedented rapid warming. The majority of warming observed since 1975. 2022 marked the 46th consecutive year of temperatures above the 20th-century average.

Role of Human Activities

  • Natural Factors: Throughout Earth’s history, natural factors like solar variations and volcanic activity influenced climate.
  • Current Acceleration: However, natural factors exert too little influence and operate too slowly to account for recent rapid warming, as acknowledged by NASA.
  • Greenhouse Gases: The primary driver of global warming is the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and water vapor.
  • Human Influence: Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, have released substantial greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  • Unprecedented Change: Changes that would typically occur over hundreds of thousands of years are now happening within decades.

Overwhelming Evidence

  • Scientific Consensus: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that “human influence on the climate system is clear and growing.”
  • Unprecedented Warmth: 2022 marked the 46th consecutive year with global temperatures exceeding the 20th-century average, with the last nine years ranking among the warmest.

1.5 Degree Celsius Threshold

  • Paris Agreement: 195 countries pledge to limit warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and aim to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Baseline Year: Pre-industrial levels based on measurements from 1850 to 1900, providing a reliable historical reference.
  • Reason for 1.5 Degrees: Scientific consensus: 1.5 degrees is a defense line against severe climate impacts. It avoids extreme and irreversible consequences associated with 2 degrees warming.
  • Continuous Improvement: Lowering the target reduces climate risks further. Science supports aiming for the lowest possible temperature increase.

Consequences of Breaching the Threshold

  • Increased Extreme Weather: More frequent and intense heavy precipitation. Elevated drought intensity and frequency in some regions.
  • Warmer Oceans: Higher number of strong hurricanes with rapid strengthening.
  • Intensified Wildfires: Longer-lasting and more intense wildfires.
  • Rapid Sea Ice Melt: Accelerated sea-level rise.
  • Emerging Consequences: Many of these impacts are already underway. Breaching the threshold exacerbates these effects.

How Close Are We to Breaching the Threshold?

  • WMO Warning: World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) warns of a 66% chance of crossing the 1.5-degree limit between 2023 and 2027.
  • Hottest Year: 2023 declared the hottest year on record, 1.48 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels.
  • Daily Fluctuations: Daily temperatures occasionally exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, but long-term trends are the focus.

Conclusion

  • The evidence of climate change and global warming is undeniable.
  • Human activities, primarily the release of greenhouse gases, are driving these changes at an unprecedented rate.
  • Understanding the science behind climate change is crucial in addressing this real global crisis.

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Extinction of Gigantopithecus Blacki: Environmental Adaptation Challenges

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gigantopithecus Blacki

Mains level: Not Much

Extinction of Gigantopithecus Blacki

Introduction

  • A recent study published in Nature sheds light on the extinction of Gigantopithecus blacki, the largest known primate species.
  • This research provides crucial insights into the species’ inability to survive environmental changes, contrasting with the adaptability of other similar primates.

About Gigantopithecus Blacki

  • Species Description: Gigantopithecus blacki was a great ape species that inhabited China between 2 million and 330 thousand years ago.
  • Physical Attributes: Estimated to stand 3 meters tall and weigh between 200–300 kg, it is considered the largest primate ever to have existed on Earth.
  • Geographical Range and Extinction: The species experienced a significant reduction in geographical range before its extinction, with the most recent fossils indicating a marked decline.

Research Methodology

  • Fossil Analysis: Researchers analyzed fossils from 22 caves in southern China, focusing on dental samples of G. blacki and its closest relative, Pongo weidenreichi.
  • Environmental Reconstruction: The study employed pollen and stable isotope analysis to reconstruct the environmental conditions during the species’ existence.
  • Diet and Behavior Assessment: Changes in diet and behavior within the extinction window were inferred from dental analyses.

Findings on Environmental Changes and Adaptation

  • Initial Habitat: Around 2.3 million years ago, G. blacki thrived in dense forests with heavy cover.
  • Transition in Environment: During the extinction window (295–215,000 years ago), there was a shift to open forests, indicating significant changes in forest plant communities.
  • Dietary and Stress Responses: Dental analysis revealed a less diverse diet and reduced water consumption for G. blacki, alongside signs of increased chronic stress. In contrast, P. weidenreichi showed better adaptation to these environmental changes.
  • Fossil Record Decline: The number and geographical spread of G. blacki fossils declined relative to P. weidenreichi by 300 thousand years ago, supporting the hypothesis of its struggle to adapt.

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To combat climate challenges, the Finance Commission needs to step up

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Determined Contributions (NDCs):

Mains level: 16th Finance Commission should prioritize incorporating climate vulnerability and emission intensity into tax devolution formulas

India sets new climate target: 45% less emission, 50 per cent electricity  from non-fossil fuel-based- The New Indian Express

Central Idea:

The article emphasizes the pivotal role that fiscal federalism, particularly through Finance Commissions (FC), plays in India’s efforts to combat climate change by promoting forest conservation. It highlights the need for the 16th Finance Commission to adopt innovative approaches, such as incorporating climate vulnerability and emission intensity into tax distribution formulas, to align with India’s environmental goals.

Key Highlights:

  • India actively participates in global initiatives to enhance forest cover, combat climate change, and build community resilience.
  • Finance Commissions have historically allocated funds for forest conservation, evolving from grants to a dedicated share of the central tax pool.
  • The 15th Finance Commission became the world’s largest payment for ecosystem services (PES) system, distributing funds based on both forest cover and density.
  • The 16th Finance Commission, appointed in 2021, is crucial for shaping tax distribution principles for 2026-31, coinciding with India’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.
  • The article suggests incorporating climate vulnerability and emission intensity as key parameters in the tax devolution formula to drive action toward India’s National Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Key Challenges:

  • Balancing conservation efforts with opportunity costs, which can be substantial and potentially prohibitive.
  • Addressing pollution challenges, especially the need for funds to tackle issues like crop burning and mangrove restoration.
  • Adapting to changing climate patterns leading to forest fires, necessitating innovative solutions and funding.

Key Terms:

  • Fiscal federalism: The distribution of fiscal responsibilities and resources between different levels of government.
  • National Determined Contributions (NDCs): Commitments made by countries under the Paris Agreement to mitigate climate change.
  • Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES): Systems where individuals or entities are compensated for protecting or enhancing ecosystem services.
  • Tax devolution: The distribution of tax revenues among different levels of government.

Key Phrases:

  • “Largest payment for ecosystem services (PES) system in the world.”
  • “Tax devolution formula as a tool to align with India’s NDCs.”
  • “Finance Commission evolving from a fiscal arbitrator to an orchestrator of climate readiness.”

Key Quotes:

  • “The 16th FC can be pivotal in creating a basis for market instruments like National Carbon Market and National Green Credit Market to succeed.”
  • “The Commission needs to metamorphose from a conventional fiscal arbitrator to an orchestrator of India’s climate readiness.”

Key Statements:

  • “The 15th FC effectively became the largest payment for ecosystem services (PES) system in the world.”
  • “The 16th FC can be pivotal in creating a basis for these market instruments to succeed.”

Key Facts:

  • India’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 33-35% and building an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030.
  • The role of Finance Commissions in mobilizing and distributing funds to states for forest conservation and combating air pollution.

Critical Analysis:

The article underscores the evolving role of Finance Commissions in environmental conservation and suggests innovative approaches for the 16th FC. However, challenges such as balancing conservation with opportunity costs and addressing pollution issues require careful consideration.

Way Forward:

The 16th Finance Commission should prioritize incorporating climate vulnerability and emission intensity into tax devolution formulas. It must transform into a key player in India’s climate readiness by aligning economic growth with environmental imperatives, supporting clean energy initiatives, and addressing regional climate challenges.

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Understanding the EU’s carbon border tax

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Carbon Credit Trading System (CCTS)

Mains level: A concerning development for India is the European Union (EU)’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).

BASIC nations oppose 'Carbon Border Tax' - Civilsdaily

Central Idea:

The European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) poses a significant challenge to India’s manufacturing sector. This policy aims to tax carbon-intensive imports into the EU, impacting key sectors like steel. India’s response involves considering legal challenges and negotiating with the EU while simultaneously developing its own carbon trading mechanisms.

Key Highlights:

  • The CBAM is part of the EU’s strategy to achieve a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
  • India, a top exporter to the EU, is expected to be adversely affected, particularly in sectors like steel.
  • India is developing its own Carbon Credit Trading System (CCTS) to combat climate change and incentivize clean energy investments.

Key Challenges:

  • India faces the challenge of protecting its industries from the potential negative impacts of CBAM.
  • Limited time to formulate and implement effective carbon taxation measures aligning with the Paris Agreement.
  • The EU’s failure to consider factors like cheap labor and alternative production modes influencing industry shifts.

Key Terms:

  • Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM)
  • Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions
  • Carbon Credit Trading System (CCTS)
  • Paris Agreement
  • Special and Differential Treatment provisions

Key Phrases:

  • “Ill-conceived move” – Referring to the Commerce and Industry Minister’s criticism of the CBAM.
  • “Death knell for India’s manufacturing sector” – Describing the potential impact of the carbon tax on Indian industries.
  • “Common but differentiated responsibilities” – Principle agreed upon under the Paris Agreement.
  • “Carbon leakage” – The risk of carbon-intensive production moving from the EU to countries with lax environmental regulations.

Key Quotes:

  • “Proposed carbon tax on imports is an ill-conceived move… death knell for India’s manufacturing sector.” – Commerce and Industry Minister.
  • “India has challenged the CBAM before the World Trade Organization under the special and differential treatment provisions.”

Key Statements:

  • The CBAM is seen as a threat to India’s manufacturing sector and competitiveness in the EU market.
  • India is working on its own carbon trading mechanisms, including the CCTS and the Green Credit Programme Rules.

Key Examples and References:

  • UK’s plan to enforce its own CBAM by 2027, adding to the challenges faced by India’s exports.

Key Facts:

  • 27% of India’s exports of iron, steel, and aluminum products worth $8.2 billion went to the EU in 2022.

Critical Analysis:

  • The EU’s focus on reducing carbon emissions should consider broader factors influencing industry shifts.
  • India’s challenge lies in balancing environmental concerns with protecting its industries and economic interests.

Way Forward:

  • India should actively negotiate with the EU to explore pragmatic solutions, such as returning tax funds for green technologies.
  • Swift action is crucial for India to formulate and implement its own carbon taxation measures aligned with the Paris Agreement.

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Self-pollination in Field Pansy Flower  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Field Pansy Flower

Mains level: NA

Field Pansy Flower

Central Idea

  • Researchers have found that a flower species in Paris, the field pansy (Viola arvensis), is evolving rapidly, exhibiting reduced nectar production and smaller flower sizes.
  • This study aims to understand the impact of these evolutionary changes on plant-pollinator interactions.

Changing Nature of Field Pansy

  • Decreased Nectar and Size: The wild pansy variety in Paris showed a 20% reduction in nectar production and a 10% decrease in flower size.
  • Comparative Analysis: Scientists compared current flower growth with seeds from 20-30 years ago, observing notable changes.
  • Adaptation to Pollinator Decline: The evolution towards self-pollination in field pansies is attributed to the decreasing availability of insect pollinators.
  • Experimental Design: The study employed the “resurrection ecology” method, planting seeds from the 1990s and 2000s alongside their 2021 descendants.

Implications of Self-Pollination and Evolutionary Shifts

  • Contrast with Angiosperm Convention: The move towards self-pollination deviates from the typical reliance of angiosperms on insects for pollination.
  • Long-Term Coevolution: The traditional plant-insect relationship, involving nectar production for pollination, has evolved over 100 million years.
  • Genetic Analysis: Population genetics analysis revealed a 27% increase in selfing rates, with consistent trait shifts across studied populations.

Concerns and Potential Consequences

  • Short-Term Benefits, Long-Term Risks: While self-pollination may offer short-term advantages, it poses long-term survival threats to plants amid environmental changes.
  • Feedback Loop Risks: Reduced nectar production could lead to further declines in pollinator populations, creating a detrimental eco-evolutionary feedback loop.
  • Network Degradation: The study highlights the degradation of plant-pollinator networks, as observed in previous research.

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Outcomes of COP28: Progress and Challenges in Climate Action

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: COP28

Mains level: Read the attached story

COP28

Central Idea

  • Annual Climate Summit: The 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) was held in Dubai, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • High Expectations: There were significant expectations for countries to take decisive steps in addressing the climate crisis.
  • Key Focus Areas: Discussions at COP28 revolved around mitigation, adaptation, finance, and the differing responsibilities of developed and developing nations.

Early Developments: Loss and Damage Fund

  • COP27 Agreement Follow-up: After agreeing to create the ‘Loss and Damage’ (L&D) fund at COP27, COP28 focused on its operationalization.
  • Funding Challenges: Despite the need for substantial funding, contributions have been limited, with the U.S. pledging only $17.5 million.
  • Administration and Access Concerns: The World Bank’s role in overseeing the fund raised issues regarding access, legal autonomy, and responsiveness to emergencies.

Emissions Reduction and Energy Transition

  • Global Stocktake Findings: The first global stocktake (GST) assessed progress towards the Paris Agreement goals.
  • Fossil Fuel Transition: A commitment was made to move away from fossil fuels in energy systems, to triple renewable and nuclear energy capacity by 2030.
  • Continued Use in Other Sectors: Fossil fuels remain in use in sectors like plastics, transport, and agriculture.
  • Transitional Fuels and Climate Justice: The acceptance of natural gas as a transitional fuel was seen as a compromise on climate justice.

Financial Mechanisms for Climate Action

  • Developed Nations’ Responsibility: The GST framework emphasized the leading role of developed nations in climate finance.
  • Private Sector Involvement: The role of private investment in addressing financial gaps was acknowledged.
  • Green Finance Initiatives: New mechanisms, including a $3.5 billion boost to the Green Climate Fund, were established to support sustainable practices in developing countries.

India’s Stance on Climate and Health Declaration

  • UAE Declaration on Climate and Health: This declaration, partnered with the World Health Organisation, was signed by 123 countries but not by India.
  • India’s Concerns: India refrained from signing due to potential impacts on its growing healthcare infrastructure and the need to prioritize healthcare requirements.

Global Methane Pledge and India’s Position

  • Renewed Focus on Methane: The pledge received attention with over $1 billion in new grants for methane reduction projects.
  • India’s Non-Participation: India did not sign the pledge, focusing instead on carbon dioxide emissions and considering the livelihood implications of methane reduction in agriculture.

Assessment of COP28: Achievements and Shortcomings

  • Positive Developments: Notable achievements included the climate and health declaration, emphasis on nature-based solutions, and commitments to sustainable food systems.
  • Contentious Issues: Disagreements persisted over fossil-fuel subsidies, the role of the World Bank in the L&D fund, and private sector engagement in climate action.
  • Mixed Outcomes: While renewable energy targets marked progress, unresolved issues regarding L&D, fossil fuel use, and transitional fuels indicated ongoing challenges.

Conclusion

  • Balancing Act: COP28 showcased the intricate balance between ambitious climate goals and the practical realities of economic and social factors.
  • Continued Dialogue: The outcomes reflect the need for ongoing dialogue and collaboration to address the multifaceted aspects of climate change and sustainable development.

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Climate action needs an updated lexicon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cyclone Michaung

Mains level: impact of shifting baseline syndrome on our perception of environmental changes

 

Cyclone 'Michaung' likely to make landfall on today; rain alert in many  states | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Central idea 

The article discusses the impact of shifting baseline syndrome on our perception of environmental changes, particularly in the context of unprecedented rainfall in south Tamil Nadu. It emphasizes the importance of officialese, or official vocabulary, in effectively communicating climate scenarios, addressing challenges in aligning definitions with lived experiences. The article also explores the global implications of terminological precision in climate negotiations and highlights the need for updated language to navigate evolving climate realities.

Key Highlights:

  • South Tamil Nadu experiences unprecedented rainfall, reversing a northeast monsoon deficit to a 5% excess within 24 hours.
  • Shifting baseline syndrome distorts perceptions of environmental changes, impacting our understanding of losses and resource availability.
  • Climate change introduces a future-oriented shifting baseline, challenging language and memorialization of evolving climate scenarios.

Key Challenges:

  • The deceptive simplicity of defining ‘devastating’ events, influenced by shifting baseline syndrome and community memory.
  • Official vocabulary and definitions, such as those for extreme weather events, may not align with lived experiences and evolving climate realities.
  • The role of officialese in communication, accountability, and global negotiations faces challenges in updating and aligning with ground realities.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Shifting baseline syndrome
  • Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs)
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • Officialese
  • Medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD)
  • Loss and damage fund

Key Quotes and Statements:

  • “What we consider to be ‘devastating’ is deceptively simple because of the shifting baseline syndrome.”
  • “As the impacts of climate change become clearer, we confront a different kind of shifting baseline, one that stretches into the future.”

Key Examples and References:

  • Reference to unprecedented rainfall in Thoothukudi and Tiruchendur compared to Chennai’s Cyclone Michaung-induced rainfall.
  • Examples of official vocabulary limitations, like classifying both Chennai and Thoothukudi under ‘extremely heavy’ rainfall despite varying impacts.

Key Facts and Data:

  • Rainfall data: Thoothukudi recorded 361.4 mm, Tiruchendur 679 mm, and Chennai 500 mm within specific periods.
  • Impact of shifting baseline syndrome on underestimating environmental losses over time.

Critical Analysis:

  • Discussion on the challenge of aligning lived experiences with official definitions, impacting trust in institutions.
  • The importance of updating officialese to bridge the gap between evolving climate scenarios and language used in official reports.
  • Global implications of officialese in climate negotiations, particularly related to the ‘loss and damage’ fund.

Way Forward:

  • Advocacy for localized officialese that reflects State-level laws and community context.
  • Emphasis on the need for new official words to describe unprecedented climate events to ensure effective communication and global cooperation.
  • Acknowledgment of the human toll in defining ‘devastation,’ including challenges in medical certifications and disaster responses.

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How the Hottest Summer ever affected the Arctic?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Arctic Warming

Mains level: Read the attached story

arctic

Central Idea

  • Unprecedented Warmth: The Arctic experienced its warmest summer on record in 2023, warming nearly four times faster than the global average since 1979.
  • NOAA’s Comprehensive Study: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Arctic Report Card, a peer-reviewed analysis by 82 scientists from 13 countries, details the critical impacts of this warming.

Key Findings and Consequences of the Arctic Warming

[1] Thawing of Subsea Permafrost

  • Accelerated Thawing Process: Warmer ocean temperatures are causing a faster thawing of subsea permafrost, which contains organic matter.
  • Release of Greenhouse Gases: This thawing leads to the decay of organic matter and the release of methane and carbon dioxide, intensifying global warming and ocean acidification.
  • Research Challenges: The extent of greenhouse gas release from subsea permafrost and its future impact on global warming remains uncertain due to limited research.

[2] Food Insecurity

  • Decline in Salmon Populations: In Western Alaska, populations of Chinook and chum salmon were 81% and 92% below the 30-year mean, respectively.
  • Size Reduction and Species Variation: The size of adult salmon has decreased, and while Chinook and chum salmon declined, sockeye salmon numbers were 98% above the 30-year mean.
  • Impact on Indigenous Communities: These changes have led to fishery closures and significant cultural and food security impacts in Indigenous communities.

[3] Raging Wildfires

  • Canada’s Severe Wildfire Season: Canada experienced its worst wildfire season, with over 10 million acres burned in the Northwest Territories.
  • Evacuations and Air Quality Impact: The fires led to mass evacuations and affected air quality, reaching as far as the southern United States.

[4] Severe Flooding

  • Mendenhall Glacier Thinning: The Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska has thinned dramatically, causing annual floods.
  • Significant Flooding Event: In August 2023, a glacial lake burst through its ice dam, leading to unprecedented flooding and severe property damage in Juneau.

[5] Greenland Ice Sheet Melting

  • Rare Melting Events: The highest point on Greenland’s ice sheet experienced melting for only the fifth time in 34 years.
  • Continued Mass Loss: Despite above-average winter snow accumulation, the ice sheet lost approximately 350 trillion pounds of mass between August 2022 and September 2023.
  • Contribution to Sea-Level Rise: Greenland’s ice sheet melting is the second-largest contributor to global sea-level rise.

Conclusion

  • Immediate and Long-Term Impacts: The record-breaking temperatures in the Arctic have immediate consequences for local communities and long-term implications for global climate patterns.
  • Need for Further Research: Enhanced research is crucial to understand the full scope of Arctic warming and to develop effective mitigation strategies.
  • Global Responsibility: The findings highlight the urgent need for concerted global efforts to address climate change and its far-reaching impacts.

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Is India doing enough to tackle climate change?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Loss and Damage Fund (LDF)

Mains level: global climate justice movements

 

 

Key Highlights:

  • Shift in Focus: COP28 saw a historic shift as all 198 signatories agreed to “transition away” from all fossil fuels, moving beyond the earlier emphasis on coal.
  • India’s Role: India played a crucial role in modifying language at COP26 and supported the UAE Consensus at COP28, signaling a departure from coal-centric agreements.

Key Challenges:

  • Loopholes and Criticism: The COP28 outcome faced criticism for not achieving a complete fossil fuel phase-out, with concerns about loopholes such as nuclear abatement and carbon capture.
  • Developing Country Struggles: Developing countries, lacking expertise, face challenges in effectively de-carbonizing sectors and raising ambition due to financial constraints.

Key Terms:

  • COP28: The 28th United Nations’ Conference of the Parties.
  • UAE Consensus: The agreement to transition away from fossil fuels in a just, orderly, and equitable manner.
  • Loss and Damage Fund (LDF): Operationalized at COP28, the fund addresses climate impacts but currently falls short in funding.

Key Phrases:

  • “Transitioning away from fossil fuels in a just, orderly, and equitable manner.”
  • “Compromise after 30 years” regarding the LDF funding.
  • “Deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Key Quotes:

  • Harjeet Singh: “The outcomes have been unprecedented and historic.”
  • Karthik Ganesan: “It’s a maze of words. What is clear is that subsidies for fossil fuels must go.”

Key Statements:

  • Developing countries insist on technology transfer and removal of trade barriers for effective renewable energy transition.
  • India faces a dilemma in balancing economic growth, environmental concerns, and contributions to global climate initiatives.

Key Examples and References:

  • India’s role in modifying language at COP26 and supporting the UAE Consensus at COP28.
  • Comparison of the economic value of coal and solar sectors in India.

Key Facts and Data:

  • The LDF has raised $700 million, falling short of the trillions needed to address climate impacts.
  • India is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases with a significantly smaller per capita emission rate.

Critical Analysis:

  • The COP28 outcome is criticized for loopholes and a lack of ambition, emphasizing the need for a balance between economic growth and environmental concerns.
  • The dichotomy of India’s role as a regional power, emerging economy, and its responsibility to contribute to global climate initiatives is highlighted.

Way Forward:

  • Developing countries must focus on technology transfer and removing trade barriers for effective renewable energy transition.
  • India needs to reassess its economic paradigm, prioritizing environmental concerns and adopting a sustainable growth model.
  • Continued engagement, contribution, and learning from large countries like India are essential for global climate justice movements.

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COP28 : Understanding CCS and CDR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: COP28

Mains level: CCS and CCD

ccd ccs

Central Idea

  • At the COP28 climate talks in Dubai, discussions have centered on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon-dioxide removal (CDR) technologies.
  • The interpretation of ‘abatement’ is crucial in understanding the role and limitations of CCS and CDR in climate action.

Understanding CCS and CDR

  • CCS: This involves capturing CO₂ emissions at their source, such as in the fossil fuel industry and industrial processes, and storing them to prevent atmospheric release.
  • CDR: Encompasses natural methods like afforestation and technological approaches like direct air capture for absorbing and storing atmospheric CO₂.
  • COP28 Discussions: The term “unabated fossil fuels” in the draft texts refers to fossil fuel combustion without CCS. The texts advocate phasing out such fuels and enhancing emission removal technologies.

Scale and Efficacy of CCS and CDR

  • IPCC’s AR6 Report: Heavily reliant on CDR for meeting the 1.5 degrees C temperature limit, assuming significant CO₂ sequestration by 2040.
  • Challenges: Direct mitigation to reduce emissions is daunting, making CDR crucial.
  • CCS Limitations: Effective CCS requires high capture rates, permanent storage, and minimal methane leakage from upstream processes.

Concerns and Implications of CCS and CDR

  • Land Use for CDR: Large-scale CDR methods, especially technological ones, require significant land, raising equity, biodiversity, and food security concerns.
  • Impact on the Global South: CDR projects in the Global South could infringe on indigenous land rights and compete with agricultural land use.
  • Financial and Ethical Questions: The cost and responsibility of implementing CDR at scale raise questions about who should bear these burdens.

Pitfalls of CCS and CDR

  • Potential for Increased Emissions: CCS and CDR could inadvertently create leeway for continued or increased greenhouse gas emissions.
  • IPCC Emission Scenarios: To limit warming to 1.5 degrees C, significant reductions in coal, oil, and gas use are required by 2050, with or without CCS.
  • Gas Emissions Pathways: Higher reliance on CCS and CDR could lead to emission pathways with a greater contribution from gas.

Conclusion

  • Critical Decade Ahead: The next decade is pivotal in determining the viability and scalability of CDR methods.
  • Balancing Act: While CCS and CDR offer potential solutions for emission reduction, their implementation must be carefully managed to avoid unintended consequences and ensure equitable and effective climate action.
  • Future of Climate Negotiations: The discussions and decisions at COP28 regarding CCS and CDR will significantly influence the trajectory of global climate action and the pursuit of the 1.5 degrees C target.

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Private: Case Study: Climate Change Impact on Bluefin Tuna

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bluefin Tuna

Mains level: Not Much

Bluefin Tuna

Central Idea

  • The study of how animals adapt to their habitat is crucial, especially in the context of climate change.
  • Recent research on bluefin tuna provides insights into their energy usage and survival strategies amidst the climate crisis.

Ear Stones study of Bluefin Tuna

  • Ear Stones as Biological Records: Scientists use otoliths, a type of stone in fish ears, to analyze a fish’s life history, similar to reading tree rings.
  • Chemical Decoding: The team has developed a method to decode the chemicals in these otoliths to measure the energy expenditure of fish when they were alive.

Temperature’s Role in Animal Metabolism

  • Metabolic Impact: Temperature affects chemical reaction rates, influencing an animal’s metabolism and energy allocation.
  • Energy Allocation Analogy: Rising temperatures can strain an animal’s energy budget, similar to how inflation affects human finances.

Differential Impact of Warming Waters

  • Adaptation Range: Animals in the middle of their species’ temperature range can adapt by increasing metabolism, while those at the warmer edge may struggle.
  • Energy Debt: Rising temperatures can force species to divert energy from growth to essential life processes, leading to adaptation, migration, or death.

Otolith Analysis and Metabolic Traces

  • University of Southampton’s Technique: Researchers have developed a technique to analyze otolith chemistry, revealing the temperature and metabolic rates experienced by fish.
  • Fitness Trackers in Ears: Otoliths act as natural fitness trackers, recording crucial biological information.

Case Study: Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

  • Species Characteristics: Atlantic bluefin tuna are large, fast, and have a high metabolism, enabling them to thrive in colder waters.
  • Population Recovery: Conservation efforts have led to the recovery of bluefin tuna populations in the North Atlantic.
  • Differences in Recovery Rates: The study explored why western (Gulf of Mexico) and eastern (Mediterranean) bluefin tuna populations show varying recovery rates.

Temperature’s Impact on Tuna Metabolism

  • Metabolic Peak: Young tuna’s metabolic rates peak at around 28°C.
  • Effects of Exceeding Optimal Temperature: In the Gulf of Mexico, where temperatures often surpass 28°C, juvenile tuna struggle with higher energy costs, affecting growth.
  • Mediterranean Conditions: Currently, the Mediterranean remains below 28°C during summer, offering more suitable conditions for juvenile tuna.

Future Projections and Conservation Challenges

  • Climate Model Predictions: Even moderate projections suggest the eastern Mediterranean will exceed the 28°C threshold within 50 years.
  • Need for Long-Term Solutions: Protecting tuna requires addressing ocean warming and potential shifts in spawning and nursery areas.
  • Bycatch Risks: New spawning areas in colder regions may expose juvenile tuna to increased fishing risks.
  • Culinary and Ecological Significance: Beyond their value as a delicacy, tuna serve as indicators of broader marine wildlife challenges.

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Private: Who’s Responsible for the Environmental Impact of What We Eat?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Emission potential of food

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

  • The growing demand for agricultural products is leading to significant social and environmental impacts globally.
  • International trade has linked consumers to distant impacts, including carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, freshwater depletion, soil degradation, and labor rights issues.

India’s Role in Global Agricultural Trade

  • Market Influence: India, with its vast size and consumer market, plays a pivotal role in the global trade of agricultural products.
  • Development and Demand: India’s social and economic development has led to increased demand and supply of agricultural products, impacting national resources and necessitating imports.

Food-Based Impact Accounting

  • Production-Based Accounting: Traditionally, environmental impacts are measured where products are produced, but this method has limitations in managing leaks and ensuring accountability and equity.
  • Consumption-Based Accounting: This approach attributes all social and environmental impacts to the final products and consumers, urging them to accept responsibility for the impacts.

[A] Demand Perspective

  • Consumption Responsibility: Since consumption practices in developed economies largely drive resource pressure, the responsibility for production consequences should fall on these consumers.
  • Equity and Justice: This approach aligns with arguments of equity and historical responsibility, shifting substantial impacts from emerging markets like India to developed countries.

[B] Supply Perspective

  • Encouraging Cleaner Production: Consumption-based accounting can motivate producer countries to adopt strategies that reduce the environmental footprint of exports.
  • Improving Living Standards: It incentivizes raising living standards in agricultural supply chains to maintain access to foreign markets.

Benefits of Environmental Action

  • Policy Influence: This approach is gaining traction in policymaking, as seen in the European Commission’s initiative to ensure EU-consumed products do not contribute to deforestation.
  • India’s Unique Position: India’s environmental footprint abroad is growing, highlighting the need for shared responsibility for impacts resulting from domestic demand.

Fairness in Impact Attribution

  • Shared Responsibilities: Consumption-based emissions accounting can facilitate global environmental action by sharing responsibilities between producers and consumers.
  • Balanced Global Action: Developed economies taking responsibility for some impacts can lead to coordinated action, allowing developing economies like India to grow sustainably.

Challenges and Domestic Application

  • Implementation Difficulties: While challenging to implement due to liability, monitoring, and compliance concerns, this approach is valuable for diagnosing impact-intensive consumption patterns.
  • Domestic Application: It can be applied domestically to shift focus from producers to consumers, encouraging changes in consumption behavior.

Conclusion

  • The transition from production to consumption-based accounting represents a significant shift in environmental governance.
  • It emphasizes the responsibility of consumers, particularly in developed economies, for the environmental impacts of their consumption habits.
  • This approach offers a more equitable framework for addressing global environmental challenges, acknowledging the interconnected nature of production and consumption in our globalized world.

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UAE launches ALTÉRRA Fund for Climate Investments

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ALTÉRRA Fund

Mains level: NA

Central Idea

  • The United Arab Emirates, as the host of COP-28, has committed US$30 billion to establish ALTÉRRA, a climate investment fund.

What is ALTÉRRA Fund?

  • Fund Objective: ALTÉRRA aims to mobilize US$250 billion globally by 2030, aspiring to be the largest fund dedicated to climate investments.
  • Focus: The fund is designed to transform emerging markets and developing economies through climate investments.
  • Clean Energy in India: An initial portion of the fund is allocated for developing over 6.0 GW of new clean energy capacity in India, including 1,200 MW of wind and solar projects expected to be operational by 2025.
  • Financial Requirements: Emerging markets and developing economies reportedly need US$2.4 trillion annually by 2030 to address climate change.
  • Key Verticals: ALTÉRRA will focus on four main areas: Energy Transition, Industrial Decarbonisation, Sustainable Living, and Climate Technologies.

Leadership and Management

  • Chair: COP-28 President, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, will chair the ALTÉRRA fund.
  • Management Entity: Lunate, an independent global investment manager, has established ALTÉRRA.
  • Domicile: The fund is domiciled in the Abu Dhabi Global Market.

Mission and Impact

  • Transformational Solution: ALTÉRRA is positioned as a transformative solution for attracting private capital into climate-focused investments.
  • Multiplier Effect: The fund’s scale and structure are expected to create a significant impact in climate investment.
  • Reflection of COP Presidency’s Action Agenda: The launch of ALTÉRRA aligns with the UAE’s COP Presidency Action Agenda and efforts to make climate finance more available, accessible, and affordable.

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Antarctica’s Ozone Hole expands mid-spring since 2001

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ozone Layer and Ozone Hole

Mains level: NA

ozone

Central Idea

  • Recent research published in the journal Nature Communications has revealed a concerning trend in the Antarctic ozone layer during mid-spring (October).
  • Contrary to previously reported recovery trends in total ozone, the core of the Antarctic ozone in mid-spring has experienced a significant 26% reduction since 2004.

Ozone Layer and Ozone Hole

Location Stratosphere, approximately 10-30 km above Earth’s surface.
Composition Composed of ozone (O3) molecules.

Unit of measurement: Dobsob Unit (DU)

Function Acts as a protective shield, absorbing and blocking a significant portion of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Importance Essential for protecting life on Earth by preventing excessive UV radiation, which can harm living organisms and the environment.
Ozone-depleting Substances Threatened by ODS like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, and other synthetic compounds commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning, and aerosol propellants.
Montreal Protocol An international treaty adopted in 1987 to phase out the production and consumption of ODS, resulting in significant recovery of the ozone layer.
Current Status The ozone layer is in the process of recovery due to the success of the Montreal Protocol.
Environmental Impact Protects ecosystems, prevents skin cancer, cataracts, and other health issues in humans.
Additional Facts • The size of the ozone hole over Antarctica varies annually, opening in August and closing in November or December.

• Special winds caused by the Earth’s rotation create a unique climate over Antarctica, preventing mixing with surrounding air.

• When these winds subside, the hole closes.

Shift in Ozone Trends

  • Mid-Spring Ozone Depletion: The study’s findings reveal a notable decline in mid-spring (October) ozone levels within the middle stratospheric layer, contrary to previous expectations of recovery.
  • Early Spring Recovery: Surprisingly, early spring (September) still shows slight ozone increases or a modest recovery of the ozone hole.

Implications of Ozone Variability

  • Antarctic Stratospheric Ozone: Antarctic stratospheric ozone plays a critical role in influencing climate patterns across the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Understanding Ozone Variability: Ongoing research aims to understand the reasons behind the observed ozone variability, particularly in the context of the Southern Hemisphere’s atmospheric changes.

Key Findings

  • Recovery Trends Re-evaluated: When considering satellite data from 2022, previously reported recovery trends in Antarctic spring total ozone, observed since 2001, no longer hold.
  • Middle Stratosphere Impact: The middle stratosphere has witnessed continued, significant ozone reduction since 2004, culminating in a 26% loss within the core of the ozone hole.
  • Potential Causes: The study suggests that changes in the mesosphere, the atmospheric layer above the stratosphere and the ozone layer, may be driving this reduction.
  • Major triggers: Scientists speculate that the extensive ozone hole this year may be linked to volcanic eruptions in Hunga Tonga, Tonga, between December 2022 and January 2023.

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At COP 28, a chance to get past fear-mongering

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: COP 28

Mains level: climate change action is essential for economic sustainability

How Can Climate Action Be Inclusive? | Global Climate Change

Central idea

The article emphasizes that climate change action is essential for economic sustainability and counters the notion that it is unaffordable. It highlights the impact of fossil fuels on the cost-of-living crisis and advocates for redirecting funds from fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy. The author calls for international cooperation at COP28 to triple renewable energy capacity, double energy efficiency, and address climate justice concerns.

Key Highlights:

  • Global Cost-of-Living Crisis: Inflation’s widespread impact on billions globally, prompting a false narrative of green initiatives against the interests of the poor.
  • Fossil Fuels and Economic Strain: Fossil fuels, a major driver of the cost-of-living crisis, contribute to economic strain, affecting household budgets and impeding growth.
  • Worsening Climate Disasters: Amid rising costs, climate disasters intensify, causing economic damage and affecting millions globally.

Key Challenges:

  • Fossil Fuel Dependency: Persistent reliance on fossil fuels remains a significant hurdle to addressing the cost-of-living crisis and mitigating climate change.
  • Government Spending on Subsidies: Trillions spent on fossil fuel subsidies divert funds from essential services and hinder investments in renewable energy.

Key Terms:

  • Cost-of-Living Crisis: Global economic strain exacerbated by inflation.
  • Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Government financial support to the fossil fuel industry.
  • Renewable Energy: Sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.
  • Climate Disasters: Increasingly severe climate-related events.
  • Energy Access: Ensuring access to reliable and affordable energy.

Key Phrases for value addition:

  • “Green versus poor” Narrative: Misleading rhetoric obscuring the need for a sustainable future.
  • “Fossil fuel taps can’t be turned off overnight”: Recognizing the gradual nature of transitioning from fossil fuels.
  • “Global Stocktake on climate action”: Assessment of progress and tools to speed up climate action.
  • “Tripling the world’s renewable energy capacity”: Ambitious goals for renewable energy expansion.
  • “Fear Mongering”: Misleading tactics to discourage climate action.

Key Examples and References:

  • Impact of Fossil Fuel Prices: Household bills rising up to $1,000 in 2022.
  • Government Spending: Trillions spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2022.

Key Facts:

  • Climate Predictions: This year projected to be the hottest in 125,000 years.
  • Inflation Impact: Disproportionately affecting the poorest households.
  • Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Diverting funds from essential services and renewable energy projects.

Key Data:

  • Global Spending on Subsidies: Trillions allocated to fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Climate Impact: Economic damage and lives affected by escalating climate disasters.

Critical Analysis:

  • The article underscores the interconnected challenges of inflation, fossil fuel dependency, and climate change.
  • Governments’ hesitation to phase out subsidies is identified as a critical obstacle.
  • Emphasis on the imperative shift to renewable energy for economic growth and effective climate action.

Way Forward:

  • Advocacy: Push for responsible phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Encouragement: Support governments in investing in renewable energy and energy-efficient solutions.
  • Climate Justice: Back initiatives addressing climate justice and adaptation to climate impacts.

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Recognising the impact of climate change on health

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: urban heat island, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28)

Mains level: susceptibility to climate change impacts on health

Framework on climate change and its impact on health (adapted from... | Download Scientific Diagram

Central idea 

As India gets ready for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), it is important to examine how climate change affects the country’s health. India’s inadequate health systems make our population particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate risks on health. Climate change affects health directly, causing more sickness and death. In more indirect ways, it affects nutrition, reduces working hours, and increases climate-induced stress.

Key Highlights:

  • Vulnerability of Health Systems: Inadequate health infrastructure in India heightens susceptibility to climate change impacts on health.
  • Concerns Over Temperature Rise: Failure to cap global temperature rise raises fears of uninhabitable regions with a 2°C increase.

Challenges:

  • Double Morbidity Burden: Convergence of communicable and non-communicable diseases worsens health challenges.
  • Neglected Non-communicable Diseases: Climate change impact on mental health and non-communicable diseases often overlooked in India.

Key Phrases and Analysis:

  • Urban Heat Island Effect: Unplanned urbanization intensifies the urban heat island effect, straining the urban health system.
  • Poorly Managed Health Risks: Inadequate recognition and management of health risks associated with climate change-induced factors.

Key Data and Facts:

  • Temperature-Related Health Risks: 1% increase above 29°C correlates with an 8% rise in hospitalization rates, emphasizing direct temperature impact.
  • Urbanization Challenges: Unplanned urbanization exacerbates climate-related health risks, necessitating interventions in urban planning and public health.

Way Forward:

  • Holistic Mitigation Strategies: Mitigation involves understanding climate change pathways, modifying health information systems, and upstream interventions.
  • Multi-level Action: Coordinated action at global, regional, and local levels, involving researchers, policymakers, and governments for meaningful change.

 

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Biosphere reserves are evolving as pockets of hope

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: World Biosphere Reserve Day

Mains level: global importance of UNESCO-designated reserves in conserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change

Central idea 

World Biosphere Reserve Day on November 3 emphasizes the global importance of UNESCO-designated reserves in conserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change. With 748 reserves in 134 countries, challenges like deforestation persist, necessitating local collaboration, sustainable tourism, and international cooperation for effective conservation.

Key Highlights:

  • World Biosphere Reserve Day: Annual celebration on November 3 to raise awareness and promote the conservation of biosphere reserves.
  • UNESCO Designation: Biosphere reserves designated by UNESCO for biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, and research.
  • Global Impact: 748 biosphere reserves in 134 countries, influencing the lives of over 250 million people.
  • Transboundary Collaboration: 22 transboundary sites fostering cooperation between neighboring countries.

Key Organizations:

  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization): Initiator and supporter of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programm Designates and recognizes biosphere reserves globally, promoting conservation and sustainable development.
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): Collaborates with biosphere reserves to support sustainable development initiatives.
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): Engages in activities to enhance environmental sustainability within biosphere reserves.
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): Supports UNESCO in biodiversity conservation efforts and sustainable development.
    Prelims focus

    UNESCO MAB Award:

      • The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust received the UNESCO Michel Batisse Award for Biosphere Reserve Management in 2023, recognizing exemplary efforts in conservation.

    Origin of Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme:

     

    Inception: Established by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1971.

    Inspiration: Evolved from the recommendations of the International Biological Programme (IBP), recognizing the need for a comprehensive approach to address the human-environment relationship.

    MAB’s Foundation: Launched during the 16th session of the UNESCO General Conference in 1971, with the primary goal of integrating natural and social sciences for sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

    Key Drivers: Emerged as a response to growing concerns about the impact of human activities on the environment and the need for a coordinated effort to balance conservation and development.

     

     

Challenges and Concerns:

  • Anthropogenic Pressures: Human-induced pressures on biosphere reserves, such as pollution, habitat destruction, and overexploitation, pose significant threats to biodiversity.
  • Climate Change Impact: The increasing impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures and extreme weather events, challenge the resilience of biosphere reserves and their ability to support diverse ecosystems.
  • Lack of Funding: Many biosphere reserves face financial constraints, hindering effective conservation efforts and the implementation of sustainable development projects. Adequate funding is crucial for long-term success.
  • Deforestation, invasive species, and land use changes like mining pose significant challenges.
  • Urbanization and population growth contribute to increased exploitation.

Analysis:

  • Role as Carbon Sinks: Biosphere reserves play a crucial role as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide and contributing to climate change mitigation.
  • Economic and Biodiversity Significance: Provide a foundation for sustainable economic development and protect diverse biodiversity.

Key facts:

  • World Biosphere Reserve Day: Celebrated on November 3 annually to raise awareness about biosphere reserves.
  • Biosphere Reserves Globally: Currently, 748 biosphere reserves across 134 countries.
  • Transboundary Sites: 22 transboundary biosphere reserve sites, fostering cooperation between neighboring countries.
  • Global Impact: Biosphere reserves impact the lives of over 250 million people in 134 countries.
  • Local Initiatives: Examples include the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve in India, where local communities manage mangrove forests, and the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, introducing ‘plastic checkpoints’ for waste management.

Key Terms:

  • Biosphere Reserves: Designated by UNESCO for conservation, sustainable development, and research.
  • Carbon Sinks: Areas like forests and the ocean that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • World Biosphere Reserve Day: Annual celebration on November 3 to raise awareness about biosphere reserves.

Way Forward:

  • Local Collaboration for Conservation: Emphasize the importance of local collaboration for effective conservation efforts. Encourage the active involvement of local communities in biodiversity protection and sustainable practices.
  • Addressing Specific Threats: Develop targeted strategies to address diverse threats such as deforestation, invasive species, and land use changes. Implement policies and practices that mitigate the impact of urbanization and population growth on biosphere reserves.
  • Promoting Sustainable Tourism: Encourage sustainable tourism practices within biosphere reserves to minimize negative environmental impacts. Educate tourists and local communities about responsible tourism to ensure the long-term well-being of these ecosystems.
  • International Cooperation: Strengthen international cooperation for the conservation of transboundary biosphere reserves. Facilitate knowledge exchange and collaborative initiatives to address global environmental challenges.

This World Biosphere Reserve Day serves as a crucial moment to reflect on the significance of these natural treasures and the collective responsibility to ensure their preservation for future generations.

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Stocktaking climate finance a case of circles in red ink

climate finance

Central idea

The article emphasizes the critical role of climate finance in global trust-building, highlighting challenges such as inequality, mandatory contribution frameworks, and political will. Concerns arise from insufficient funding, voluntary contributions, and disparities between pledged amounts and actual commitments.

Key Highlights:

  • Climate Finance Crucial: Climate finance is essential for trust in climate change negotiations, especially in COP 28. The Synthesis Report highlights a 1.1°C temperature increase causing hazardous weather, intensifying demands for mitigation actions by developing countries.
  • $100 Billion Commitment: Developed countries committed to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020, but the Glasgow conference in 2021 reported only $79.6 billion mobilized, leading to concerns about insufficient funding to support developing nations in low-carbon transitions.
  • NDC Financial Needs: Developing nations, as per their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), estimate financial needs close to $6 trillion until 2030. India’s NDCs highlight financial requirements of $206 billion for adaptation and $834 billion for mitigation.

Challenges:

  • Inequality in Contribution: Developed countries exhibit disparities in fulfilling climate finance commitments, with the U.S. contributing only 5% of its fair share. This inequality hampers the effective mobilization of funds required for climate action.
  • Mandatory Contribution Framework: The absence of a mandatory framework for developed nations to contribute poses a significant challenge. The lack of clear criteria for collecting funds creates uncertainty about achieving the set financial goals.
  • Discrepancies in Pledged Amounts: The second replenishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) revealed contributions from only 25 out of 37 developed countries. The shortfall in meeting pledges raises concerns about the reliability of financial commitments.
  • Global Urgency Disparity: Unlike the swift response to the 2009 global financial crisis, there is a notable lack of political will and urgency among developed nations to address climate finance needs. This disparity impedes progress in protecting the global atmosphere.

Concerns:

  • Insufficient Funding: The $79.6 billion mobilized falls short of the committed $100 billion annually, hindering the capacity of developing nations to transition to sustainable practices. The insufficiency raises concerns about meeting climate finance goals.
  • Voluntary Contributions Challenge: The inclusion of voluntary contributions by nine developing countries in the GCF introduces complexities in defining and accounting for international public climate finance. The challenge lies in establishing uniform criteria for contributions.
  • Impact on Developing Nations: Developing nations, as highlighted in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), express financial needs close to $6 trillion until 2030. The gap between needs and actual mobilized funds poses a significant concern for these nations.

Analysis:

  • Crisis of Commitment: Discrepancies between pledged amounts and actual contributions underscore a crisis of commitment among developed countries. This undermines the effectiveness of global climate finance mechanisms, impacting the transition to sustainable practices.
  • Political Will Deficiency: The lack of political will and a sense of urgency among developed nations to address climate finance needs reveals a critical deficiency. Urgent action is necessary to bridge the gap between commitments and tangible contributions.

Key Data:

  • GCF Replenishment: The second replenishment of the Green Climate Fund gathered pledges of $9.3 billion, with contributions from 25 developed countries out of 37.
  • Developed Countries’ $100 Billion Commitment: The actual mobilization reported at the Glasgow conference in 2021 was $79.6 billion, falling short of the committed $100 billion annually.

Key Terms:

  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs): Country-specific climate action plans submitted under the Paris Agreement outlining mitigation and adaptation goals.
  • Global Stocktake: Periodic assessment of collective progress in climate action, informed by scientific findings, as part of the COP meetings.

Way Forward:

  • Transparent Burden-Sharing: Establishing a transparent and agreed-upon burden-sharing formula among developed countries is crucial for fair and consistent contributions to climate finance.
  • Mandatory Contribution Framework: Implementing a mandatory framework for developed nations to contribute, accompanied by clear criteria for mobilizing funds, is essential to ensure reliability in financial commitments.
  • Global Cooperation and Urgency: Fostering a sense of urgency and global cooperation is imperative. A collective and urgent response, similar to past financial crises, is needed to address the critical climate finance needs and fulfill international commitments effectively.
  • Capacity Building: Prioritizing capacity building in developing nations to facilitate a smooth transition to sustainable practices. This includes supporting economic opportunities and livelihoods for those entrenched in fossil fuel economies.

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Breaking the ice: How India can help save the Arctic

 

arctic

Central idea

The article highlights India’s pivotal role in the G20 Summit, emphasizing its ability to broker consensus between the Global North and South for climate protection. Focused on the Arctic, it underscores the urgent need to address the region’s environmental challenges and advocates for India’s active involvement in reforming Arctic governance for long-term climate preservation.

Arctic issue 

  • Global Significance: The Arctic, crucial for the world’s climate, is warming four times faster than the global average, leading to unprecedented environmental changes.
  • Disproportionate Impact: Climate change, particularly in the Arctic, disproportionately affects the Global South, as evidenced by intricate correlations with extreme events like Indian summer monsoons.
  • Governance Challenges: Rapid development and geopolitical tensions, especially Russia’s focus on commercial exploitation, pose challenges to the current governance mechanism, such as the Arctic Council’s suspension due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

India’s Pivotal Role in the G20 Summit:

  • Diplomatic Achievement: Hosting the G20 Summit showcases India’s diplomatic prowess, extracting consensus in a multipolar world.
  • Counterbalance to Expansionism: India’s role is pivotal in balancing and deterring Chinese expansionism, positioning it as a mediator between the Global North and South.
  • Climate Mediator: The nation’s diplomatic efforts extend to climate protection, reflecting its commitment to addressing global challenges.

Addressing Climate Protection:

  • Arctic Focus: The article emphasizes India’s crucial link to climate protection, with a specific focus on the rapidly warming Arctic.
  • Ecosystem Safeguarding: By brokering consensus at the G20 Summit, India plays a key role in safeguarding ecosystems, especially those vulnerable to climate change.
  • Global Impact: India’s involvement highlights its commitment to protecting the environment and contributing to global climate efforts.

Urgent Need to Reform Arctic Governance:

  • Challenges Posed by Russia: Russia’s commercial interests in the Arctic pose challenges to environmental preservation, necessitating urgent governance reforms.
  • Suspension of the Arctic Council: The article underscores the impact of the Arctic Council’s suspension and highlights India’s potential role in its reinstatement.
  • Proactive Indian Involvement: India’s active participation in the Arctic Council is seen as crucial for voicing concerns and advocating reforms.

Environmental Challenges and Potential of India:

  • Bridging Historical Divides: India’s potential lies in its ability to bridge historical divides, fostering aligned positions among nations.
  • Global South Leadership: India’s active involvement in the Arctic Council positions it as a leader in the Global South, advocating for environmental causes.
  • Diplomatic Momentum: Leveraging diplomatic momentum, India can address challenges posed by geopolitical tensions and commercial interests.

Highly important key points from this article

  • Arctic warming is four times faster than the global average, resulting in unprecedented sea ice loss and permafrost thawing.
  • Continued Arctic change may release carbon, rivaling US cumulative emissions.
  • Melting Arctic correlates with extreme rainfall in the Indian monsoon, affecting agriculture crucial to the Global South.
  • The Arctic Council governing global commons is suspended due to geopolitical tensions.
  • India, part of the Global South, holds observer status in the Arctic Council.

 

Arctic Council from a prelims perspective:

 

Formation and Members: The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum established in 1996. It consists of eight Arctic States: the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland.

Observer Status: The Council allows for the participation of non-Arctic states, intergovernmental and interparliamentary organizations as observers. India has observer status in the Arctic Council, indicating its interest in Arctic affairs.

Focus Areas: The primary focus of the Arctic Council is on issues related to environmental protection, sustainable development, and scientific cooperation in the Arctic region.

 

Way Forward and Global Leadership:

  • Utilizing Diplomatic Momentum: The way forward involves using India’s diplomatic momentum to lead discussions on climate governance.
  • Advocating Reforms: As India proposes a virtual G20 Summit, active advocacy for reforms in Arctic governance is crucial.
  • Commitment to Leadership: India’s commitment to global leadership in climate protection aligns with its aspirations and responsibility for sustainable environmental stewardship.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the article highlights India’s dual role as a diplomatic consensus-builder and a champion for environmental causes. By navigating conflicts, proposing reforms, and actively participating in global initiatives, India can lead the charge in addressing urgent climate challenges, especially those posed by the warming Arctic. This approach aligns with India’s aspirations for global leadership and sustainable environmental stewardship.

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Ancient Landscape cut by rivers found deep under Antarctic Ice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Wilkes Land

Mains level: NA

Antarctic Ice

Central Idea

  • Scientists have unveiled a vast ancient landscape buried beneath the continent’s ice sheet, offering a glimpse into a time when it was not a frozen wilderness but a land of rivers and forests teeming with life.
  • This discovery, located in East Antarctica’s Wilkes Land region, holds clues to Antarctica’s environmental history and the mysteries of its distant past.

What is Wilkes Land?

  • Wilkes Land is a region located in Antarctica, on the eastern side of the continent.
  • It is one of the largest unclaimed territories in Antarctica, primarily because it is covered by the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which makes it difficult to access and study.
  • It was named after US Navy Officer Charles Wilkes, who led the exploring expedition (1838–1842).
  • This expedition was the first to extensively explore and map large parts of the Antarctic coastline, including the area that came to be known as Wilkes Land.
  • The East Antarctic Ice Sheet in Wilkes Land, in particular, contains valuable information about the history of climate change and ice sheet dynamics, which are critical for understanding global climate patterns and sea-level rise.

Antarctica’s Geological Journey

  • Gondwana Supercontinent: Antarctica was once part of the Gondwana supercontinent, which included modern-day continents like Africa, South America, Australia, and the Indian subcontinent. It later separated due to plate tectonics.
  • Evolution of Landscape: Researchers suggest that as Antarctica’s climate warmed, rivers flowed across this newfound landscape toward coastlines formed during continental separation. Subsequent cooling led to glacial erosion, preserving the landscape for millions of years.

About the Under-Glacier Landscape

  • Rediscovering Ancient Antarctica: Satellite observations and ice-penetrating radar have unveiled a sprawling ancient landscape beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet.
  • Geographic Scope: The discovered landscape spans an area roughly equivalent to Belgium or the U.S. state of Maryland and is situated in East Antarctica’s Wilkes Land region, bordering the Indian Ocean.
  • Time Frame: This ancient terrain is estimated to date back to at least 14 million years ago and potentially extend even further, to over 34 million years ago, coinciding with Antarctica’s transition into a frozen continent.

Snapshot of a Different Era

  • A Window to the Past: The landscape offers a snapshot of an earlier time when Antarctica enjoyed warmer climates. The specific appearance remains uncertain, but it might have ranged from temperate to even tropical conditions.
  • Wildlife Enigma: While it’s likely that this environment supported diverse wildlife, the incomplete fossil record leaves the identity of its inhabitants shrouded in mystery.

Beneath the Ice

  • Icy Cover: The ancient landscape lies beneath approximately 2.2 to 3 km of ice, creating an enigmatic world hidden from human view.
  • Exploration Challenges: The land beneath Antarctica’s ice remains more enigmatic than the surface of Mars. Researchers propose drilling through the ice to obtain sediment core samples, potentially revealing ancient flora and fauna, much like Greenland samples dating back 2 million years.

How was it identified?

  • Scientific Methods: The study employed satellite observations and ice-penetrating radar data gathered from overflight missions.
  • Unique Discovery: While previous research uncovered ancient landscapes beneath Antarctica’s ice, this discovery stands out as the first of its kind, shaped by rivers and distinct geological processes.
  • Changing Climates: Antarctica’s landscape and climate underwent significant transformations, resembling cold temperate rainforests before cooling to its frozen state.

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Mitigating tragedies in the Himalayan region

Central idea

The article highlights the increasing risks of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in the Indian Himalayan Region due to climate change. It emphasizes the need for a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary effort to develop early warning systems and mitigation strategies for high-risk glacial lakes.

Definition of GLOFs:

  • Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) are sudden and massive releases of water from glacial lakes, often triggered by the collapse of glacial moraines or other natural events. These floods pose severe threats to downstream areas.

Features of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs)

  • Rapid Onset: Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) are characterized by their sudden and rapid onset. These floods can unleash enormous amounts of water in a short period, often catching downstream communities off guard.
  • Highly Destructive: GLOFs are highly destructive natural disasters. The massive volume of water released during an outburst can lead to flash floods, causing widespread damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and ecosystems in the affected areas.
  • Glacial Lakes as Time Bombs: Glacial lakes, formed by the melting of glaciers, act as reservoirs for potential GLOFs. The increasing rate of glacier melt, attributed to climate change, raises concerns about the growing number of these ‘time bombs’ that could pose threats to downstream regions.
  • Global Impact: GLOFs are not confined to specific regions but have a global impact. The risk of GLOFs exists in various mountainous areas worldwide, including the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, and the Rocky Mountains. Climate change exacerbates these risks, making GLOFs a concern on a broader scale.

Consequences of GLOFs:

  • Flash Floods: The rapid release of water leads to flash floods downstream, causing immediate and extensive damage.
  • Morphological Changes: GLOFs alter the landscape, leading to changes in river courses and topography.
  • Loss of Life and Property: Downstream communities face a high risk of casualties, property damage, and loss of livelihoods.
  • Permanent Changes: GLOFs bring permanent alterations to the affected areas, impacting their socio-economic fabric.

Challenges in Monitoring and Prediction:

  • Monitoring and predicting such cascading events are challenging, requiring an integrated system for early warnings and risk mitigation.
  • The Himalayan Region faces a range of hydro-meteorological, tectonic, climate, and human-induced mountain hazards, making monitoring and estimation difficult due to the multitude of glaciers and temporal variations in glacial recession.

Well known examples

  • South Lhonak Lake, Sikkim (2023): The recent glacial lake outburst flood in Sikkim resulted in the death of 14 people and left 102 missing. The South Lhonak Lake, situated at 17,000 ft, burst due to incessant rains, causing flash floods in downstream areas along the Teesta river.
  • Chorabari Tal, Uttarakhand (2013): In 2013, flash floods and a glacial lake outburst flood were triggered by the Chorabari Tal glacial lake in Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath. The event caused widespread destruction, leading to the loss of thousands of lives.

Government Schemes and Initiatives

  • Early Warning Systems: The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) led a preparatory mission, installing automated cameras and monitoring equipment at high-altitude glacial lakes. Despite challenges, this initiative is a step towards developing an end-to-end early warning system.
  • Geo-technical Solutions: Globally, measures like excavating channels, drainage systems, spillway construction, and small catchment dams have been attempted. However, implementing these at high altitudes faces formidable challenges, including inaccessibility and harsh conditions.
  • National Remote Sensing Centre’s Atlas: The NRSC’s Glacial Lake Atlas of 2023 provides crucial data on the distribution of glacial lakes. It highlights the vast number of high-risk lakes in the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra basins, emphasizing the enormity of the challenge.

Way Forward

  • Integrated Efforts: Addressing the GLOF risk requires collaboration across institutions. The NRSC’s remote sensing data, the Central Water Commission’s hydro-dynamic assessments, and the NDMA’s guidelines contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the hazard.
  • Comprehensive GLOF Risk Mitigation Plan: A plan is in progress, focusing on installing monitoring and early warning systems. However, the success of this plan depends on the collective efforts of governments and scientific institutions.

 

Conclusion

Mitigating GLOFs demands immediate attention. The integration of resources and capacities, along with a focus on prevention and mitigation, will reduce the impact on downstream communities. The government’s initiatives and collaborative efforts are crucial steps towards ensuring the stability and resilience of Himalayan communities in the face of increasing climate risks.

 

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Restoring the ecological health of the Himalayas

 

himalaya

Central idea

The Supreme Court is exploring the Himalayan region’s carrying capacity to address environmental concerns. Critics advocate a broader, inclusive approach involving multiple institutes and citizen representation for a sustainable, people-centric strategy. The focus is on engaging local communities and assessing the social dimensions for lasting solutions.

Carrying Capacity Definition

Carrying capacity refers to the maximum sustainable population size an ecosystem can support without significant harm. It’s crucial for balancing human activities with environmental preservation.

Importance of ecological health of Himalaya

  • Biodiversity Hub: The Himalayas host diverse flora and fauna, making the region crucial for the conservation of numerous endemic and endangered species.
  • Water Source for Asia: As the “Water Tower of Asia,” the Himalayas contribute to major river systems, providing water to millions downstream, emphasizing the importance of ecological health.
  • Climate Regulation: The Himalayas play a pivotal role in global climate regulation, influencing weather patterns, monsoons, and serving as a natural buffer against the impacts of climate change.
  • Cultural and Spiritual Significance: Beyond ecology, the Himalayas hold cultural and spiritual importance, and their ecological well-being is intertwined with the traditional practices and beliefs of local communities.
Some interesting facts

The Himalayas harbor over 50% of the world’s plant species.

Himalayan glaciers supply water to major rivers, supporting nearly 1.5 billion people.

Snow leopards, a rare and endangered species, find refuge in the Himalayan mountain ranges.

The Himalayan region is a biodiversity hotspot with unique species like the Himalayan monal, a vibrantly colored pheasant.

 

Key Challenges and Ineffective Past Initiatives:

  • Despite previous efforts, progress on assessing and implementing carrying capacity plans has been minimal.
  • Flawed recommendations from the Ministry, with the same individuals responsible for environmental damage now tasked with finding solutions.
  • The suggested reliance on the G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment overlooks the significance of other relevant institutes in policymaking.
  • A myopic emphasis on towns and cities, without considering the broader impact of infrastructure, like road networks creating spontaneous settlements.

Government Schemes and Initiatives:

  • National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (2010).
  • Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme.
  • Secure Himalaya Project.
  • Guidelines on ‘Carrying Capacity in the IHR’ circulated on January 30, 2020.
  • Ministry’s reminder on May 19, 2023, urging States to submit carrying capacity action plans if not undertaken.

Way Forward:

  • Holistic Regional Focus: Include under-explored areas like the Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh, where rapid tourism growth may impact the local ecosystem. Similarly, consider the less urbanized parts of Sikkim, such as Dzongu, facing challenges in waste management due to an increase in population.
  • Emphasize Sustainable Population: Prioritize assessing the carrying capacity with a focus on “Sustainable Population.” For instance, examine the impact of population growth on water sources in regions like Lachen in Sikkim, known for its pristine lakes and rivers.
  • Citizen Representation: Include citizens from diverse backgrounds, like the Gaddis in Himachal Pradesh or the Lepchas in Sikkim, ensuring that indigenous knowledge contributes to sustainable solutions.
  • Biological Diversity: Evaluate the overall sustainable capacity by considering the rich biological diversity in areas like the Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand. Understand the delicate balance in ecosystems supporting various species.
  • Water Management: Assess the sustainable capacity of water resources, acknowledging concerns raised by citizens in regions like Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Here, water plays a crucial role in agriculture, and any disruption affects the livelihoods of the Monpa community.

Conclusion:

The imperative for sustainable development in the Himalayan region requires a comprehensive assessment of carrying capacity. The Supreme Court’s intervention serves as a catalyst for a people-centric, inclusive, and holistic approach, emphasizing long-term environmental health and citizen involvement. With united efforts we will restore Himalayan glory again

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Disruption in Earth’s Water Cycle

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Evapotranspiration, Water Cycle

Mains level: Read the attached story

water cycle

Central Idea

  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued a report highlighting the significant impact of climate change and human activities on Earth’s water circulation systems.
  • This has direct consequences leading to droughts, extreme rainfall events, and disruptions in water cycles.

What is the Water Cycle?

  • The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle, is the continuous movement of water on, above, and below the Earth’s surface.
  • It involves various processes that allow water to circulate between the atmosphere, land, oceans, and other bodies of water:
Evaporation Sun’s heat turns surface water into vapor.
Condensation Vapor forms clouds as it cools in the atmosphere.
Precipitation Clouds release moisture as rain, snow, or hail.
Runoff & Infiltration Water flows over land or seeps into the ground.
Transpiration Plants absorb and release water vapor.
Sublimation Ice transforms directly into vapor in specific conditions.
Transport Winds move moisture globally.
Collection Water gathers in oceans, lakes, and underground sources.

 Why is it under stress?

  • Diverse Impact: Climate change and human activities have led to an erratic hydrological cycle, resulting in both droughts and extreme rainfall events, causing widespread disruptions affecting livelihoods and economies.
  • Melting Snow and Glaciers: Ongoing melting of snow, ice, and glaciers further exacerbates the risk of extreme weather events, such as floods, posing long-term threats to water security, particularly for millions already facing severe water scarcity.

Global Impact

  • Global Deviations: Over 50% of global catchment areas experienced deviations from normal river discharge conditions in 2022, primarily due to climate anomalies, such as heatwaves, droughts, La Nina, and El Nino events.
  • Horn of Africa Drought: Severe drought in the Horn of Africa led to reduced river discharge, affecting food security for 21 million people, while other regions, like the Niger Basin, saw above-average discharge and major floods.
  • Water Reservoirs Affected: More than 60% of major water reservoirs experienced below-normal inflow, posing challenges to water availability in a changing climate.

Impact on Asian Water Tower

  • The term “Asian Water Tower (AWT)” typically refers to the vast network of high mountain regions across Asia, particularly in countries like India, China, Nepal, Bhutan, and parts of Central Asia.
  • These high mountain regions are the source of many major rivers in Asia, such as the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Indus, and Amu Darya.
  • The melting snow and glaciers in these mountains provide a continuous supply of freshwater to downstream areas.
  • This AWT witnessed substantial glacial melting in 2022.
  • Rising temperatures accelerate water cycle disruptions, leading to heavier precipitation, flooding, and intensified droughts, significantly impacting the water balance.

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Centre launches Green Credit Program (GCP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Green Credit Program

Mains level: Read the attached story

Green Credit Program (GCP)

Central Idea

  • The Centre has introduced a Green Credit Program (GCP) that allows individuals and entities to earn Green Credits, which can be traded on a dedicated exchange.

What is the Green Credit Program (GCP)?

  • Objective: Aims to establish a competitive, market-based approach encouraging diverse stakeholders to undertake environmental actions.
  • Nodal Agency: Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change.

Mechanics of Green Credit

  • Voluntary Participation: Reflects inclusivity, as engagement in the program is entirely voluntary.
  • Entities: The program extends to a diverse range of entities, encompassing individuals, industries, farmer producer organizations (FPOs), urban local bodies (ULBs), gram panchayats, and private sectors.
  • Tradability: Tradable, fostering participation in a proposed domestic market platform.
  • Certificates: Upon approval, applicants receive Green Credit certificates.

Covered Activities

  • Qualifying Activities: The program includes various activities such as tree plantation, water conservation, sustainable agriculture, waste management, air pollution reduction, mangrove conservation, eco-mark initiatives, sustainable building, and infrastructure development.
  • Registration and Verification: Participants must register their activities on the program’s website, which will undergo verification by a designated agency.

How are Green Credits computed?

  • Equitable Calculation: Green Credits are determined based on resource equivalence, scalability, scope, size, and other relevant parameters, aiming to achieve desired environmental outcomes.
  • Credit Registry: A dedicated Green Credit Registry will oversee the tracking and management of these credits.
  • Trading Platform: An administrator will establish and maintain a trading platform for the exchange of Green Credits within the domestic market.

Alignment with Legal Obligations

  • Non-Tradable for Legal Compliance: Green Credits obtained for legal compliance purposes will not be tradable, ensuring adherence to existing laws.
  • Independent from Carbon Credit Scheme: The GCP operates separately from the Carbon Credit Trading Scheme, 2023, established under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
  • Additional Climate Benefits: Activities generating Green Credits may also yield climate-related advantages, such as carbon emissions reduction, potentially resulting in the acquisition of carbon credits.

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Sustainable water management in Agriculture

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Key facts and initiatives

Mains level: Climate change, water stress and its impact on food security

What’s the news?

  • The theme for World Food Day (October 16) this year—’Water is Life, Water is Food’ —calls for urgent action in managing water wisely.

Central idea

  • Water is the essence of life, a resource that nourishes not just humanity but every ecosystem on this planet. However, as this year’s World Food Day theme rightly points out, water is also food. In the light of increasing climate extremes, managing this precious resource wisely has never been more urgent.

Impact of Climate Change on Crop Yields

  • Rainfed rice yields in India are projected to decrease by 20% in 2050 and 47% in 2080 if no adaptation measures are taken.
  • Irrigated rice yields are also expected to decline, with a projected decrease of 3.5% in 2050 and 5% in 2080 scenarios.
  • Wheat yields could face substantial reductions, with a projected decrease of 19.3% in 2050 and 40% in 2080.
  • Kharif maize yields are also at risk, with projected declines of 18% in 2050 and 23% in 2080.
  • Climate change, without adequate adaptation measures, not only reduces crop yields but also lowers the nutritional quality of the produce.

Challenges associated with poor water management

  • Degraded Freshwater Supplies and Ecosystems: Decades of mismanagement, misuse, and pollution have resulted in the degradation of freshwater supplies and ecosystems. This has had a detrimental impact on the availability of clean water for agriculture and other essential needs.
  • Vulnerability of Small-Scale Producers: Small-scale farmers, who represent over 80% of farmers globally, are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate shocks, land degradation, and water scarcity.
  • Land Degradation: Approximately 40% of the world’s land area is degraded, which means that it is less productive for agriculture. This further reduces the available land for farming, exacerbating the challenges faced by small-scale producers.
  • Climate Impacts: Extreme weather events and variability in water availability are disrupting agricultural production. These changes are altering agro-ecological conditions and shifting growing seasons, making it challenging for farmers to predict and adapt to changing conditions.
  • Effects on Crop Productivity: Changes in rainfall patterns and rising temperatures have adverse effects on crop productivity. Reduced yields and food availability can result from these climate-related factors, which can contribute to food insecurity and hunger.

Do not scroll past this

FAO Crop Forecasting Framework:

  • The FAO is working on a pilot project in several Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
  • The project aims to develop a crop forecasting framework and model that incorporates climate data, soil characteristics, and market information.
  • This information can help rainfed farmers make informed decisions about their crops, potentially contributing to food security by improving agricultural planning and management.

 Climate change adaptation

  • FAO Initiatives:
    • Supports sustainable agrifood systems and climate-smart agriculture.
    • Initiated the farmer water school programme in Uttar Pradesh.
    • Supported the Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems project which benefits 638 habitations with hydrological monitoring.
  • IFAD’s Focus:
    • Prioritizes climate change adaptation in its core strategies.
    • Invests in preserving soil health, water resources, and integrating modern technologies with indigenous systems.
    • Implements projects in Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, and Mizoram emphasizing climate-resilient practices.
  • WFP Collaboration:
    • Partners with the Government of Odisha focusing on women farmers.
    • Employs solar technologies and promotes millet-value chains for climate resilience.

Steps needed

  • Overall Strategy: Prioritize political commitment and concrete investment for global food and nutrition security. Promote innovative technologies to enhance farmer productivity.
  • Climate Change Adaptation: Formulate strategies to adapt to climate change. Foster resilience against environmental and economic shocks.
  • Agricultural Practices: Implement sustainable and economically feasible irrigation and water management techniques. Minimize the climate footprint in agricultural production. Address bio-hazards and environmental pollution.
  • Infrastructure and Supply Chain: Prioritize sanitation and potable water supply for rural areas. Advocate for efficient food and water recycling methods.
  • Regulation and Management: Strengthen sustainable and fair water regulations. Improve management, access, and ownership systems for resources.
  • UN’s Collaborative Projects: Collaborate with the Indian Government on projects such as Solar 4 Resilience, Secure Fishing, and the revival of millets for renewable energy and food security.

Conclusion

  • Climate change is making water more scarce and unpredictable. Droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events are becoming more common. World Food Day is a reminder that we all have a role to play in achieving food and nutrition security for all. By working together, we can create a world where everyone has enough to eat and drink.

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Large Ozone Hole detected over Antarctica

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ozone Hole

Mains level: Not Much

ozone

Central Idea

  • Satellite measurements conducted over Antarctica have unveiled a gigantic hole in the ozone layer.
  • Termed an “ozone-depleted area,” this region spans 26 million square kilometers (10 million square miles), approximately three times the size of Brazil.

Ozone Layer and Ozone Hole

Location Stratosphere, approximately 10-30 km above Earth’s surface.
Composition Composed of ozone (O3) molecules.

Unit of measurement: Dobsob Unit (DU)

Function Acts as a protective shield, absorbing and blocking a significant portion of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Importance Essential for protecting life on Earth by preventing excessive UV radiation, which can harm living organisms and the environment.
Ozone-depleting Substances Threatened by ODS like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, and other synthetic compounds commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning, and aerosol propellants.
Montreal Protocol An international treaty adopted in 1987 to phase out the production and consumption of ODS, resulting in significant recovery of the ozone layer.
Current Status The ozone layer is in the process of recovery due to the success of the Montreal Protocol.
Environmental Impact Protects ecosystems, prevents skin cancer, cataracts, and other health issues in humans.
Additional Facts • The size of the ozone hole over Antarctica varies annually, opening in August and closing in November or December.

• Special winds caused by the Earth’s rotation create a unique climate over Antarctica, preventing mixing with surrounding air.

• When these winds subside, the hole closes.

Potential Causes of the Giant Ozone Hole

  • Volcanic Eruption in Tonga: Scientists speculate that the extensive ozone hole this year may be linked to volcanic eruptions in Hunga Tonga, Tonga, between December 2022 and January 2023. These eruptions released water vapor and other elements into the stratosphere, impacting the ozone layer through chemical reactions.
  • Human-Induced Ozone Holes: In the 1970s, scientists discovered that human activities, primarily the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), led to significant ozone depletion. These chemicals released chlorine in the stratosphere, depleting the ozone layer.
  • Effective Mitigation: The Montreal Protocol, established in 1987, aimed to combat ozone depletion by phasing out ozone-depleting substances. This international agreement successfully reduced the size of ozone holes over the years.

Ozone Depletion and Climate Change

  • Not a Primary Climate Change Cause: Ozone depletion is not a leading contributor to global climate change.
  • Impact of Rising Temperatures: However, rising global temperatures may influence ozone holes. Extreme fires, such as those in southeastern Australia in 2020 and 2021, injected smoke into the stratosphere, potentially contributing to ozone depletion.
  • Changing Seasons: Ozone holes can alter the progression of seasons, as they extend the duration of polar vortexes, thereby extending winter periods.

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Climate Change Trends: Trends, Shifts, or Decadal Cycles

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate Change

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • Studies have highlighted various climate phenomena in India, including declining monsoon rainfall, intensifying extreme weather events, droughts, heatwaves, and cyclones.
  • However, a critical question that demands attention is whether these changes represent long-term trends, abrupt shifts, or decadal cycles.
  • These distinctions hold significant implications for resource planning and management.

Understanding Climate Change Terminology

  • Trend: Refers to a continuous, prolonged change in climate variables, such as a steady temperature increase over time. The term “anthropogenic trend” implies changes occurring within human lifetimes.
  • Secular Trend: Indicates a variable’s continuous increase for a specific period within a more extended timeframe, like 30 years within a century.
  • Decadal Variability: Involves oscillations between positive and negative phases over tens of years, potentially resembling a shift.
  • Shift: Represents a rapid transition from one state to another, like a sudden change in rainfall patterns. An example is the shift in seasonal monsoon rainfall from above the long-period average (LPA) to below it.

Case Study: Cyclones Trend in Arabian Sea

  • A recent study in the journal Climate and Atmospheric Science identified a notable change in cyclone formation potential over the Arabian Sea in the late 1990s.
  • Cyclone-genesis potential depends on factors like sea surface temperature, ocean heat content, wind changes from the surface to upper atmosphere, and wind rotation. These factors have favored increased cyclone formation potential since the 1990s.
  • However, the crucial question is why this rapid increase occurred during this period. The study suggests that it coincided with a shift in the ‘Warm Arctic, Cold Eurasian’ (WACE) pattern rather than being a trend.

Warm Arctic, Cold Eurasian Pattern

  • The WACE pattern involves warm surface temperatures over the Arctic and cold surface temperatures over Eurasia. It influences upper-level circulation changes that extend into the Indian Ocean sector.
  • Global warming experienced a slowdown during this period, and scientists have proposed the occurrence of a ‘regime shift,’ similar to one observed in the mid-1970s.

Challenge for India

  • Regardless of whether these climate changes are shifts or decadal cycles, it is essential to understand their potential long-term effects on the monsoon, cyclone frequency, heatwaves, and extreme rainfall.
  • Accurate predictions are vital for planning and allocating resources to adapt to climate risks, such as sea-level rise, heavy rainfall, drought, heatwaves, and cyclones.
  • Climate scientists must focus on understanding natural variability in the local context, especially since this variability is influenced by global warming.
  • For example, the study indicates that the monsoon decadal cycle, previously lasting around 20 years, may now extend further, raising questions about the underlying causes.

Conclusion

  • Distinguishing between climate trends, shifts, and decadal cycles is essential for India’s adaptation strategies.
  • These distinctions affect how the country prepares for and responds to evolving climate patterns, and climate scientists must strive to unravel the complexities of natural variability to make informed predictions and policy recommendations.

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Climate debate and India’s green energy journey

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate change, green energy initiatives

Mains level: Climate change: a global crisis, Challenges, global commitments, India's remarkable progress and initiatives, Challenges and way forward

What’s the news?

  • In the face of mounting global concerns about climate change, India is firmly committed to reducing emissions and championing green energy initiatives

Central idea

  • In recent years, environmentalists have expressed growing concern about the deteriorating state of our planet. Their apprehensions are substantiated by a century-long analysis of temperature data, revealing a significant 1.10°C increase in Earth’s temperature from 1880 to 2022. This upward trend in temperatures has dire implications, with experts predicting severe social, economic, and environmental consequences.

Climate change challenges

  • Temperature Rise: Earth’s temperature increased by approximately 1.10 degrees Celsius from 1880 to 2022. This temperature rise is expected to result in major social, economic, and environmental problems.
  • Extreme Weather Events: More frequent climate-related disasters, including droughts, forest fires, ice melting, rising sea levels, flooding, and cyclones, are occurring globally. These events significantly impact people’s lives and livelihoods.
  • Climate Refugees: Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and other climate-induced events are leading to the migration of communities.
  • Agricultural Disruption: Climate change disrupts agricultural production, potentially leading to food shortages, rising commodity prices, and increased poverty.
  • Resource Conflicts: Climate change can exacerbate conflicts over limited resources such as water and arable land as competition intensifies in resource-scarce areas.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The burning of fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and gas, contributes significantly to climate problems. These activities generate greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane), which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming.
  • Global Warming: Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere absorb heat, preventing it from being adequately reflected into space. This phenomenon intensifies global warming.

The role of green energy

  • Green Energy Definition: Green power is electricity produced from sources such as wind, sun, biomass, geothermal, biogas, and low-impact small hydropower projects.
  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Green energy is a major solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as it doesn’t produce significant carbon dioxide or other pollutants during electricity generation.
  • Diverse Green Energy Sources:
  • Wind Energy: Generated using turbines harnessing wind power.
  • Solar Energy: Produced from sunlight using solar panels.
  • Biomass: Utilizes organic material like wood and agricultural residue for energy.
  • Geothermal: Extracts heat from the Earth’s core for power generation.
  • Biogas: Captures methane from decomposing organic matter.
  • Low-Impact Small Hydropower: Uses natural water flow for electricity generation with minimal environmental impact.
  • Reducing Fossil Fuel Dependence: Transitioning to green energy reduces reliance on conventional fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, thereby curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Sustainable and Renewable: Green energy sources are sustainable, relying on replenishable natural processes for long-term energy production while minimizing environmental harm.

Environmentally Friendly Practices

  • Promotion of Public Transport: Encouraging the use of public transportation to reduce carbon emissions from individual vehicles.
  • Electric Vehicles (EVs): Advocating for the adoption of electric vehicles as a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional combustion engine vehicles.
  • Non-Motorized Transport: Promoting non-motorized transport options, such as walking and cycling, to reduce the reliance on motorized vehicles.
  • Energy-Efficient Gadgets: Encouraging the use of energy-efficient electronic devices and appliances to reduce energy consumption.
  • Sustainable Diet: Highlighting concerns about the consumption of non-vegetarian food, especially red meat, due to its resource-intensive nature.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Repair, and Recycle: Advocating for practices that reduce waste generation, including reusing and recycling products and resources like water and waste materials.

International Commitments

  • UN Call for Net-Zero Emissions: The United Nations (UN) has called upon world leaders to achieve net-zero emissions by the year 2050.
  • Climate Finance Support: Industrialized countries have been asked to provide $100 billion annually as climate finance to support developing countries in their climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

India’s Role in Emission Reduction

  • Commitment to Renewable Energy: India has made substantial commitments to expanding its renewable energy capacity. The country aims to achieve 50% of its power generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2070.
  • Solar Energy Expansion: India has been actively promoting solar energy through initiatives like the National Solar Mission. By the end of 2022, India had installed 63.30 gigawatts of solar power capacity. States like Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Karnataka have made significant progress in this regard.
  • Bio-Energy Programs: The National Bio-energy Programme focuses on generating energy from biomass, such as agricultural residue, wood, and solid waste. Over 800 biomass plants have been installed in various states, contributing to 10.73 gigawatts of installed capacity.
  • Green Hydrogen Mission: India launched the National Green Hydrogen Mission in 2023, with the goal of producing about 5 million metric tonnes of green hydrogen per year by 2030. This initiative is a step towards clean energy generation.
  • Wind and Hydro Energy: India also emphasizes wind energy, wind-solar hybrid projects, and small hydro projects, which together contribute significantly to its renewable energy capacity.
  • Government Support: The Indian government allocates significant funds to support renewable energy projects. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) allocated substantial funding in 2023-24, prioritizing solar and wind energy initiatives.

Hold On! Don’t Scroll Past This

Local success stories

  • Solar Rooftop Infrastructure in Coimbatore and Salem:
    • Solar rooftop infrastructure was installed in Coimbatore and Salem to meet the local electricity demand.
    • This initiative improved access to affordable and reliable electricity supplies for citizens and benefited supply agencies through energy savings.
  • Floating Solar Plants in Chandigarh:
    • Floating solar plants were established at waterworks in Chandigarh, contributing to meeting local energy demand and reducing power bills.
  • Bio-CNG Plant in Indore:
    • Indore set up a bio-CNG plant that treats segregated wet waste.
    • The biogas produced is utilized to power city transport buses, contributing to sustainable transportation and waste management.
  • Household and Institutional Green Energy Generation:
    • Various households and institutions across different parts of India have adopted green energy generation, primarily through solar power, at a local level.

Challenges

  • Continued Reliance on Fossil Fuels: India still heavily depends on fossil fuels, with about 60 percent of installed capacity coming from conventional sources.
  • Energy Import Dependency: A significant portion of oil (about 85 percent) and gas (about 45 percent) is imported annually, posing challenges related to energy security.
  • Rising Energy Demand: Meeting the growing energy demands driven by urbanization, infrastructure expansion, and industrial production is a pressing challenge.

Way Forward

  • Reducing Dependency on Non-Renewables: India must decrease its reliance on non-renewable resources, particularly fossil fuels, to mitigate emissions and environmental impact.
  • Self-Reliance in Green Energy: Achieving self-reliance in green energy production is vital to meeting future energy needs sustainably.
  • Effective Implementation of Green Initiatives: Ensuring the successful implementation of green energy initiatives and the maintenance of green assets created is crucial.
  • Affordable and Efficient Alternatives: Providing cost-effective and efficient alternatives, such as renewable energy solutions and energy-efficient technologies, can facilitate the adoption of green practices.
  • Shift in Habits and Attitudes: Encouraging changes in consumption patterns and fostering a more environmentally responsible mindset among the public is imperative for a successful transition to green energy and sustainability.

Conclusion

  • Climate change is a global crisis that demands immediate action. India’s commitment to green energy initiatives is a significant step toward mitigating the effects of climate change. However, a concerted effort is required from governments, industries, and individuals to transition to sustainable practices and secure a greener future for all.

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South Lhonak Lake Tragedy: Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GLOF

Mains level: Not Much

glof flood

Central Idea

  • Ten people lost their lives, and 80, including 23 Army personnel, remain missing in Sikkim due to the Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) of South Lhonak Lake.
  • Incessant rains caused the South Lhonak Lake, located at 17,000 ft. in the state’s northwest, to burst, releasing water downstream and flooding several districts.

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 jokulhlaup.
  • The dam can consist of glacier ice or a terminal moraine.
  • Failure can happen due to various factors such as:
  1. Erosion, a build-up 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

South Lhonak Lake’s Vulnerability

  • Melting Glaciers: Rising global temperatures have accelerated glacier melting in the Sikkim Himalayas, giving rise to new glacial lakes and enlarging existing ones.
  • Numerous Glacial Lakes: The region is home to more than 300 glacial lakes, with 10 identified as vulnerable to outburst floods by the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority.
  • South Lhonak Lake’s Growth: A report by the Sikkim Forest and Environment Department highlighted that South Lhonak Lake’s area had increased significantly over the past five decades.
  • Earthquake Risk: The Lake’s vulnerability was compounded by seismic activity, with earthquakes in 1991 and 2011 raising concerns about potential GLOFs.

Government Action

  • Syphoning Efforts: In 2016, the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority, along with other agencies, initiated measures to reduce the water level in South Lhonak Lake.
  • Syphoning Technique: Under the guidance of innovator Sonam Wangchuk, authorities installed High-Density Polyethylene pipes to syphon off lake water, removing 150 litres per second.

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National Carbon Accounting: A Polysolution to a Polycrisis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Terms- climate polycrisis, polysolution, Carbon Accounting

Mains level: Climate polycrisis, National Carbon Accounting and its benefits

What’s the news?

  • In a bid to address the complex and interrelated challenges of climate change, the concept of National Carbon Accounting (NCA) is gaining prominence.

Central idea

  • The term ‘climate polycrisis,’ popularized by Adam Tooze, highlights the intricate web of climate change-related crises that impact diverse sectors and domains worldwide. In India, the interplay of climate change is evident. Recognizing this complexity, it is imperative to develop a holistic approach.

Polycrisis

  • The term polycrisis refers to the multitude of crises arising from climate change, encompassing not only physical impacts like rising temperatures and extreme weather events but also the societal, economic, and political challenges that result from these impacts.

The Call for a Deep Transformation

  • Addressing the climate crisis demands more than sectoral responses; it necessitates a profound transformation, laying the foundation for a planet-sensitive economy.
  • This transformation calls for the establishment of ‘carbon infrastructure’ akin to digital infrastructure, considering carbon flows in policymaking at all levels.

Measurement as the First Step

  • The initial step towards this transformation is measurement.
  • To account for carbon, we must measure carbon emissions at individual and national levels.
  • Once we have robust measurement systems in place, we can create accounting mechanisms to track our carbon footprints.

What is National Carbon Accounting (NCA)?

  • The NCA is a critical system for tracking and managing carbon emissions at the national level.
  • It involves measuring and accounting for the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere, as well as efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
  • The primary objective of NCA is to gain a comprehensive understanding of a country’s carbon footprint and its role in contributing to global climate change.

Benefits of National Carbon Accounting

  • Progress Tracking: NCA allows for the monitoring of progress toward emission reduction targets over time. It helps assess the effectiveness of climate policies and initiatives, allowing for necessary adjustments.
  • Identification of High-Emission Sectors: NCA identifies sectors that contribute significantly to carbon emissions. This information is vital for targeting interventions and allocating resources to the most substantial emission sources.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: NCA allows for the assessment of the environmental impact of carbon emissions. It helps evaluate the ecological consequences of emissions and informs conservation efforts.
  • Carbon Offsetting: NCA supports carbon offset programs by quantifying carbon removal activities. These programs enable organizations and individuals to compensate for their emissions by investing in projects that remove or reduce an equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere.
  • New Economic Opportunities: NCA can encourage the development of new economic sectors and technologies focused on reducing carbon emissions and enhancing carbon removal. This can lead to job creation and economic growth in green industries.
  • Global Climate Commitments: NCA helps countries fulfill their international climate commitments, such as those under the Paris Agreement. It ensures that nations have the data necessary to demonstrate their progress in reducing emissions.

Carbon accounting vs. Money accounting

Aspect Carbon Accounting Money Accounting
Focus Measurement and tracking of carbon emissions Monitoring and management of financial transactions
Purpose Quantify carbon footprints, identify emission sources, and reduce emissions to combat climate change. Monitor financial flows, allocate resources, and ensure financial stability in an economy.
Granularity Detailed, from individual to sector and national levels Broad, covering various financial activities from individual to corporate and economic levels.
Measurement Precise measurement and reporting of carbon emissions, standardized methodologies Accurate financial record-keeping ensures the proper accounting of monetary resources and financial activities.
Policy Implications Informs the development of climate policies and strategies and guides climate change mitigation efforts. Supports economic policies and monetary management and influences factors like interest rates, inflation, and overall economic stability.
Taxation May lead to carbon taxes, taxing entities based on carbon emissions Typically targets income, consumption, or other financial transactions, not directly tied to carbon emissions.

A Polysolution to a Polycrisis

  • A Polysolution Defined: The term polysolution emphasizes the comprehensive and multifaceted nature of NCA as a tool to combat climate polycrisis. Instead of relying on single, isolated solutions, NCA encompasses various dimensions and aspects of the climate challenge.
  • Meeting Climate Commitments: The NCA can assist India in meeting its commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. This underscores the potential of the NCA to support countries in fulfilling their international climate pledges.
  • Reimagining the Economy and Society: NCA, if adopted globally, could lead to the reorganization of economies and societies. By making carbon footprints transparent, NCA encourages a new form of public discourse. This shift can promote sustainable practices and guide the alignment of development with ecological sustainability goals.
  • Alternative to GDP Growth: While traditional measures like GDP growth are well understood, the article suggests that NCA introduces an alternative metric—carbon footprint—as a key indicator of progress. This aligns with the broader goal of measuring development not only in economic terms but also in terms of environmental and ecological impacts.
  • Promoting Public Discourse: The transparency of carbon footprints can lead to more informed public discourse. It allows citizens and policymakers to consider the environmental impact of various activities, fostering discussions on sustainability and climate action.

Conclusion

  • Addressing the climate polycrisis demands innovative solutions that account for the interconnectedness of climate change impacts. National Carbon Accounting emerges as a pivotal tool to measure, track, and manage carbon emissions, fostering a sustainable and resilient future.

 

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Duarte Agostinho Case: A Youth-led Climate Lawsuit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Duarte Agostinho Case

Mains level: Climate Justice and Reparations

Duarte Agostinho Case

Central Idea

  • On September 27, a historic legal battle in the climate action movement commenced at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
  • This courtroom showdown featured 32 European governments, including the UK, Russia, and Turkey, facing off against six young individuals from Portugal, aged 11 to 24.

Why discuss this?

  • Youth-led climate lawsuits are reshaping climate litigation.
  • These lawsuits assert that uncontrolled carbon emissions infringe on fundamental rights, threaten the well-being of young generations.
  • This highlight the centrality of climate science in combating misinformation and denialism.

Understanding the Duarte Agostinho Case

[A] Origins of the Lawsuit:

  • The Duarte Agostinho and Others v. Portugal and Others case was initiated in September 2020.
  • It was in response to the devastating wildfires in Portugal’s Leiria region in 2017, resulting in 66 casualties and the loss of 20,000 hectares of forests.
  • This legal action highlights the urgency of adhering to the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global warming to below 1.5°C.

[B] Concerns raised

  • The Portuguese youths assert that European nations have failed to meet climate emissions goals, exceeding global carbon budgets compatible with the Paris Agreement’s objectives.
  • Scientific evidence will be presented, demonstrating that if current emission trends persist, global temperatures will rise by 3°C during the plaintiffs’ lifetimes.
  • Such actions are alleged to breach fundamental rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment, privacy, family life, and freedom from discrimination.

Lawsuit’s Demands

  • Rapid Emission Reduction: As these 32 countries contributed to climate catastrophes and threatened young people’s futures, the lawsuit contends that these nations must urgently intensify emissions reductions. The recommended measures include curbing fossil fuel production and addressing global supply chain sustainability.
  • Emissions Reduction Targets: The European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change (ESABCC) suggested that countries should aim for emissions reductions of 75% below 1990 levels, a more ambitious target than the EU’s current 55%. The lawsuit argues that European countries have overstated their carbon budgets, emphasizing the need for greater reductions.

Climate Crisis Impact on Human Rights

  • UNICEF characterizes the climate crisis as a “child rights crisis” due to unhindered carbon emissions and extreme weather jeopardizing access to education, health, nutrition, and the future.
  • Research links air pollution to adverse birth outcomes and increased risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
  • Heatwaves exacerbate mental health issues, ultimately affecting academic performance and school attendance.

Government Responses and Challenges

  • Cause and Effect Denial: Many countries have dismissed any direct relationship between climate change and its impact on human health. Greece, for instance, argued that climate change effects do not directly affect human life or health, despite experiencing massive wildfires.
  • Portrayal as Future Fears: Governments like Portugal and Ireland have downplayed climate change concerns as “future fears,” asserting that there is no immediate risk to lives.
  • Policy Reversals: Some nations, like the U.K., have showcased proactive climate policies, such as a 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. However, these policies have been reversed, raising concerns about policy consistency and legality.

Conclusion

  • The Duarte Agostinho case represents a pivotal moment in the climate action movement, with young activists challenging their governments to protect their future against the looming climate crisis.
  • This legal battle underscores the critical intersection of climate change and human rights, shaping a path toward increased accountability and transformative climate governance.

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Climate Change and Infectious Diseases

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate-induced infectious diseases

Mains level: Climate change and new disease scenarios, need for a One Health approach

What’s the news?

  • The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in March, serves as a stark reminder of the escalating global risk posed by infectious diseases.

Central idea

  • The intricate relationship between climate and disease becomes more evident with each passing year. Recent analysis in Nature Climate Change (2022) warns that humans now face a wider array of infectious agents than ever before. More than half of all known infectious diseases affecting humans worsen due to shifting climate patterns.

The Impact of Climate Change on Infections

  • Habitat Loss and Human-Animal Interaction:
  • Climate change contributes to habitat loss, pushing disease-carrying animals into closer proximity to human territories.
  • This increased interaction between humans and wildlife raises the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans.
  • For example, the Nipah virus outbreaks in Kerala originated from bats and caused fatalities in humans.
  • Broader Spectrum of Infectious Agents: An analysis published in Nature Climate Change in 2022 warns that humans now face a wider range of infectious agents due to climate change. Over half of all known infectious diseases that threaten humans are exacerbated by changing climate patterns.
  • New Transmission Routes: Diseases often find new transmission routes due to climate change. This includes transmission through environmental sources as well as through medical tourism and contaminated food and water from once-reliable sources.
  • Ecosystem Transformation: Climate change is transforming ecosystems by introducing invasive species and extending the range of existing life forms. These changes trigger complex upheavals in ecosystems, making it challenging for ecologists and epidemiologists to predict disease outbreaks.
  • Manifestation of Climatic Shifts: These climatic shifts are manifesting in severe health crises, including a dengue epidemic in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Kolkata, as well as the Nipah outbreak in Kerala.
  • Human-Induced Health Vulnerability Crisis:
  • Human-induced climate change is described as unleashing an unprecedented health vulnerability crisis.
  • India, in particular, has experienced the ominous impact, with early summers and erratic monsoons leading to water scarcity in regions like the Gangetic Plains and Kerala.

Current Surveillance, Reporting, and Challenges

  • Improved Reporting Over the Decades:
  • India has made significant progress in reporting disease outbreaks over the past two decades.
  • Initiatives like the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP) were introduced to enhance disease surveillance.
  • For example, in 2008, IDSP reported 553 outbreaks, and by 2017, this number had increased to 1,714.
  • Transition to the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP):
  • The IDSP was phased out in favor of a newer system called the Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) in 2018.
  • IHIP is a web-enabled, near-real-time electronic information system that added 20 additional disease conditions compared to IDSP’s 13.
  • It aimed to provide disaggregated data to its users.
  • Unfulfilled Expectations: Despite the promise of IHIP, the program has not fully met expectations for real-time tracking of emerging disease outbreaks.
  • Inadequate Surveillance for Emerging Diseases: The current design of disease surveillance is deemed inadequate for the emerging disease scenario brought about by climate change.

The Need for a Unified Approach: One Health

  • Interconnectedness of Health: One Health recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, plant, and environmental health. It emphasizes that these domains are interdependent and that the health of one is intimately linked to the health of the others.
  • Preventing Disease Outbreaks: The One Health approach is pivotal in preventing disease outbreaks, particularly those originating from animals. It acknowledges that diseases like zoonotic infections (those that can be transmitted from animals to humans), neglected tropical diseases, vector-borne diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and environmental contamination are all interconnected.
  • Holistic Approach: One Health takes a holistic approach to health surveillance and prevention. It goes beyond traditional disease control strategies and recognizes the need to address health challenges at their source, including the role of ecosystems.

Recommendations for India

  • Implement one health program: Foster synergy between the central and state governments and their specialized agencies, including animal husbandry, forest and wildlife, municipal corporations, and public health departments. Develop robust surveillance systems and establish lines of responsibility and collaboration.
  • Coordination and Management: With the influx of funding from sources like the World Bank, enhance the coordination and management of One Health initiatives. The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister has played a leading role, but greater collaboration is essential.

Way forward: Looking Beyond Disease X

  • The Obsession with “Disease X”: While the global focus remains on the mysterious “Disease X,” the ongoing challenges posed by familiar infectious agents like influenza, measles, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, and diarrhoea continue to strain public health systems.
  • Climate Change’s Broader Impact: Climate change is not limited to infectious diseases. It exacerbates injuries and fatalities resulting from extreme weather events, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and mental health issues.
  • Nipah’s Wake-Up Call: The re-emergence of the Nipah virus in Kerala serves as a stark wake-up call, emphasizing that a mere biomedical response to diseases is inadequate in the face of evolving threats.
  • The Role of Ecosystems: Protecting ecosystems becomes paramount as they play a crucial role in mitigating climate-induced infectious diseases and maintaining overall ecological balance.
  • Fostering Collaboration: Collaboration among various stakeholders, including government agencies, health departments, environmental bodies, and the public, is essential to effectively address these complex challenges.
  • Proactive Safeguarding: The road ahead demands concerted efforts not only to adapt to climate change but also to proactively safeguard our planet and the well-being of its inhabitants for a resilient and healthier future.

Conclusion

  • The urgent need for a One Health approach to combat climate-induced infectious diseases is clear. India must prioritize collaboration, surveillance, and ecosystem protection to effectively address this growing threat and secure a healthier future for its population.

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Places in news: Lampedusa Island

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lampedusa Island

Mains level: Not Much

Lampedusa Island

Central Idea

  • Italy’s Lampedusa Island witnessed an influx of migrants after around 7,000 people arrived from North Africa in two days.
  • Nearly 1,26,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year.

About Lampedusa Island

  • Lampedusa is the largest of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • It is located approximately 205 km southwest of Sicily, 113 km east of Tunisia, and about 176 kmnorth of Libya.
  • It is part of the Sicilian region of Italy and is situated in the southern Mediterranean Sea.
  • It covers an area of approximately 20.2 square km (7.8 square miles).
  • It has a rich history, with influences from various civilizations, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, and Normans.
  • During World War II, the island was of strategic importance and saw military activity.
  • It has been part of Italy since 1860.

Migration and Humanitarian Issues

  • Lampedusa has been a focal point for migration from Africa to Europe, with many migrants and refugees attempting to reach the island by boat.
  • This has led to humanitarian challenges and efforts to manage immigration.
  • The island has received international attention for its role in rescue operations and the reception of migrants and asylum seekers.

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Global Stocktake Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Global Stocktake Report

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • Amid the gathering of world leaders in New Delhi for the G-20 summit, the UN climate secretariat unveiled a ‘synthesis report’ summarizing progress made by nations towards the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • Known as the ‘global stocktake,’ this report is a vital component of global climate action, assessing efforts to combat climate change every five years.

Understanding the ‘Global Stocktake’

(1) Origins and Purpose:

  • The ‘global stocktake’ is integral to the Paris Agreement, which commits countries to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and strive for a 1.5-degree target.
  • Its primary aim is to periodically review and evaluate individual nations’ efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources.

(2) Influence on Climate Talks:

  • The inaugural report, released this year, carries significant weight, shaping discussions at the upcoming 28th UN Climate Conference of Parties (COP) in Dubai in November.
  • While countries have submitted their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for climate action, the stocktake encourages them to enhance their ambitions before the next NDCs in 2025.

Key Insights from the Report

(1) Overall Assessment:

  • The 45-page synthesis report delivers 17 key findings that collectively convey that the world is falling short of its Paris Agreement targets. However, it highlights a narrowing window of opportunity for countries to align their efforts.

(2) Echoing Previous Concerns:

  • The report echoes concerns raised in the 2022 UN synthesis report, which analyzed the NDCs of 166 countries and found them inadequate to meet Paris Agreement goals.
  • It reiterates the findings of the United Nations Emissions Gap Report, emphasizing the vast shortfall in reducing CO2 emissions compared to the Paris targets.

Crucial ‘Key Findings’

(1) Galvanized Global Response:

  • The Paris Agreement has spurred countries to set climate goals and acknowledge the urgency of addressing the climate crisis.
  • Governments must support the transition away from fossil fuels, ensuring it is equitable and inclusive.

(2) Ambitious Goals:

  • Much greater ambition is needed to achieve global greenhouse gas emission reductions of 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035, leading to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

(3) Renewable Energy Transition:

  • Scaling up renewable energy is imperative, while unabated fossil fuels must be phased out rapidly.

(4) Environmental Conservation:

  • Efforts to halt deforestation, reverse land degradation, and promote emission-reducing agricultural practices must be encouraged.

(5) Adaptation and Loss Management:

  • Comprehensive risk management and support for impacted communities are essential for averting, minimizing, and addressing loss and damage due to climate change.

(6) Financial Commitment:

  • Transparent adaptation reporting and the rapid scaling up of financial support are needed to align global financial flows with climate-resilient development.

Influence on Global Climate Discussion

  • The global stocktake report serves as a foundational document for the upcoming UN Climate Conference of Parties (COP).
  • It notably influenced the G20 Leaders Declaration, which officially acknowledged the substantial financial requirements for transitioning to a renewable energy economy.
  • This acknowledgement sets the stage for intensified efforts, emphasizing the need for trillions of dollars to support climate action, renewable technologies, and the path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

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Six of 9 Planetary Boundaries breached by Humans

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Planetary Boundaries

Mains level: NA

boundaries

 

Central Idea

  • A recent study has delivered a stark message: humanity has breached six of the nine planetary boundaries that are crucial for maintaining Earth’s stability and resilience.

What are the 9 Planetary Boundaries?

  • These boundaries encompass climate change, biosphere integrity, land system change, freshwater change, biogeochemical flows, and novel entities.
  • These findings underscore the urgent need for a thorough reassessment of our environmental impact and the imperative of global collaboration to address these critical challenges.

Understanding Planetary Boundaries

(1) Setting Safe Limits:

  • Planetary boundaries can be likened to the vital parameters in human health, such as blood pressure.
  • Just as high blood pressure elevates the risk of heart disease, exceeding planetary boundaries heightens the risk of triggering irreversible environmental changes.

(2) An Evolving Framework:

  • The planetary boundaries framework was introduced in 2009 to define the safe environmental limits within which humanity should operate.
  • To remain relevant, the framework must adapt as our understanding of Earth’s complex systems and human impacts evolves.

The Third Iteration: Assessing Environmental Risks

(1) Identifying Critical Processes:

  • Researchers examined processes within Earth’s ecosystem that have been vital for sustaining favourable conditions for humans over the past 12,000 years.
  • This era is noted for its stable and temperate planetary conditions.

(2) Evaluating Human Impact:

  • The study assessed the extent to which human activities are modifying these crucial processes.
  • Computer simulations were employed to determine the point at which human activities could trigger irreversible changes in Earth’s systems.

(3) Alarming Revelations:

  • The study found that human activities had breached safe boundaries for climate change and land system change as early as 1988.
  • The current trajectory poses a substantial risk of systemic disruption.

Boundaries Crossed and Their Consequences

(1) Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration:

  • The safe limit was set at 350 ppm; it currently stands at 417 ppm.
  • This has led to significant climate change.

(2) Land System Change:

  • The safe limit aimed to maintain 75% of the original forest cover; the current estimate is at 60%.
  • Such alterations have profound consequences for land systems.

(3) Biosphere Integrity:

  • The safe limit was fewer than 10 extinctions per million species-years; the actual rate has exceeded 100.
  • This poses a severe threat to millions of plant and animal species.

(4) Freshwater Change:

  • Boundaries have been exceeded for both blue (surface and groundwater) and green (water available for plants) water resources.
  • This has negative consequences for ecosystems.

(5) Biogeochemical Flows:

  • Safe boundaries have been surpassed for phosphorus and nitrogen flows.
  • This has alarming implications for biodiversity and water quality.

(6) Novel Entities:

  • The planetary boundary for novel entities was set at zero, and this boundary has been transgressed.
  • Risks include stratospheric ozone depletion, aerosol loading, and ocean acidification.

Way Forward: Urgent Global Collaboration

(1) Lessons from the Ozone Layer:

  • Successful global negotiations, like the Montreal Protocol, managed to restore the ozone layer to safe levels after transgression.
  • Emphasizes the importance of adhering to limits on environmental waste.

(2) Embracing a Circular Economy:

  • A circular economy, mirroring nature’s own system, is essential.
  • Transitioning towards a circular economy represents a crucial step in tackling these planetary challenges.

Conclusion

  • The study’s findings serve as a stark reminder of humanity’s responsibility to safeguard Earth’s delicate equilibrium.
  • Breaching planetary boundaries not only poses immediate risks but also imperils the long-term sustainability of our planet.
  • Urgent global cooperation and a commitment to respecting environmental limits are essential to avert a potentially catastrophic future.

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Climate phenomena and food security

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: El Niño, IOD, Climate change, Water stress

Mains level: Water and climate change crises in India and food, water, and ecological security

https://epaper.thehindu.com/reader

What’s the news?

  • Disruptive weather events, including El Niño and changing precipitation patterns, are impacting India’s agriculture, resulting in reduced crop yields, water stress, and rising food prices.

Central idea

  • India has experienced a series of disruptive weather and climate phenomena in recent times, highlighting the complexity of our precipitation system. This complexity poses significant challenges to the sustainability and resilience of development projects in the mountains and floodplains.

How do western disturbances influence India’s climate?

  • Origin: Western disturbances are weather systems that originate in the Mediterranean region and travel eastward towards South Asia, including India.
  • Winter and Spring Impact: During the winter and spring seasons, these disturbances bring much-needed moisture to the western Himalayan region and parts of northern India. This moisture contributes to rainfall and snowfall in these areas, which are essential for agriculture, water resources, and ecosystems.
  • Unusual Behavior: The Western disturbance typically follows a seasonal pattern, but in some years, it can exhibit unusual behavior. For example, it may persist late into the summer months, affecting weather patterns beyond its usual timeframe.
  • Impact on Southwest Monsoon: When a Western disturbance lingers into the summer, it can influence the southwest monsoon, which is crucial for India’s agriculture. The interaction between these weather systems can lead to unpredictable and sometimes extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall, landslides, and flooding.
  • Concerns: The unusual behavior of the Western disturbance can raise concerns about the sustainability and resilience of development projects in regions affected by these weather events, such as the western Himalayan region and northern India.

El Niño’s Influence on Monsoons

  • El Niño:
    • El Niño is a climate phenomenon characterized by the warming of sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central tropical Pacific Oceans.
    • This warming disrupts normal atmospheric circulation patterns, leading to significant climatic impacts worldwide.
  • Impact on the Southwest Monsoon:
    • El Niño events can influence the Indian Southwest Monsoon, which is responsible for the majority of India’s annual rainfall.
    • While not all El Niño events have adverse effects on the monsoon, their intensification can lead to drier conditions in some parts of India.
    • El Niño tends to weaken the monsoon, reducing the amount and distribution of rainfall.
  • Interaction with Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD):
    • The relationship between El Niño and the monsoon has evolved over time.
    • In some cases, when El Niño affects the monsoon, another climate phenomenon in the Indian Ocean, known as the positive-phase IOD, can balance the consequences.
    • The IOD can influence monsoon variability and rainfall patterns, either mitigating or exacerbating the impact of El Niño.
  • Predictive Value of Models:
    • Dynamic regression models have suggested that a significant portion of the inter-annual variability of the Southwest Monsoon can be attributed to the combined effects of El Niño and the IOD.
    • This indicates the predictive value of these models in understanding and forecasting monsoon behavior during El Niño events.
  • Food Security Implications:
    • El Niño’s influence on the monsoon has direct implications for food security in India.
    • Reduced monsoon rainfall can delay the onset of rains, affect crop sowing, and result in hot temperatures that negatively impact crop growth and soil moisture.
    • Crop yields, especially for water-intensive crops like rice and soybean, can be significantly affected during El Niño years, leading to food production challenges.

Climate

How are agriculture and water dependency intricately linked in India?

  • Two Types of Water for Agriculture:
    • Agriculture in India relies on two primary sources of water: green water and blue water.
    • Green water refers to rain-fed soil moisture that is utilized by crops and eventually transpires into the atmosphere.
    • Blue water includes the water found in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater, which is essential for irrigation as well as drinking and industrial use.
  • Importance of Green Water:
    • Despite significant investments in dams, reservoirs, and irrigation systems, approximately half of the cultivated area in India depends on green water.
    • Green water is crucial for rainfed agriculture, as it provides moisture for crops and contributes to the overall water availability for agriculture.
  • Water Requirements for the Daily Diet:
    • The daily diet of individuals in India, from cooking oil to diverse foods, is associated with a substantial water footprint.
    • On average, an individual’s daily diet in India requires approximately 3,268 liters of water per day, subject to regional variability.
    • A significant portion (about 75%) of this water footprint is attributed to green water, highlighting the importance of rainfed agriculture to food and nutritional security.
  • Dependency on Green Water in Irrigated Areas:
    • Even in areas with access to irrigation, many dominant crops still depend on green water to varying degrees.
    • For example, during the kharif season, rice paddy under irrigation uses green water for about 35% of its water requirements.
    • Staple crops like tur dal, soybean, groundnut, and maize also rely considerably on green water, particularly during specific growing seasons.
  • Impact of Climate Phenomena on Green Water:
    • Climate phenomena like El Niño can disrupt the availability of green water by delaying the start of rains and affecting sowing schedules.
    • Higher temperatures during El Niño events may negatively influence plant growth and soil moisture, impacting crop yields.
  • Food Production Challenges:
    • During El Niño years, when green water availability may be compromised, crop production can be significantly affected.
    • For instance, there was a 28% decline in soybean production in India during the 2015–2016 El Niño year compared to the average

Central India’s vulnerability

  • Geographic Region:
    • Central India comprises 36 districts across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra.
    • This region is characterized by diverse landscapes, including highlands and urban centers.
  • Climate Change Hotspot:
    • Central India is identified as a climate change hotspot due to its critical role in water, food, and ecological security.
    • The region includes headwaters for five of India’s 10 major river basins, making it crucial for water resources.
  • Water Stress:
    • Central India experiences significant and persistent water stress.
    • Water stress is driven primarily by the demand for irrigation, particularly during the rabi season, which relies on blue water sources such as rivers and reservoirs.
  • Extent of Water Stress:
    • Approximately 70–78% of the landscape in Central India experiences water stress for four or more months each year.
    • Among the 17 urban centers in the region, 11 face water stress for six to eight months, with Nagpur enduring water stress for the longest duration.
    • Changing precipitation patterns, including declining monsoon precipitation since the 1950s, have exacerbated water stress in Central India.

Adaptation Strategies

  • Diversifying Agro-Food Systems:
    • To adapt to changing precipitation patterns and water availability, there’s an emphasis on diversifying agro-food systems.
    • This includes shifting away from water-intensive crops to alternative, less water-dependent crops like millets.
  • Reducing Dependence on Water-Intensive Crops:
    • A key adaptation strategy is reducing dependence on water-intensive crops, particularly during periods of water stress.
    • Crop diversification may involve promoting the cultivation of millets and alternative varieties of dominant cereals.
  • Shorter growing cycles:
    • Advisories to farmers may include shifting to crops with shorter growing cycles.
    • Shorter growing cycles can help adapt to changing precipitation patterns and mitigate the risks associated with extended dry periods.
  • Improved Forecasting and Early Warning Systems:
    • Adaptation efforts are aided by advancements in short-term weather forecasting and early warning systems.
    • Timely weather forecasts and warnings for intense rain and dry spells can help farmers make informed decisions.
  • Enhancing Reservoir and Dam Management:
    • Given the risks associated with extreme rain events, adaptive strategies include improved management of dams and reservoirs.
    • Effective reservoir and dam management can reduce the risk of dam-based flood disasters.
  • Balancing Water Demands:
    • Sustainable water-sharing practices between humans and nature are crucial for adaptation.
    • Balancing the needs of agriculture, industry, and ecosystems while maintaining ecological flows in rivers is a priority.
  • Government Initiatives:
    • Both the central and state governments are involved in implementing adaptation strategies.
    • Government efforts may include policy support, incentives for farmers, and investments in infrastructure.

Conclusion

  • The water and climate change crises in India, intertwined with food, water, and ecological security, require a multifaceted response. Diversifying agro-food systems, reducing dependence on blue water, rejuvenating rivers, and sustainable water sharing between humans and nature are essential for the well-being of India’s 1.4 billion people.

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Redouble efforts to reduce disaster risks

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Climate crisis, Frequent and severe extreme weather events and Solutions

What’s the news?

  • In 2023, the rise in disasters is not an anomaly; it’s a disturbing trend. Headlines have been dominated by a relentless wave of bad news: severe flooding in China, devastating wildfires in Europe and Hawaii, and July marking the hottest month ever recorded.

Central idea

  • The world is standing at a precarious crossroads, where the challenges we face are multiplying faster than our ability to mitigate them. The aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a complex web of crises encompassing war, debt, and food insecurity, have placed our collective resilience to the test. All of this unfolds against the ever-looming backdrop of the climate crisis, which drives increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events.

Disproportionate Impact on Vulnerable Communities

  • Debt crisis: A majority of the 50 countries most vulnerable to climate change also grapple with severe debt issues. India, already one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, is acutely experiencing this new reality.
  • Extreme weather events: In 2022, disasters or extreme weather events battered the country nearly every day, with this year’s severe monsoon causing widespread loss of livelihoods and lives.

Solutions Within Reach

  • SDG: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continue to serve as our most comprehensive blueprint for achieving peace and prosperity.
  • Paris Agreement: Additionally, commitments made in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C offer a clear path forward.
  • Sendai Framework: The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction provides a global framework to reduce disaster risks, although progress in its implementation has been slow.
  • Accelerating Resilience Building: One valuable lesson we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of systemic disaster risk reduction, resilience, and adaptation. The crisis has not only exposed our vulnerability to risks but has also catalyzed innovative approaches, such as digital technologies and modeling. India’s proactive efforts in disaster risk reduction, including state-level disaster management plans and early warning systems, have demonstrated tangible results in reducing mortality from extreme weather events.
  • Financial Reforms for Disaster Preparedness: India’s 15th Finance Commission has introduced significant reforms for disaster risk financing, allocating substantial resources for preparedness, response, recovery, and capacity development. On the international stage, India is championing disaster resilience and sustainability through initiatives like the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and the deployment of its National Disaster Response Force.

The Transformations We Need

  • Early detection system: Disaster risk reduction must be integrated at all levels of our societies. This includes how we build, invest, and live. One highly cost-effective method is the establishment of early warning systems for all, with India’s support for this endeavor being noteworthy. Such systems can significantly reduce the damage caused by impending disasters. However, it is crucial to recognize that over a third of the world’s population, primarily in the least developed countries and Small Island Developing States, lacks access to these life-saving systems.
  • The Path to a Global Multi-Risk Warning System: Our ultimate goal should be a global multi-risk warning system that covers all types of hazards, be they biological, tectonic, or technological. Improving global data capabilities is essential for better prediction and response to the risks we face. India’s leadership in knowledge sharing, joint data infrastructure, and risk analysis through its G-20 presidency deserves commendation.
  • Leaving No One Behind: We must strengthen international cooperation in disaster prevention, response, and recovery, particularly for countries in the Global South. No one should be left behind in our collective efforts to mitigate the impacts of disasters.

Conclusion

  • The recent G-20 summit and the outcomes of the Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group offer a unique opportunity to shape a future where we are equipped to withstand disaster risk. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres wisely noted, Extreme weather events will happen. But they do not need to become deadly disasters. Together, through decisive action and unwavering commitment, we can forge a more resilient and sustainable world for generations to come.

 

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What is heat index and why is it important to measure?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heat index, heat stress, heat waves etc.

Mains level: Climate change and soaring temperatures, impacts and measures

What’s the news?

  • In August, the coastal regions of Iran bore witness to an astonishing and potentially life-threatening event: a scorching heat index of 70 degrees Celsius (°C). Public holidays were declared on August 2 and 3 due to what was described as unprecedented heat.

Central idea

  • The alarming incidents of rising heat temperatures are not isolated; Iran had already grappled with extreme heat earlier in the year when the Persian Gulf Airport recorded a heat index of 66.7°C. The dire consequences of such soaring temperatures demand our attention and action.

What is the heat index?

  • The heat index, also known as the apparent temperature or feels-like temperature, is a measure of how hot it feels to the human body when relative humidity is factored in along with the actual air temperature.
  • In essence, it quantifies the discomfort or perceived warmth caused by the combination of high temperatures and high humidity.

How is the heat index calculated?

  • Dr. Robert Steadman’s Formula: Dr. Robert Steadman, a professor at Colorado State University, developed a complex formula in 1979 to calculate the heat index. This formula considers various parameters, including air temperature and relative humidity.
  • Parameters in the Formula: The formula takes into account the following parameters:
    • Air temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit).
    • Relative humidity (expressed as a decimal, e.g., 50% RH becomes 0.50).
    • Coefficients specific to the formula (c1, c2, c3, c4, c5, c6, c7, c8, and c9).
  • Nonlinear Relationship: The formula is complex because it accounts for the nonlinear relationship between temperature, humidity, and how humans perceive heat.
  • Global Variations: Different countries may have their own variations of heat index calculations, but Dr. Steadman’s formula is widely recognized and used as a standard reference.

Significance of measuring the heat index

  • Accurate Perception of Heat: The heat index provides a more accurate representation of how hot it feels to the human body compared to the actual air temperature. It factors in relative humidity, which significantly affects human comfort in hot conditions.
  • Health Impact Assessment: Measuring the heat index is crucial for assessing the potential health risks associated with hot weather. It helps identify conditions that may lead to heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
  • Preventing Heat Stress: High humidity levels, considered in the heat index, can lead to heat stress. Monitoring the heat index assists in recognizing situations where heat stress is more likely to occur, prompting individuals to take the necessary precautions.
  • Issuing Public Warnings: Weather agencies and authorities use the heat index to issue heat advisories and warnings to the public. These warnings inform people about the heightened risks associated with high heat index values, encouraging them to take protective measures.
  • Workplace Safety: Measuring the heat index is vital for ensuring workplace safety, particularly in industries involving outdoor work or non-air-conditioned environments. It enables employers and workers to implement safety measures to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Emergency response and preparedness agencies rely on heat index information to anticipate and respond to heat-related emergencies. This includes managing heat-related illnesses and addressing the increased demand for cooling during heatwaves.
  • Adapting to Climate Change: With the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves associated with climate change, monitoring the heat index becomes essential. It assists in adapting to changing climate conditions and developing strategies to mitigate heat-related risks.

How does high humidity impact the human body?

  • Heat Stress: High humidity can lead to heat stress, where the body struggles to dissipate excess heat. The typical human core temperature range is 36.1 to 37.2°C. When the body can’t effectively shed surplus heat, the core temperature rises, potentially causing symptoms such as heat exhaustion, rashes, and an elevated heart rate.
  • Reduced Cooling: In high humidity, the body’s natural cooling mechanism, which relies on sweating and evaporation, becomes less effective. The saturated air makes it challenging for sweat to evaporate, hindering the body’s ability to lose excess heat. This results in discomfort and a heightened risk of heat-related illnesses.
  • Perceived Temperature: High humidity can make the air feel significantly hotter than the actual air temperature. This increase in perceived temperature, often reflected in the heat index, contributes to a sense of extreme heat and discomfort.
  • Dehydration Risk: To compensate for reduced evaporative cooling in high humidity, individuals may sweat profusely. This increased sweating can raise the risk of dehydration if fluid losses are not replenished adequately.
  • Respiratory Discomfort: Humid air can pose challenges for individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma. The added moisture in the air may make breathing more difficult, worsening respiratory symptoms.
  • Sleep Disturbances: High humidity can disrupt sleep patterns, as sleeping in a warm and muggy environment can be uncomfortable. Restlessness and difficulties falling or staying asleep may occur in such conditions.
  • Impact on Physical Activities: High humidity can hinder physical performance and work productivity. People may find it more challenging to engage in physical activities or perform tasks in hot and humid conditions.

Facts for Prelims: Heat-related Terminologies in News

  • Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the body’s temperature regulation system fails, and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels, usually above 104°F (40°C). It can lead to organ damage and even death if not treated promptly.
  • Heat cramps: Heat cramps are painful muscle contractions that can occur during physical activity in hot weather.
  • Heat wave: A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which can be accompanied by high humidity levels. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) defines a heat wave as when the daily maximum temperature of more than five consecutive days exceeds the average maximum temperature by 5°C, and the normal minimum temperature is also exceeded.
  • Heat index: It is the measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to actual air temperature. The higher the heat index, the hotter it feels.
  • Thermal stress: It is the stress on the human body caused by high temperatures, humidity, and solar radiation.
  • Urban Heat Island: It refers to the phenomenon where urban areas experience higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas due to human activities like transportation, industrialization, and construction.
  • Wet bulb globe temperature: It is a measure of heat stress in direct sunlight, which takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover.
  • Diurnal temperature range: It is the difference between the maximum and minimum temperatures in a 24-hour period. A low diurnal temperature range indicates high humidity and poor air quality.

Way forward: Measures to adapt

  • Recognize the Danger: Acknowledge that a heat index value of 67°C or higher can be extremely dangerous for both humans and animals, especially with direct and prolonged exposure.
  • Invest in Early Warning Systems: Develop and invest in early warning systems that provide timely alerts and advisories about extreme heat events. This helps individuals and communities prepare for and respond to heatwaves effectively.
  • Adjust Work Timings: Consider making changes to work schedules to avoid outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day. This can reduce heat exposure and the risk of heat-related illnesses.
  • Find Sustainable Cooling Solutions: Identify and implement sustainable cooling solutions, such as the use of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly cooling technologies. Ensuring access to air conditioning and promoting better building designs for heat resilience are also important.
  • Promote Public Awareness and Education: Raise public awareness about the risks associated with extreme heat, and educate individuals and communities about heat safety measures. Knowledge empowers people to take proactive steps to protect themselves during heatwaves.

Conclusion

  • As we confront rising heat index values across the globe, our ability to adapt and mitigate the effects of extreme heat on human health and well-being becomes paramount. Proactive measures, informed by a comprehensive understanding of the heat index, are essential to safeguarding lives and ensuring a sustainable future in the face of escalating climate challenges.

Must read:

Heat domes, anticyclones and climate change: What’s causing heat waves across the world?

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Emerging countries need women-led climate action

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate change

Mains level: Climate Change and its Impact on Women, gender equality and environmental sustainability

climate

What’s the news?

  • In the current era, the fusion of gender equality and environmental sustainability presents a dynamic duo that holds the key to accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Central Idea

  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) aptly points out that gender equality and environmental goals are not isolated endeavors; they forge a symbiotic relationship that can amplify progress towards a sustainable future.

Vulnerability in a Changing Climate

  • Climate change, a pressing global concern, has repercussions that reverberate across demographics, with women bearing a disproportionate brunt of its impact.
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO, 2019) forecasts that by 2030, scorching temperatures will result in a 2.2% loss of global working hours—equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs.
  • The United Nations (2009) highlighted that across genders, women are considered to be more vulnerable and disproportionately affected by climate change than men.
  • Estimates project that by 2050, climate change risks, coupled with natural disasters and food inflation, could push 130 million people into poverty, disproportionately affecting women’s inequality.

Climate Change and its Impact on Women, Particularly in Low-Income Countries

  • Gendered Vulnerability in Low-Income Countries:
  • Women across the globe face heightened risks to their health, safety, and quality of life. Yet, the vulnerability is notably more pronounced in developing and less developed countries, especially those grappling with low-income realities.
  • This vulnerability is rooted in their reliance on natural resources and labor-intensive work, making them more susceptible to climate change impacts.
  • A crucial aspect of this vulnerability lies in the interconnectedness of poverty and climate change.
  • Climate Crisis Intensifying Basic Needs Struggles:
  • Rural women, in particular, are burdened with the responsibility of ensuring access to essentials like clean water, cooking fuel, and nutritious food for their families.
  • This often involves arduous journeys and exposes them to health and safety risks.
  • Underpaid and Overworked:
  • Despite their pivotal role in food production systems, women engaged in agriculture face persistent challenges.
  • Data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) highlights that over 60% of working women in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are in agriculture. Unfortunately, they often receive inadequate pay and work under challenging conditions.
  • Owning Land: A Gender Disparity:
  • A significant gender disparity exists in land ownership, with women owning only a small fraction of cultivated land.
  • Despite being the backbone of the food production system, women own only about 10% of the land used for farming.
  • This discrepancy further diminishes their resilience against the impacts of climate change.
  • Projected Displacement and Urgent Action:
  • As a grim outlook, studies like McAllister’s 2023 research forecast a potentially staggering 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050.
  • This underscores the urgency of addressing these intertwined challenges.

Gender-specific issues

  • Displacement and Vulnerability: A UN study reveals a stark reality – a substantial 80% of those displaced by climate-related disasters are women and girls.
  • Challenges for Vulnerable Women: Women, especially from marginalized communities, grapple with distinct challenges in the aftermath of natural disasters. Their displacement increases their susceptibility to prejudice and exploitation, exacerbating the hardships they already face.
  • Exploitation Post-Disasters: The disruption caused by disasters creates an environment ripe for exploitation, with women as primary targets. Notably, the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake exposed women to trafficking and exploitation, further highlighting the risks they face.
  • Gender-Based Violence Intensifies: The upheaval following disasters leads to an alarming escalation of gender-based violence against women. Disrupted communities and increased vulnerability create an environment where women are at greater risk.
  • Limited Access to Essential Services: Essential services like employment, education, healthcare, and psychosocial support become scarcer post-disaster. For women, this translates into further limitations and challenges, exacerbating their already marginalized status.
  • Resource and Knowledge Disparities: Women in agriculture face barriers in accessing quality resources, education, and technical knowledge. As climate change compounds these challenges, their vulnerability is magnified.

Way Forward: Empowering Women for Climate Resilience and Action

  • Women’s Role in Climate Adaptation: Acknowledging the potential women possess to contribute to climate adaptation is crucial. Women bring unique perspectives and knowledge to the table, making their engagement indispensable in finding effective solutions.
  • Empowerment Through Education and Training: Investing in women’s education and training is paramount for building resilience to the impact of climate change. Equipping women with the knowledge and skills needed for sustainable practices, such as agriculture, water management, and energy generation, fosters their capacity to adapt to changing conditions.
  • Supporting Women Farmers: Initiatives like the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India exemplify the importance of imparting knowledge to women farmers on how to navigate shifting climate patterns.
  • Women in Climate Policy Decision-Making: Acknowledging the disparities women face in climate change impacts, the need for their active involvement in decision-making becomes evident.
  • Programs to Amplify Women’s Voices: Initiatives like the Gender and Climate Change Development Programme in South Asia seek to elevate women’s influence in policymaking, granting them a stronger voice in shaping climate strategies that directly impact their lives.
  • Global Imperative for Women-Led Climate Action: The call for women-led climate action is not confined to specific regions; it’s a global imperative. Developing and emerging countries, where women often bear the brunt of climate impacts, necessitate collective efforts to empower women as agents of change.

Conclusion

  • The convergence of gender equality and environmental sustainability is no longer an abstract concept; it is a tangible pathway towards a more equitable and resilient world. In a future marred by climate uncertainty, investments in women’s education, training, and participation stand as beacons of hope.

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Why El Nino is now India’s no. 1 Economic and Political Risk?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ENSO, El Nino, La Nina, Monsoon

Mains level: Political-Economic implications of El-Nino on Indian Society

el nino risk

Central Idea

  • The emergence of El Nino as a significant climatic phenomenon in India carries dual implications – economic and political – as the country gears up for national elections in April-May 2024.
  • With its known ability to suppress rainfall and disrupt agricultural cycles, El Nino’s effects are already being felt.

Understanding El Nino and La Nina

  • El Nino and La Nina are two opposite phases of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.
  • ENSO is a naturally occurring phenomenon that involves the interaction between the ocean and atmosphere in the equatorial Pacific.

Here is a detailed comparison of El Nino and La Nina

El Nino La Nina
Definition Warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures Cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures
Frequency Every two to seven years Every two to seven years
Duration Several months to a year or more Several months to a year or more
Impact on winds Weakens trade winds, leading to changes in patterns Strengthens trade winds, leading to changes in patterns
Impact on rains Reduces rainfall and can cause droughts Increases rainfall and can cause flooding
Impact on temp. Warmer-than-average temperatures Colder-than-average temperatures
Global effects Droughts in Asia and Africa, floods in Americas Floods in Asia and Africa, droughts in South America

Impact on India

El Nino La Nina
Associated with weak monsoons and drought-like conditions in India Associated with above-normal rainfall and floods in India
Sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean rises above normal levels Sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean drops below normal levels
Changes in the atmospheric circulation patterns Changes in the atmospheric circulation patterns
Shift in the location of the jet stream, affecting the strength and direction of the monsoon winds Increase in the strength of the monsoon winds, bringing more moisture and rainfall to India
Results in reduced rainfall, dry spells, and heatwaves, leading to crop failures and water scarcity Excessive rainfall can also lead to floods and landslides, causing damage to crops and infrastructure

Broader Implications:

[A] Agriculture

  • Rainfall Deficit: August’s nationwide rainfall stands at 30.7% below normal, erasing the initial 4.2% surplus from the southwest monsoon.
  • Strengthening El Nino: July saw the Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) surpass the El Nino threshold, hitting 1 degree Celsius, suggesting an intensification of El Nino.
  • Projected Persistence: Forecasts predict El Nino’s continuation and possible strengthening during the 2023-24 winter season, potentially impacting the northeast monsoon and winter seasons.

[B] Food Supply Challenges

  • Crucial Monsoon: Beyond crop yield, the southwest monsoon replenishes reservoirs and recharges groundwater, essential for agricultural success.
  • Rabi Season Dependence: The success of rabi season crops like wheat, mustard, and chickpea hinges on water reserves, primarily sourced from aquifers and reservoirs.
  • Supply-Demand Nexus: With rice and wheat stocks at a six-year low and food inflation at 11.5%, El Nino-induced shortfalls may exacerbate food inflation concerns.

[C] Political Implications

  • Food Inflation: Examining consumer food price inflation leading up to previous Lok Sabha elections reveals its considerable impact on political outcomes.
  • Electoral Influence: The BJP’s 2019 electoral victory and the UPA’s 2014 defeat were partially attributed to the level of food inflation during those periods.
  • Government Actions: The Modi administration has already taken steps to ensure food availability, curb hoarding, and address potential food inflation concerns.

Conclusion

  • El Nino’s emergence as a formidable environmental and political factor underscores the intricate interplay between climate patterns, agriculture, and political dynamics.
  • India’s ability to manage the far-reaching consequences of El Nino on food production and inflation will determine its capacity to address immediate challenges while considering the longer-term goals.

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Extreme heat can impact your mind, not just the body: Here is how

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heatwaves

Mains level: Heatwaves carry a dual impact: physical discomfort and psychological distress, coping strategies

heat

What’s the news?

  • As heatwaves grow fiercer and more frequent, their influence on mental health becomes undeniable, prompting experts to explore the intricate connections.

Central idea

  • In recent times, the intensifying and prolonged heatwaves have gone beyond scorching temperatures and have started to scorch minds as well. The impact of soaring temperatures on mental health has gained newfound recognition, necessitating a deeper examination of the interplay between climate change and our psychological well-being.

What are Heat Waves?

  • Heatwaves generally occur in India between March and June.
  • IMD declares a heatwave event when the maximum daytime temperature for a location in the plains crosses 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Over the hills, the threshold temperature is 30 degrees Celsius.

What is meant by Climate Distress?

  • Climate Distress is a term coined to describe a range of emotions triggered by the environmental changes brought about by climate change.
  • It encompasses feelings such as anxiety, terror, sadness, shame, and guilt, all of which stem from the recognition of the broader consequences of climate change

Frequency of Heatwaves in India

  • Increase in frequency and intensity: India has been witnessing an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves in recent years.
  • For instance: In April and May 2022, around 350 million Indians were exposed to strong heat stress. On average, six heat wave events occur every year in the northern parts of the country.
  • Rise in summer temperatures as well as winter temperatures: Summer temperatures have risen by an average of 0.5–0.9 °C across districts in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan between 1990 and 2019. In addition, around 54% of India’s districts have seen a similar rise in winter temperatures.
  • Temperature rise projection: It is expected that between 2021 and 2050, the maximum temperature will rise by 2–3.5 °C in 100 districts and by 1.5–2°C in around 455 districts. Winter temperatures will also rise between 1°C and 1.5°C in around 485 districts.

Heatwaves: The Looming Threat

  • Studies have uncovered alarming correlations between elevated temperatures and a rise in suicides, violent crimes, aggression, hospitalizations for mental disorders, and even mortality.
  • Patients with conditions like schizophrenia, dementia, psychosis, and substance use disorders are particularly vulnerable.
  • For every 1-degree Celsius increase, the risk of death among patients with such disorders rises by nearly 5%.
  • A seminal study analyzed data from over 2 million individuals with private insurance, revealing a spike in emergency department visits for mental health issues during the hottest days of summer.

heat

The Physical-Mental Connection

  • Heat’s influence isn’t confined to discomfort; it sets off a cascade of physiological changes that translate into emotional and mental shifts.
  • Increased heart rates due to heat can lead to heightened anxiety.
  • The neurotransmitter serotonin, linked to mood regulation, anxiety, and depression, also affects temperature perception.
  • Certain drugs can amplify heat’s impact on body temperature regulation, such as common medications for schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Heatwaves: The Potent Agents of Psychological Distress

  • Rise in Suicides and Violent Crimes: Research has uncovered a striking connection between heatwaves and a surge in suicides, violent crimes, and aggression. Studies have reported a 0.7% increase in suicides linked to rising temperatures. Additionally, a 4% to 6% increase in interpersonal violence, including homicides, has been observed during heatwaves.
  • Aggravation of Mental Illnesses: Conditions like anxiety, schizophrenia, and depression are exacerbated by heatwaves. Irritability, anger, and anxiety intensify, making symptom management challenging.
  • Sleep Impact: Heatwaves disrupt sleep patterns, impacting mental health. Disturbed sleep leads to mood disorders, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.
  • Vulnerable Groups: Older adults, adolescents, and those with preexisting mental issues are especially vulnerable. Physiological vulnerabilities worsen their mental distress during heatwaves.
  • Physiological Stress Response: Heatwaves trigger increased heart rates, heightening anxiety levels. The physiological stress response amplifies emotional arousal.
  • Medication Interaction: Mental health medications interacting with heat worsen physical and mental effects, exacerbating psychological distress.
  • Routine Disruption and Isolation: Heatwaves disrupt routines and limit social interactions, fostering loneliness and frustration, amplifying psychological distress.
  • Climate Change Impact: Heatwaves are part of climate change’s wider impact, contributing to environmental uncertainty. This awareness triggers anxiety, fear, and helplessness.

Coping Strategies

  • Recognizing the Reality: Understanding that the threats posed by heatwaves and climate change are real is the first step. Acknowledging the potential impact on mental health helps individuals prepare and seek appropriate support.
  • Traditional Coping Strategies: While traditional coping strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy and medications are valuable, the unique nature of climate distress requires acknowledging that the threat is tangible and not just a matter of perception.
  • Advocating for Change: Channeling distress into advocacy can be empowering. Participating in climate initiatives and advocating for policies addressing the root causes of climate change can provide a sense of purpose.
  • Fostering Resilience: Building resilience through mindfulness techniques and stress reduction practices can help individuals manage the anxiety and fear associated with climate distress.

Conclusion

  • Heatwaves carry a dual impact: physical discomfort and psychological distress. Recognizing and addressing the mental health implications of climate change is an urgent endeavor. As our understanding evolves, it becomes imperative to support individuals and communities in navigating the profound mental effects of escalating temperatures.

Also read:

Heat domes, anticyclones and climate change: What’s causing heat waves across the world?

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Hurricane Hilary’s rare journey towards West Coast

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Huricances, Tropical Cyclones

Mains level: Not Much

hilary

Central Idea

  • Hurricane Hilary’s unexpected trajectory towards Southern California and Mexico has caught meteorologists and residents off guard.
  • The only recorded instance of a tropical storm with hurricane-force winds hitting Southern California dates back to 1858, impacting San Diego.

What is a Hurricane?

  • A hurricane, also known as a tropical cyclone or typhoon in different regions, is a powerful and intense tropical storm characterized by strong winds, heavy rainfall, and low atmospheric pressure.
  • Here are the key features and characteristics of a hurricane:
  1. Formation: Hurricanes typically form over warm ocean waters, where the sea surface temperature is at least 26.5 degrees Celsius (about 80 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. Warm ocean water provides the energy needed to fuel the storm’s growth.
  2. Energy Source: Hurricanes derive their energy from the heat released when moist air rises and condenses into clouds and rain. This process, known as latent heat release, powers the storm and leads to the development of strong winds.
  3. Eye: At the center of a hurricane is a relatively calm and clear area known as the “eye.” The eye is surrounded by a circular band of intense thunderstorms called the “eyewall,” where the strongest winds and heaviest rainfall occur.
  4. Wind Speeds: Hurricanes are characterized by extremely strong winds that can reach speeds of over 74 miles per hour (119 kilometres per hour) for a storm to be classified as a hurricane. Major hurricanes can have wind speeds exceeding 111 miles per hour (179 kilometers per hour).
  5. Categories: Hurricanes are categorized based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which ranges from Category 1 (weakest) to Category 5 (strongest). Category 1 hurricanes have sustained winds of 74-95 mph, while Category 5 hurricanes have winds greater than 157 mph.

About Hurricane Hilary

  • Unlike hurricane-prone states on the Gulf of Mexico, California and Mexico’s west coast lack experience in dealing with such events.
  • Hurricane Hilary’s expected landfall in the Baja peninsula of Mexico poses risks of landslides, flooding, and extensive damage due to the region’s geographical features and population density.

Factors behind its intensification

  • Ocean Temperature Factor: Hurricanes require ocean waters above 26 degrees Celsius to form. The west coast’s colder waters are less conducive to hurricane formation.
  • Vertical Wind Shear: Strong upper-level winds can disrupt hurricanes’ structure and prevent their formation. West coast’s stronger wind shear reduces the likelihood of hurricanes.
  • Trade Wind Influence: Trade winds, which steer hurricanes, play a pivotal role in directing them toward the east coast while diverting them away from the west coast.
  • Westward Trajectory: Hurricanes originating in the eastern Pacific tend to move west-northwest, taking them away from the west coast and out to sea.

Climate Change induced factors

  • Climate Change Impact: Climate change leads to more frequent and intense hurricanes. Rising ocean temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions contribute to increased hurricane intensity.
  • Ocean Heat Absorption: Oceans have absorbed 90% of excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, leading to higher sea surface temperatures and stronger hurricanes.
  • Marine Heat Waves: Elevated sea surface temperatures result in marine heat waves, intensifying storm systems and amplifying their impact on land.
  • El Nino’s Role: El Niño, an abnormal warming of equatorial Pacific Ocean waters, can weaken wind shear in the eastern Pacific, creating conditions conducive to hurricane formation.

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Climate change impacts ancient moss Takakia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Takakia

Mains level: Not Much

Takakia

Central Idea

  • Takakia, a unique moss genus that has thrived at high altitudes on the Tibetan Plateau for millions of years, has captured the attention of international scientists.
  • Astonishingly, the same habitat that nurtured Takakia for eons is now rapidly transforming due to climate change, highlighting the urgency of conservation efforts.

Takakia and its Evolution

  • Adaptive Traits: Takakia is slender turf with finger-like leaves and resilience to harsh weather conditions. Genetic traits protecting it from frost and high UV radiation have evolved over 65 million years.
  • Living Fossil: Despite its rapidly evolving genome, Takakia’s physical appearance has remained unchanged for over 165 million years, making it a remarkable example of a living fossil.
  • Evolutionary Paradox: The juxtaposition of constant appearance and evolving genome poses an intriguing challenge for evolutionary biologists, shedding light on the species’ unique adaptation.

Its scientific significance

  • Hybrid Characteristics: Takakia blends features from mosses, liverworts, and green algae, intriguing researchers for its evolutionary diversity.
  • Ancient Separation: Research confirms that Takakia’s divergence from other mosses occurred around 390 million years ago, soon after the emergence of the first land plants.

Climate Change Impacts on Takakia

  • Changing Habitat: Takakia’s habitat, which sheltered it for millions of years, is now experiencing rapid climate change within decades.
  • Temperature and Glacier Shifts: Recorded measurements since 2010 indicate a temperature increase of nearly half a degree Celsius per year on the Tibetan Plateau, accompanied by a glacier’s retreat of almost 50 meters per year.
  • Species Resilience: Unlike some other plants that benefit from warming, Takakia’s populations have diminished over the study period. Its struggle to cope with rising temperatures raises concerns about its survival.

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Sustainable business practices: Imperatives and pathways

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate change

Mains level: Climate Change and Shifting Business Paradigms for Environmental Sustainability

What’s the news?

  • The 2023 IPCC Report highlights that human-induced global warming of 1.1 degrees Celsius has led to unprecedented shifts in the Earth’s climate.

Central idea

  • In recent decades, human activities have substantially contributed to the acceleration of climate change. The economic toll of climate change has been immense. The anticipated intensification of climate impacts underscores the urgent need for both mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Climate Change and Shifting Business Paradigms for Environmental Sustainability

  • Climate Change Impact: Human activities have led to a significant increase in global warming, resulting in unprecedented climate changes. The 2023 IPCC Report highlights the Earth’s warming by 1.1 degrees Celsius due to human influence.
  • Economic Consequences: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates substantial economic losses of around US$1.3 trillion annually during 2011–2020, constituting 0.2 percent of global GDP. These losses stem from climate change-related damages, affecting both the economy and the environment.
  • Businesses and Sustainability: There’s a noticeable shift in business attitudes, moving away from pure profit-centric approaches to considering their social and environmental impacts. Many companies are now striving to balance economic, social, and environmental aspects—also known as the triple bottom line.
  • ESG and CSR Frameworks: Enterprises are adopting Environmental, Social, and governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) frameworks to integrate sustainable practices into their operations. This includes using renewable energy sources, improving stakeholder relationships, and engaging in environmentally responsible actions.
  • IBM Survey on Business Leaders’ Views: The IBM survey revealed that 51 percent of top business leaders and CEOs recognize the importance of environmental sustainability. This suggests growing awareness and concern among influential business figures.
  • Consumer Behavior: Consumers’ preferences are also changing. About 49 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products labeled as sustainable or socially responsible. This indicates a shift in consumer behavior towards supporting eco-friendly products and companies.

How are companies responding?

  • IKEA’s Environmental Priorities:
    • IKEA, a global furniture leader, has embraced climate finance for sustainable practices. They reduced their climate footprint by 5 percent in 2022, from 27.2 to 25.8 million tonnes.
    • IKEA’s transparency extends to disclosing outdoor air pollution across their supply chain. Their food section now offers 50 percent plant-based meals, aligning with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • NIKE’s Sustainable Business Approach:
    • NIKE, a renowned sportswear brand, echoes this trend by incorporating sustainable practices.
    • Their ESG Risk Rating of 19.6 reflects effective management of industry-specific ESG risks.
  • India’s Regulatory Push:
    • India’s Ministry of Corporate Affairs is propelling sustainability within the corporate sphere through the National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct.
    • These guidelines emphasize resource-efficient, low-carbon technologies and accountability for environmental impact and stakeholder considerations.
  • Ather Energy’s Holistic EV Strategy:
    • Ather Energy, a Bengaluru-based EV startup, showcases a comprehensive strategy. Their approach involves building an entire charging infrastructure network and fostering a local, sustainable supply chain.
    • This strategy encompasses high-quality product creation and reusing/recycling outdated items.

Sustainability Challenges Faced by Companies

  • Climate change impacts supply chains, leading to transition risks and event-driven physical risks.
  • Environmental factors like water shortages and changing demand affect business operations.
  • Vendor credibility issues and logistical challenges disrupt supply chain stability.
  • Social factors, including communal disturbances and employee strikes, introduce uncertainties.
  • Ensuring profitability while investing in sustainable practices poses financial challenges.

Strategies to Overcome Sustainability Challenges

  • Financing Green Transitions: To address the increased investments required, companies can allocate separate budgets for CSR and ESG activities, as evidenced by the IBM survey. Regulatory compliance would ensure dedicated budget allocations, fostering a commitment to sustainable practices over the long term.
  • Justifying Price Increases: As per the IBM survey, consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for sustainable products, even in developing countries. By emphasizing ethical marketing practices and leveraging social media, businesses can tap into this growing consumer trend.
  • Overcoming Technological Limitations: While traditional methods like paper backups remain useful, the evolution of technology can help in avoiding fraud and malpractice, as mentioned in the article. Embracing technology, with proper safeguards in place is essential for comprehensive sustainability.
  • Addressing Greenwashing Concerns: Organizations can counter doubts about the credibility of their sustainable practices by prioritizing brand awareness and emotional marketing. Through multi-stakeholder involvement and coordinated efforts, companies can establish themselves as genuine advocates of sustainability.

Conclusion

  • Promoting sustainable business practices in the context of traditional profit-oriented models requires a multi-stakeholder approach, regulatory compliance, and governmental support. As the world moves toward universal business sustainability, businesses need to prioritize environmentally conscious practices, with stringent penalties for non-compliance and incentives for positive contributions to society and the environment.

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Climate events and an umbrella for urban health

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate change impact, Vector borne and water borne diseases

Mains level: Threats posed by climate-induced events, disease management challenges and way ahead

What’s the news?

  • The vulnerability of urban households to climate change-led events needs attention in India.

Central idea

  • The current monsoon season in India has garnered significant media attention due to the widespread devastation witnessed in various regions. From the cyclonic storm Biparjoy’s landfall in western India to floods in Assam and heavy rainfall causing havoc in the north, these events have raised concerns, especially among policymakers.

Extreme climate events and its impacts on urban cities

  • Increased Vulnerability: Urban areas, particularly those with inadequate infrastructure and informal settlements, face heightened vulnerability to extreme climate events. Lack of proper resources and planning exacerbates the impact.
  • Disease Outbreaks: Post-monsoon, urban areas are prone to waterborne and vector-borne diseases due to stagnant water and conducive conditions. Diseases like malaria, dengue, cholera, and typhoid can spread rapidly in these environments.
  • Higher Urban Household Susceptibility: Urban households are more susceptible to climate-induced diseases compared to rural households, with increased odds of contracting diseases like malaria and dengue.
  • Challenges in Disease Management: Coordinating Disease Management in Urban Areas Post-extreme climate events become challenging due to the movement of people across regions and the complex network of agencies involved in healthcare.
  • Strain on Health Systems: Urban health systems come under strain as they try to manage the increased demand for healthcare services during and after extreme climate events.
  • Disproportionate Impact on Vulnerable Populations: Vulnerable groups, such as those living in slums or informal settlements, are disproportionately affected by the impacts of extreme climate events due to their marginalized living conditions.

A study on disease vulnerability

  • Urban vs. Rural Vulnerability: The study reveals that urban households are more vulnerable to climate-induced diseases compared to rural households. This vulnerability is particularly evident in the heightened odds of urban households contracting diseases like malaria and dengue.
  • Geographic Implications: The study highlights the geographic variation in disease vulnerability. Households in states with higher climate vulnerability are at a greater risk of suffering from diseases, accentuating the importance of considering regional climate contexts.
  • Malaria and Dengue: Urban households face significantly higher odds of suffering from diseases like malaria and dengue. This emphasizes the urban-specific risk factors contributing to the prevalence of these diseases, including factors related to urbanization, living conditions, and healthcare access.
  • Climate Vulnerability: The study’s insights point to the connection between climatic conditions and disease vulnerability. Households in states with higher vulnerability to climate change experience elevated risks of disease, signaling the need for targeted interventions in these regions.
  • Policy Implications: The findings of the study carry substantial policy implications. Policymakers need to recognize the unique vulnerabilities of urban areas and design tailored strategies to mitigate disease outbreaks in these settings.

Steps to mitigate the challenges posed by extreme climatic events

  • Rebuilding the Urban Health Care System:
    • Focus on enhancing the urban primary health-care system’s resilience.
    • Prioritize serving the vulnerable urban population, particularly those residing in urban slums and peri-urban areas.
    • Develop a health system capable of promptly responding to emergencies, proactively preparing for impending crises, and flexibly adapting to changing public health needs.
  • Increase Public Investment:
    • Allocate more substantial public investment, with immediate attention directed towards urban areas most susceptible to climatic shocks.
    • Address the inadequacy of current funding for primary health care.
    • Recognize the pressing need to channel funds toward bolstering health care infrastructure and resources.
  • Empower the National Urban Health Mission:
    • Support and strengthen the efforts of the National Urban Health Mission.
    • Address the limitations in revenue generation capacities among urban local bodies.
    • Ensure sufficient financial resources are available to bolster urban health care systems.
  • Local Bodies’ Role in Public Health:
    • Acknowledge that a significant portion of preventive and public health functions fall under the jurisdiction of local bodies.
    • Recognize the importance of supporting local bodies in carrying out their public health responsibilities.
  • Establish a Special Fund for Resilience:
    • Create a dedicated fund sourced from statutory institutions, such as the Finance Commission.
    • Direct this fund towards building a robust and resilient health system in vulnerable urban areas.
    • Ensure that the fund is allocated based on identified priorities and needs.
  • Extend Attention Beyond Cities:
    • Recognize the need to extend targeted efforts beyond major cities to include towns.
    • Understand that vulnerability to extreme climatic events is not exclusive to urban centers.
    • Allocate resources and support to build resilience in towns as well.

Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic on urban health governance

  • Complex Urban Health Governance:
    • Recognize the intricacies of urban health governance, marked by the involvement of numerous agencies and fragmented care provision.
    • Acknowledge the expanding influence and dominance of the private sector in the healthcare landscape.
  • Coordination and Cooperation:
    • Learn from the pandemic’s experience that effective public health responses require enhanced coordination and cooperation among diverse actors.
    • Emphasize knowledge and data sharing, along with coordination in preventive, curative, and treatment aspects.
  • Regulation and Standardization:
    • Understand the necessity to regulate rates and enforce quality standards, especially in the private sector.
    • Recognize the importance of standardized treatment practices to ensure consistent and effective care provision.
  • Strengthened Surveillance and Information Systems:
    • Acknowledge the critical role of surveillance and information systems, such as the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program.
    • Plan to universalize and comprehensively strengthen these systems to effectively respond to public health emergencies.
  • Comprehensive Health System Approach:
    • Grasp the need to transition from vertical disease control programs to a comprehensive health system approach.
    • Consider integrating front-line workers across various disease management programs to create a versatile cadre of public health professionals.
  • Address Workforce Shortage:
    • Understand the challenge of an inadequately trained health workforce in public health and related areas.
    • Address this shortage by creating multipurpose front-line public health cadres accountable to both communities and the health system.
  • Climate Change Preparedness:
    • Recognize the increasing frequency and intensity of climate change-led events.
    • Incorporate climate change awareness into planning and management to build resilience and preparedness.

Conclusion

  • As India faces heightened climate-induced health risks, it’s imperative to prioritize the strengthening of urban health systems. The convergence of vulnerability insights, disease management challenges, and the COVID-19 experience highlights the need for integrated, resilient health systems. By adapting to changing public health needs, India can better prepare for the growing threats posed by climate-induced events.

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Climate finance adds another layer of inequity to climate change

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate financing mechanism

Mains level: Climate change and current disparity in climate financing

What’s the news?

  • In recent years, climate justice activists have been advocating for economically developed countries to increase their investments in climate adaptation and mitigation, including supporting other nations in dealing with the impacts of climate change.

Central idea

  • Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia, despite contributing the least to global warming, are disproportionately affected by climate disasters and burdened with debt distress. In contrast, North American and European countries, which have historically been the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, also hold significant roles as creditors in the ongoing debt crisis.

Carbon Emissions per Capita in Various Regions

  • Global Average Emissions: The global average emissions per capita have consistently remained above 4.7 tonnes per capita since 2010. This value is twice the baseline target needed to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.
  • Africa and India: Countries in Africa and India have consistently emitted carbon dioxide per capita below the global average. Despite being major contributors to the global population, their carbon emissions per capita have been comparatively lower.
  • China: China crossed the global average carbon emissions per capita in 2004 and has steadily increased since then. By 2021, China’s per capita emissions would reach 8 tonnes, placing it on par with Europe and Oceania.
  • UAE and the U.S.: Despite observing an overall decline in emissions, the UAE and the U.S. still had the highest carbon emissions per capita as of 2021. The UAE’s per capita emissions were recorded at 21.8 tonnes, while the U.S. stood at 14.9 tonnes

Investment in Climate-related Activities by World Bank Regions

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: This region had the highest investment fraction in climate finance, allocating 1.3% of its GDP towards climate-related activities in both 2019 and 2020. This indicates a significant commitment to addressing climate challenges.
  • East Asia and the Pacific: Following closely behind, this region allocated 1% of its GDP to climate-related initiatives, showcasing a considerable effort in climate finance.
  • South Asia: The region dedicated 0.9% of its GDP to climate-related activities in both years, reflecting a notable commitment to addressing climate change impacts.
  • U.S. and Canada: In contrast, the United States and Canada contributed the least among the World Bank regions, allocating only 0.3% of their GDP to climate-related projects in 2019 and 2020.

International Multilateral Climate Funds Disbursement

  • Disbursement Disparity: Since 2003, a total of $3.3 billion has been approved to be disbursed to South Asia through these multilateral climate funds. However, only $1.3 billion was actually disbursed. This indicates a significant disparity between approved funds and actual disbursements.
  • Global South Funding: A large fraction of the funds for climate mitigation and adaptation in the Global South come from international multilateral climate funds. These funds are primarily sourced from economically developed countries.
  • Suboptimal Disbursement: On average, most regions received only 40% of the approved funding intended for their climate projects. This points to challenges with efficient fund allocation and disbursement.

Climate Vulnerability Index

  • The Climate Vulnerability Index is calculated annually by the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative and combines a country’s exposure, sensitivity, and capacity to adapt to climate change. The Risk of Debt Distress is based on the International Monetary Fund’s Debt Sustainability Framework reports.

Climate Vulnerability Index by country and the Risk of Debt Distress by region

  • Climate Vulnerability Index: Most notably, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa emerge as the most vulnerable to climate change, facing higher risks due to their exposure, sensitivity, and limited capacity to adapt to climate impacts.
  • Risk of Debt Distress: Sub-Saharan Africa stands out as the region with several countries at high risk of or facing debt distress, further exacerbating their vulnerability to climate change.
  • Correlation: Most of the countries experiencing high climate vulnerability are also at risk of debt distress, highlighting the interconnectedness of climate change impacts and financial challenges.
  • High-Income Country Exclusion: Several high-income countries were excluded from the analysis due to limited data. Therefore, the focus of the chart is primarily on countries in the Global South.

Expressed concern from the above observations

  • Disproportionate Vulnerability: The observations highlight the inequity in climate impacts, where regions that have historically contributed less to greenhouse gas emissions are disproportionately bearing the brunt of climate disasters.
  • Financial Vulnerability: Climate-related impacts can exacerbate existing economic vulnerabilities, leading to a higher risk of debt distress, which, in turn, hampers their capacity to address climate change and sustainable development needs effectively.
  • Climate Finance Disparity: The disparity between approved funds and actual disbursements through international multilateral climate funds is worrying. This raises questions about the efficiency of fund allocation and disbursement.
  • Limited High-Income Country Data: The exclusion of several high-income countries from the analysis due to limited data poses concerns about the comprehensive understanding of global climate vulnerabilities.
  • Interconnected Challenges: The interconnection between climate vulnerability, debt distress, and development challenges implies that addressing one issue without considering the others may not yield sustainable solutions.

Way forward

  • Increased Climate Finance:
  • Economically developed countries must urgently increase their financial contributions to support climate adaptation and mitigation efforts in vulnerable regions.
  • Meeting the target of $100 billion annually for climate finance is crucial to aid vulnerable countries in building resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Debt Relief for Vulnerable Countries:
  • High-risk and debt-distressed countries should be offered debt relief measures specifically tied to climate action.
  • Debt-for-climate swaps and innovative financial instruments can help these nations allocate more resources to climate resilience and sustainable development.
  • Technology Transfer and Capacity Building:
  • Accelerate the transfer of clean and sustainable technologies to vulnerable countries, providing them with the tools and knowledge to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions effectively.
  • Capacity building efforts should be prioritized to enhance local communities’ abilities to implement climate-friendly solutions.
  • Adaptation and Resilience Investment:
  • Urgently invest in climate adaptation projects that enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities and ecosystems.
  • Prioritize infrastructure improvements, nature-based solutions, and disaster risk reduction measures to protect lives and livelihoods from climate-related impacts.
  • Ambitious Emission Reduction Targets:
  • Pursue ambitious emission reduction targets at the national and global levels.
  • All countries, especially economically developed ones, should take the lead in transitioning to clean energy sources and decarbonizing their economies to limit global warming

Conclusion

  • The current disparity in climate financing between economically developed countries and those in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia raises concerns about climate justice and the urgent need to bridge the gap. Only through collective and equitable action can we build a sustainable and resilient future for all.

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Controversy associated with the term Anthropocene

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Climate change and the Concept of the Anthropocene

What’s the news?

  • Recent proposals to set the starting year of the Anthropocene at 1950 have been met with criticism due to their purportedly flawed representation of the true culprits behind ecosystem damage and climate change.

Central idea

  • The term Anthropocene was first proposed by the Nobel laureates, chemist Paul Crutzen and biologist Eugene Stoermer, at a meeting of the little-known International Biosphere-Geosphere Program in 2000 in Mexico. While the term persists, it has garnered limited acceptance within the environmental and geological communities.

The concept of the Anthropocene

  • The Anthropocene is a proposed geological epoch that denotes the period during which human activities have had a significant and lasting impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems.
  • The concept emerged from the realization that human activities, such as deforestation, industrialization, urbanization, and the burning of fossil fuels, have caused profound and widespread changes to the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land, leading to phenomena such as climate change.
  • The term anthropocene was first proposed by Nobel laureates Paul Crutzen, a chemist, and Eugene Stoermer, a biologist, in the year 2000.
  • They suggested that the current epoch, the Holocene, which began around 11,700 years ago after the last glacial period, had ended and was replaced by the Anthropocene due to the extensive and unprecedented human impact on the planet.
  • Some argue that it began with the advent of agriculture around 10,000 years ago, while others propose more recent dates, such as the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century or the mid-20th century, marked by a significant increase in human-induced environmental changes.

How it falls short in accurately acknowledging the real culprits of ecosystem damage?

  • Broad Attribution to All Humanity: The Anthropocene concept attributes the impact on Earth’s biosphere and climate system to all of humanity collectively. By treating all humans as culpable, the concept overlooks the disproportionate role played by certain actors, mainly corporate forces in the West.
  • Ignoring Historical Context: The Anthropocene concept does not adequately consider the historical context of environmental exploitation and resource extraction by colonial and imperialist powers, primarily from Western countries. Corporate forces in the West were major drivers of colonial practices that led to ecological harm and climate change in various regions, including Africa, India, and the Americas.
  • Downplaying Corporate Influence: While human activities have undoubtedly impacted the environment, the immense economic power and lobbying capabilities of corporations, mainly based in the West, have enabled them to shape environmental policies to their advantage, perpetuating unsustainable practices and hindering more significant efforts to combat climate change.
  • Blurring Responsibility: By attributing environmental impacts to humanity as a whole, the Anthropocene concept blurs the lines of responsibility and accountability. This lack of clear attribution allows corporate forces in the West to escape scrutiny and avoid taking necessary actions to mitigate their environmental footprint, putting the onus on all of humanity instead.
  • Neglecting Environmental Injustice: The Anthropocene concept does not adequately address the environmental injustices perpetrated by corporate forces in the West against marginalized communities, particularly in the global South.
  • Insufficient Focus on Systemic Change: While the Anthropocene concept highlights the need for environmental awareness and action, it may divert attention from the urgent need for systemic changes in corporate practices and global economic structures. Transformative changes are required to address the root causes of ecosystem damage and climate change, which are largely driven by profit-seeking behaviors of corporate entities, especially in the West.

Suggested alternatives to the concept of the Anthropocene

  • Corporatocene Epoch: This alternative term proposes a shift in focus from attributing responsibility broadly to all of humanity to specifically holding corporate forces, especially in the West, accountable for their significant role in environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Capitalocene: The Capitalocene concept emphasizes the role of capitalism in driving ecological degradation and climate change. It focuses on the exploitative nature of capitalist systems, where profit maximization often takes precedence over environmental sustainability.
  • Plantationocene: The Plantationocene perspective recognizes the historical legacy of plantation economies, particularly during the era of European colonialism. It sheds light on the exploitative practices associated with plantations, such as forced labor and ecological disruptions, which have had lasting effects on ecosystems and societies.
  • Chthulucene: The Chthulucene concept, proposed by Donna Haraway, challenges the human-centered focus of the Anthropocene and instead emphasizes interconnectedness and multispecies entanglements. By moving away from human-centric narratives, the Chthulucene perspective encourages a more inclusive and collaborative approach to addressing environmental issues.
  • Naturesocene: The Naturesocene perspective advocates for acknowledging the agency and contributions of non-human entities in shaping Earth’s systems. This approach seeks to break away from human-centric narratives and recognize the complex interactions between various elements of the natural world.
  • Indigenous Perspectives: Indigenous communities often have a deep understanding of their environment and have historically practiced sustainable living. Incorporating their wisdom can lead to more holistic and effective environmental solutions.

Way ahead: The call for accurate attribution

  • Identify Corporate Forces: By recognizing the significant impact of corporate entities in shaping environmental policies and practices, we can hold them accountable for their role in ecological harm. Acknowledging the influence of corporate forces empowers us to demand greater transparency and sustainable practices from these entities.
  • Acknowledge Historical Injustices: Accurate attribution requires us to confront the historical legacies of imperialism, colonialism, and exploitative practices that have led to the environmental crisis. This entails recognizing how past actions continue to shape the present ecological challenges, particularly in marginalized communities.
  • Address Systemic Issues: Accurate attribution calls for a deeper examination of systemic issues, such as capitalist economic structures and unequal power dynamics, that perpetuate environmental degradation. It prompts us to question the prioritization of profit over sustainability and advocate for transformative changes in our economic systems.
  • Embrace Indigenous Wisdom: Indigenous communities, with their long-standing relationships with the land, hold valuable knowledge and practices for sustainable living.
  • Foster Global Cooperation: Accurate attribution encourages international cooperation to tackle issues like climate change and biodiversity loss, recognizing that the impact of environmental decisions extends beyond national borders.

Conclusion

  • The term corporatocene serves as a more fitting descriptor for the current epoch, highlighting the role of corporate forces in shaping the earth’s ecological and climate systems. The West’s historical imperial legacy, coupled with corporate greed, remains the greatest threat to humanity and the environment. By acknowledging the true culprits and holding them accountable, we can pave the way for informed and effective solutions to address the ongoing planetary crisis.

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What are Marine Heat Waves (MHWs)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Marine Heat Waves

Mains level: Read the attached story

heat wave

Central Idea

  • MHWs have engulfed regions like the north-east Pacific, southern Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean, as reported by Mercator Ocean International.
  • In April, the ocean’s surface temperature peaked at 21.1 degrees Celsius, breaking the previous record set in 2016.

What are Marine Heat Waves (MHWs)?

  • While we often associate heatwaves with the atmosphere, they can also occur in the ocean, known as Marine Heatwaves (MHWs).
  • These prolonged periods of excessively warm ocean temperatures can have significant consequences for marine ecosystems and industries.
  • MHWs can happen in both summer and winter, with “winter warm-spells” affecting specific regions and species.

How are MHWs measured?

  • Threshold Criteria: A marine heatwave is characterized by seawater temperatures exceeding a seasonally-varying threshold (often the 90th percentile) for at least 5 consecutive days.
  • Continuity of Events: Successive heatwaves with gaps of 2 days or less are considered part of the same MHW event.

heat wave

Causes of Marine Heatwaves

  • Air-sea heat flux: Ocean currents and air-sea heat flux are common drivers of MHWs, leading to the build-up of warm water in specific areas.
  • Influences of Wind and Climate Modes: Wind patterns can enhance or suppress MHWs. They influence the likelihood of events occurring in certain regions.
  • Large-Scale Climate Drivers: Events like the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) can also contribute to the formation of MHWs.
  • Intensification with Global Warming: Rising global temperatures have resulted in longer-lasting, more frequent, and intense MHWs in recent decades.
  • Human Influence: 87% of MHWs can be attributed to human-induced warming, with the oceans absorbing significant amounts of heat due to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Oceans as Heat Sink: Oceans have absorbed 90% of the additional heat caused by greenhouse gas emissions, increasing global mean sea surface temperature by nearly 0.9 degrees Celsius since 1850.

Impacts of Marine Heatwaves

  • Ecosystem Structure: MHWs can disrupt ecosystem structure, supporting certain species while suppressing others.
  • Kelp Forest Destruction: MHWs along the Western Australian coast in 2010-2011 devastated kelp forests and fundamentally altered the ecosystem of the coast.
  • Economic Losses: MHWs can cause economic losses, particularly in fisheries and aquaculture industries.
  • Vulnerability of Temperature-Sensitive Species: Species such as corals are highly vulnerable to MHWs. The 2016 marine heatwaves in northern Australia caused severe bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

Impact on Marine Ecosystems

  • Catastrophic Effects: MHWs have led to the death of numerous marine species, altered migration patterns, and caused coral bleaching, endangering coral reefs.
  • Coral Bleaching: High ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean in 2005 led to a massive coral bleaching event, impacting over 80% of surveyed corals, with severe consequences for marine life.
  • Invasive Species and Ecological Imbalance: MHWs fuel the growth of invasive alien species, disrupting marine food webs and posing threats to wildlife. Ex. Whale entanglements in fishing gear.

Consequences for Humans

  • Amplifying Storms: Higher ocean temperatures associated with MHWs make storms like hurricanes and cyclones stronger, leading to severe weather events and flooding.
  • Threat to Coral Reefs: Half a billion people depend on coral reefs for food, income, and protection, but MHWs pose a grave threat to these ecosystems, impacting human livelihoods.
  • Socio-Economic Impact: Coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to the socio-economic impacts of MHWs, affecting fisheries and tourism.

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[pib] IMD launches Heat Index

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IMD Heat Index

Mains level: Not Much

heat index

Central Idea

  • Union Ministry of Earth Sciences informed that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has introduced the Heat Index on an experimental basis.

IMD Heat Index

  • The Heat Index aims to provide general guidance for regions in India where the combination of temperature and humidity leads to higher apparent temperatures, causing discomfort for people.
  • It is derived using an equation similar to the one used by the National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the USA.
  • It considers the impact of humidity on high temperatures, providing a “feel-like” temperature for human beings and indicating the level of discomfort.

Color Codes for Experimental Heat Index

The Heat Index is represented with different color codes to signify the varying levels of heat impact and discomfort:

  1. Green: Below 35°C
  2. Yellow: Range of 36-45°C
  3. Orange: Range of 46-55°C
  4. Red: Above 55°C

Mitigating heat impact in India

  • The Heat Index is currently being implemented on an experimental basis across India, including Andhra Pradesh.
  • Under the Heat Action Plan, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) collaborates with local agencies such as the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) to implement the Heat Index project for Bhubaneshwar and Ahmedabad.

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Heat domes, anticyclones and climate change: What’s causing heat waves across the world?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heatwaves, heat domes ,el nino , ocean warming etc and their interactions and impacts

Mains level: Rising Heatwaves across the globe, factors, impacts and mitigating strategies

 

What’s the news?

  • The average daily global temperature on Thursday was recorded at 17.12 degrees Celsius, encompassing measurements over land, ocean, ice sheets, and mountainous snow regions.

Central idea

  • In a concerning announcement, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared June as the hottest month ever recorded on Earth since temperature tracking began 174 years ago. The heatwave has persisted into July, with 18 out of the first 20 days witnessing unprecedented average daily global temperatures.

What is Heat-wave?

It is a period of unusually hot weather that typically lasts two or more days, but there is no universally accepted definition of a heatwave. (Image: News18 Creative)

  • A heatwave is a prolonged period of abnormally hot weather.
  • Heatwaves usually last for several days or weeks and can occur in both dry and humid
  • Characterized by temperatures that are significantly higher than the average for a particular region during that time of year.

What are heat domes?

Heat Waves and Heat Dome | 20 Jul 2021

  • A heat dome occurs when an area of high-pressure stays over a region for days and weeks. It traps warm air, just like a lid on a pot, for an extended period.
  • The longer that air remains trapped, the more the sun works to heat the air, producing warmer conditions with every passing day.
  • Heat domes, if they last for a long period, may cause deadly heat waves.

What are Anticyclones?

  • An anticyclone, also known as a high-pressure system, is essentially an area of high pressure in which the air goes downwards towards the Earth’s surface.
  • As the air sinks, its molecules get compressed, which increases the pressure, making it warmer. This causes dry and hot weather.
  • The winds remain calm and gentle during an anticyclone, and there is almost no formation of clouds because here the air sinks rather than rises.

Factors behind this scorching trend?

  • Climate change: The primary driver behind the escalating heatwaves and rising global temperatures is human-induced climate change.
  • The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial processes, and other human activities release greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat and lead to the greenhouse effect, resulting in the warming of the Earth’s surface.
  • El Nino events, characterized by abnormal warming of surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, can elevate temperatures worldwide and exacerbate heatwaves.
  • Heat domes and anticyclones are weather phenomena that can intensify and extend heatwaves.
  • Warmer oceans release more heat into the atmosphere, fueling extreme weather events like heatwaves.
  • Urban areas with concrete and asphalt surfaces can create heat islands that retain and amplify heat, leading to higher temperatures within cities compared to surrounding rural areas.
  • Climate change can trigger feedback loops that amplify its effects. For example, melting ice in the Arctic reduces the Earth’s reflective surface, leading to increased absorption of sunlight and further warming.

*NOTE: Although heat domes and anticyclones don’t occur due to climate change, they have become more intense and longer as a result of soaring global temperatures.

Impact of Heatwaves

1.Human Health Impacts:

  • Heat-related Illnesses: Heatwaves can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. The elderly, young children, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable.
  • Dehydration: High temperatures and excessive sweating can lead to dehydration, especially if individuals do not consume enough fluids.

2.Impact on Agriculture:

  • Crop Failure: Prolonged heatwaves can cause damage to crops and reduce agricultural yields due to drought conditions and water shortages.
  • Livestock Stress: High temperatures can lead to heat stress in livestock, affecting their productivity and overall health.

3.Environmental Impact:

  • Drought: Heatwaves can contribute to drought conditions by increasing evaporation and reducing water availability, leading to water scarcity and affecting ecosystems.
  • Wildfires: Hot and dry conditions during heatwaves can increase the risk of wildfires, leading to extensive damage to forests and wildlife habitats.
  • Water Quality: Heatwaves can lead to higher water temperatures, which may negatively impact aquatic ecosystems and decrease water quality.

4.Energy Demand and Infrastructure Stress:

  • Increased Energy Consumption: Heatwaves result in higher energy demand due to the use of air conditioning and cooling systems, putting strain on the power grid.
  • Power Outages: The increased demand for electricity during heatwaves can lead to power outages if the electrical infrastructure becomes overloaded.

5.Social and Economic Impact:

  • Disruption of Daily Activities: Heatwaves can disrupt daily life, making it uncomfortable to work, travel, or engage in outdoor activities.
  • Economic Losses: Heatwaves can result in productivity losses, increased healthcare costs, and damage to infrastructure, leading to economic impacts on communities and businesses.

Worse affected countries

  • United States: North America, particularly the United States, has experienced prolonged heatwaves covering a large swath of the country. States like California, Florida, New Mexico, and Arizona have been experiencing extreme temperatures. Temperature remained around 43.3 degree Celsius.
  • Europe: Countries in Europe, such as Italy and Greece, have been gripped by two consecutive heatwaves. Italy’s island of Sardinia saw temperatures reaching 47.7 degrees Celsius, and Greece experienced temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius, leading to wildfires and affecting historical sites.
  • Spain: Spain witnessed a temperature of 45.4 degrees Celsius in the town of Figueres, the highest temperature recorded in the country since 1928. It led to dry spells and wildfires.
  • Asia: China, Iraq and Saudi Arabia remain some of the worst affected countries. A remote township in China saw temperatures touching 52 degree Celsius
  • Algeria: North Africa’s Algeria has reported record-breaking temperatures, with some experts suggesting temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius in certain areas.
  • Tunisia: Tunisia has also been impacted by severe heatwaves, with temperatures reaching up to 49 degrees Celsius in some regions.

Mains Marks enhancer: Best Practices in India

  • Andhra Pradesh:
    • Setting up Heat Action Plans: Cities like Vijayawada have implemented Heat Action Plans that include public awareness campaigns, heat helplines, and designated cooling centers to provide relief to vulnerable populations.
  • Telangana:
    • Early Warning Systems: The Telangana State Development Planning Society issues heatwave alerts and early warnings to district authorities and the public, allowing them to take precautionary measures.
  • Rajasthan:
    • Urban Heat Island Mitigation: Cities like Jaipur have implemented measures to reduce the urban heat island effect by promoting green spaces, reflective surfaces, and better urban planning.
  • Gujarat:
    • Cool Roofs: The Gujarat government has encouraged the use of cool roofs in buildings to reflect sunlight and reduce indoor temperatures during heatwaves.
  • Tamil Nadu:
    • Heatwave Awareness Programs: The Tamil Nadu government conducts awareness programs through schools, colleges, and community organizations to educate people about heatwave safety and preparedness.

Way forward: Urgent actions needed

  • The international community must strengthen and implement the commitments made under climate agreements, such as the Paris Agreement.
  • Countries should set more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Provide support to developing nations to enhance climate resilience and adaptation.
  • Prioritize the transition to renewable energy sources and invest in clean technologies.
  • Develop robust adaptation strategies such as involves establishing heat emergency response plans, cooling centers, and public awareness campaigns.
  • Cities should adopt green urban planning practices, incorporating green spaces, green roofs, and sustainable building designs to mitigate the urban heat island effect and promote natural cooling.
  • Promote sustainable land management practices, including reforestation and afforestation
  • Enhance early warning systems to detect and respond to extreme heat events promptly.

Conclusion

  • The alarming surge in global temperatures, culminating in devastating heatwaves across continents, is a potent reminder of the urgency to combat climate change. As nations grapple with the immediate impacts of heatwaves, it is imperative to take collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate the effects of climate change, and safeguard the planet for future generations. The time to act is now; the consequences of inaction are too dire to ignore.

Also read:

Heatwaves in India: Increasing Frequency Needs Range of Measures to Mitigate

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Places in news: Iriomote Island

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Iriomote Island , Coral Bleaching

Mains level: NA

Central Idea

  • A notable example of colony resilience during a bleaching event is found near Japan’s Iriomote Island, where a colony bleached in 2016 exhibited signs of recovery by 2020.

About Iriomote Island

  • Iriomote Island is a picturesque island located in the Yaeyama Islands, part of Okinawa Prefecture in Japan.
  • It is the largest and southernmost inhabited island in the Yaeyama archipelago.
  • With its lush jungles, mangrove forests, and diverse wildlife, Iriomote Island is often referred to as the “Galapagos of the East.”
  • It is home to the Iriomote Yamaneko, or Iriomote cat, which is a critically endangered species of wildcat found only on this island.
  • The dense mangrove forests along the island’s rivers and estuaries serve as an important habitat for numerous species of birds, fish, and other wildlife.
  • To preserve the island’s unique ecosystem and cultural heritage, Iriomote Island is part of the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park.

Back2Basics: Coral Reefs and Coral Bleaching

coral

  • Corals are marine invertebrates that form colonies of polyps, which multiply and create reef structures.
  • Hard corals extract calcium carbonate to build hard exoskeletons, while soft corals add their skeletons to create coral reefs.
  • Corals have a mutually beneficial relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae.
  • The zooxanthellae provide food and nutrients through photosynthesis, while corals provide a home and essential nutrients.
  • The zooxanthellae give corals their vibrant colors.

Understanding Coral Bleaching

  • Causes of Bleaching: Environmental stressors like temperature changes, pollution, and high ocean acidity lead to coral bleaching.
  • Bleaching Process: Stressed corals expel the zooxanthellae, revealing their pale exoskeletons and disrupting the symbiotic relationship.
  • Impacts of Bleaching: Severe and prolonged bleaching events can result in coral death and the loss of biodiversity.

Climate Change’s Impact on Coral Reefs

  • Warming Seas: Rising carbon emissions and greenhouse gases have caused increased global warming, resulting in warmer ocean temperatures.
  • Mass Bleaching: The frequency and intensity of mass bleaching events have risen in recent decades due to climate change.
  • Projections: Even with greenhouse gas reduction efforts, temperatures are expected to rise by 1.5°C to 2°C by the end of the century.

Significance of Coral Reefs

  • Biodiversity Hotspots: Coral reefs support over 25% of marine biodiversity despite covering only 1% of the seafloor.
  • Economic Value: Reefs contribute $2.7 trillion annually through trade, tourism, and employment opportunities.
  • Environmental Protection: Coral reefs provide habitat and serve as a natural defense against storm waves.
  • Regeneration Potential: Dead reefs can recover if sufficient fish species graze on the weeds that settle on dead corals, although the process takes several years.

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How to prevent disruptions by flood and extreme weather events

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Vulnerabilities of urban India to climate change , Mitigation efforts

What is the news?

  • The recent floods and extreme weather events in north-western India and Delhi highlight the urgent need for cities across the country to prepare for and adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

Central Idea

  • As global and local warming intensify, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods, water scarcity, and heatwaves will grow exponentially. Our current governance, planning, and infrastructure systems are ill-equipped to handle these rapid changes, necessitating proactive measures to mitigate future disruption

Challenges in urban areas

  • Inadequate Water, Sanitation, and Drainage Infrastructure: Urban areas face challenges in providing basic services such as water supply, sanitation, drainage, and wastewater management. The existing infrastructure is often insufficient and struggles to deliver these services effectively.
  • Concentration of Population and Economic Output: Cities concentrate a large portion of the population and economic activities, which increases their vulnerability to climate impacts. The dense built-up areas, coupled with poor infrastructure, exacerbate the effects of extreme weather events like flooding, water scarcity, and heatwaves.
  • Irrational Land Use and Planning Systems: The irrational land use practices and planning systems worsen the challenges faced by cities. Encroachments, illegal constructions, and improper zoning further amplify the vulnerability of urban areas to climate impacts.
  • Vulnerability of Informal Settlements and Slums: Millions of people are forced to live in informal settlements and slums with inadequate infrastructure and services. These areas are highly vulnerable to climate impacts, leading to increased risks and hardships for the residents.
  • Impacts on Sensitive Regions: Cities located in sensitive regions along coastlines, rivers, and hills face even more severe impacts due to higher exposure and locational vulnerability. They are more prone to flooding, landslides, and other extreme events.

How to prevent disruptions by flood and extreme weather events?

  • Ensuring Effective Drainage Systems:
  • Urban civic bodies must conduct regular audits ahead of the monsoon season to ensure stormwater drains, tanks, and lakes are functional and free from obstructions.
  • Integrating drainage, water supply, and wastewater systems in the medium term can store intense rainfall, recharge groundwater, and provide better services, ultimately limiting waterborne diseases.
  • Improving Road Infrastructure:
  • Rapid urban expansion has outpaced planned drainage systems, resulting in roads functioning as makeshift stormwater drains.
  • Addressing local flooding requires the improvement of road construction and repair practices. Infrastructure planning and coordination should account for the impact of new constructions, such as flyovers, underpasses, and metro lines, on existing drainage systems to prevent post-flooding traffic bottlenecks.
  • Implementing Blue-Green-Grey Infrastructure:
  • Adopting blue-green-grey infrastructure, such as green roofs, urban forests, and wetlands, can mitigate flooding, water scarcity, and heatwaves.
  • Learning from initiatives like China’s sponge cities and the effective flood defense mechanism provided by East Kolkata’s wetlands, Indian cities should prioritize nature-based solutions.
  • Reducing Flood Vulnerability:
  • Leveraging high-resolution satellite and topographical data, India can map all its cities and identify flood-prone areas. The focus should then shift to addressing the vulnerability of communities living in these areas, such as those along riverbanks, low-lying regions, and unstable slopes.
  • Building community-based resilience and enhancing evacuation strategies will be crucial in minimizing the dislocation of millions during extreme events.
  • Strengthening Early Warning Systems:
  • Building on the progress made in improving forecasting, early warning, and evacuation systems in large cities like Mumbai and Surat, India must extend these measures to other at-risk areas.
  • Additionally, critical services such as cellphone, power, and water supply should be fortified to ensure their resilience and rapid recovery post-disaster

Way forward

  • Integrated Climate Action Plans: Develop comprehensive climate action plans involving multiple stakeholders to address floods and extreme weather events.
  • Upgrading Infrastructure: Invest in resilient infrastructure, including improved drainage systems, upgraded road infrastructure, and integration of green infrastructure to manage stormwater and reduce flood risks.
  • Robust Early Warning Systems: Strengthen early warning systems by improving forecasting capabilities, enhancing communication channels, and conducting regular drills and awareness campaigns.
  • Community Engagement and Resilience: Empower local communities, educate residents about flood risks, promote preparedness, and encourage sustainable practices such as rainwater harvesting and waste management.
  • Policy and Regulatory Frameworks: Develop and enforce robust policy and regulatory frameworks that integrate climate considerations to prevent encroachments and ensure resilient urban development.
  • Climate Financing: Explore climate financing mechanisms and partnerships to secure funding for climate adaptation projects, leveraging national and international funds, private sector entities, and climate finance initiatives.
  • Capacity Building and Knowledge Exchange: Enhance capacity through training programs and knowledge exchange platforms for urban planners, officials, and community leaders to accelerate the adoption of effective flood and extreme weather mitigation strategies

Conclusion

  • Protecting and preparing Indian cities for the future impacts of climate change is imperative. It is crucial to acknowledge that climate change is a harsh reality requiring collective adaptation efforts, regardless of socio-economic status. By implementing these measures, Indian cities can enhance their climate resilience and safeguard the well-being of their inhabitants

Also read:

The lesson from a monsoon-battered North India: Time to be prepared

 

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The lesson from a monsoon-battered North India: Time to be prepared

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Factors attributed Climate change

Mains level: Increasing Trend of Extreme Rainfall and flash floods, its impact and mitigating measures

monsoon

What is the news?

  • Last weekend, parts of North India witnessed heavy rains that triggered flash floods and left a trail of destruction, tragically it resulted in at least 50 reported deaths. Himachal Pradesh was the worst affected. Several places in Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh reported record rainfall.

Central idea

  • Last weekend, North India faced a calamity as torrential rains triggered flash floods and wreaked havoc across the region. Understanding the factors that led to this catastrophe is crucial in developing effective strategies to mitigate the impact of such extreme weather events in the future.

Fundamental characteristics of monsoon rainfall in the region

  • Concentrated Timeframe: Monsoon rainfall in the region is not evenly distributed throughout the year. Instead, it occurs within a specific timeframe. All the seasonal rainfall (about 80-100 cm) falls within 130-150 hours, which is a relatively short period.
  • Heavy Rain Contribution: The heavy rains play a significant role in contributing to the overall seasonal precipitation. Half of the seasonal rainfall (40-50 cm) occurs in only 30-40 hours.
  • Runoff: When heavy rains occur, most of the rainwater drains away as runoff, particularly when the soil is already wet. This indicates that a substantial amount of rainfall does not get absorbed into the ground but flows off as surface runoff.

Factors attributed to the Heavy Downpour in north India

  • Active Monsoon and Moisture Influx: An active monsoon season with strong winds in the lower air layers brought in moisture from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. These moisture-laden winds contributed to the heavy rainfall in the region.
  • Atmospheric Forcing and Eastward Moving Troughs: Large-scale atmospheric forcing, in the form of outflows in the upper layers of the atmosphere, moved eastward through mid-latitude troughs. These troughs directed the flow of moisture towards the Himalayan region, exacerbating the intensity of the rainfall.
  • Orographic Uplift and Steep Terrain: The steep terrain of the Himalayas, combined with orographic uplift, played a significant role in intensifying the precipitation. When air masses encounter the mountains, they are forced to rise, resulting in enhanced rainfall.
  • Synoptic Conditions and Moisture Intrusion: The synoptic conditions during the period were conducive to heavy rainfall. The monsoon was active, with strong moist easterly winds entering the region. Additionally, there was moisture intrusion from the North Arabian Sea, further augmenting the rainfall.

Increasing Trend of Extreme Rainfall

  • Tripled Number of Extreme Rainfall Events: Recent studies indicate that the number of extreme rainfall events, defined as rainfall exceeding 15 cm in 24 hours, has tripled in many parts of the country.
  • Prolonged Duration of Rainstorms: The duration of rainstorms has also tripled, indicating that rainfall events are lasting longer, potentially leading to higher rainfall accumulation.
  • Decreased Number of Rainy Days and Hours: The total number of rainy days and hours during the monsoon season has decreased. This means that when it does rain, it tends to be in the form of heavy downpours rather than spread out over more frequent but lighter rainfall events.
  • Regional Variation: Central India has been particularly affected by the increasing trend of extreme rainfall events, with a significant rise in both frequency and intensity.
  • Himalayan Region Prone to Extreme Rainfall: The Himalayan region, with its complex topography and varied weather patterns, is prone to extreme rainfall events. Studies indicate that 65 percent of areas in the region show a positive trend in the frequency of daily rainfall extremes.

Impact of Arctic Warming on Monsoon Climate

  • Increased Frequency of Blocking Highs and Mid-latitude Troughs: Arctic warming has been observed to influence the monsoon climate through changes in mid-latitude circulation. As the Arctic warms and sea ice recedes, there is growing evidence of an increased frequency of blocking highs and deep mid-latitude troughs. These atmospheric patterns can affect weather systems and contribute to extreme rainfall events during the monsoon season.
  • Influence on Circulation Patterns: Observations and models suggest that Arctic warming can alter circulation patterns, including the movement of air masses, pressure systems, and wind patterns. These changes can have cascading effects on the monsoon climate, including the transport of moisture and atmospheric conditions that contribute to heavy rainfall events.
  • Impact on Monsoon Dynamics: The warming of the Arctic and subsequent changes in circulation patterns can affect the dynamics of the monsoon. This can lead to shifts in moisture inflow, atmospheric stability, and the timing and intensity of rainfall during the monsoon season.
  • Potential for Future Changes: As Arctic warming continues; it is expected that the impacts on the monsoon climate will persist and potentially intensify. This suggests that the influence of Arctic warming on the monsoon may contribute to further changes in extreme precipitation patterns and associated impacts in the future.

Way forward: Mitigation Strategies for Flooding

  • Robust Early Warning System: Implement a comprehensive early warning system that utilizes meteorological observations, including Doppler weather radar and high-resolution numerical weather prediction models. Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning can aid in interpreting the data, enhancing the accuracy and timeliness of alerts.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Flood Warning Systems: Continuously monitor rainfall patterns, river levels, and deploy an advanced flood warning system. This integrated approach allows for timely response and evacuation plans to safeguard vulnerable communities.
  • Flood Risk Maps: Develop flood risk maps incorporating topography, historical flood data, and hydrological modeling. These maps can identify high-risk zones and guide targeted actions to enhance preparedness and resilience.
  • Climate-Resilient Infrastructure: Improve and maintain climate-resilient infrastructure, including robust drainage systems and channels, to prevent waterlogging and minimize flood damage.
  • Land Use Planning and Zoning Regulations: Implement effective land use planning and zoning regulations, designating flash flood-prone areas as non-residential or restricted zones to mitigate potential risks.
  • Protection and Restoration of Natural Ecosystems: Prioritize the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems such as forests and wetlands. These natural buffers can absorb rainfall and reduce runoff, mitigating the intensity of floods.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Conduct widespread awareness campaigns to educate individuals on flood response and preparedness. Encourage actions such as evacuation planning, first aid knowledge, and reliance on credible sources of information during emergencies

Conclusion

  • Recognizing the escalating threat of extreme precipitation events and implementing proactive measures are pivotal in improving India’s resilience to climate-induced disasters. Building resilience is crucial to safeguarding vulnerable communities and ensuring a sustainable future for the nation.

Also read:

[Burning issue] Urban Floods in India

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Groundwater extraction shifted the Earth’s axis: What a new study says

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Earth's Axis and Rotation

Mains level: Adverse effects of human-induced changes on our planet, Include these as examples

Groundwater

Central Idea

  • In a recent study, researchers have revealed that human activities, particularly the extraction of groundwater, have had a discernible impact on Earth’s axis and contributed to the rise in global sea levels. This phenomenon, known as polar motion, occurs as the mass distribution within and on the planet changes. While the shift in the axis may not have immediate real-life consequences, it underscores the significant influence of human actions on our planet’s delicate balance.

*Relevance of the topic:

*Important geological phenomenon and Contribution of human activities to climate change and its impact

*Also, recent new research suggests that Earth’s inner core may now be rotating slower than its surface, potentially indicating a change in its rotational dynamics

*Quick facts for prelims on geological phenomenon

The phenomenon of Earth’s rotation

  • Rotation Axis: The Earth rotates around an imaginary line called the rotation axis, which runs through the North Pole, the center of the Earth, and the South Pole. This axis remains fixed in space, and the Earth completes one full rotation around it in approximately 24 hours.
  • Rotation Direction: The Earth rotates from west to east, which is why we perceive the sun and other celestial objects to rise in the east and set in the west.
  • Speed of Rotation: The Earth rotates at a relatively constant speed. The equator experiences the fastest rotational speed, which is approximately 1,670 kilometers per hour (1,040 miles per hour). The rotational speed gradually decreases towards the poles.
  • Effects of Rotation:
  1. Day and Night: As the Earth rotates, different parts of the planet are exposed to sunlight, creating the cycle of day and night.
  2. Coriolis Effect: The rotation of the Earth influences the movement of air and ocean currents, giving rise to the Coriolis effect. This effect causes moving objects (such as winds and ocean currents) to deflect to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere.
  3. Shape of the Earth: Earth’s rotation causes it to bulge slightly at the equator and flatten at the poles, resulting in an oblate spheroid shape.
  4. Centrifugal Force: The rotation generates a centrifugal force that slightly counteracts the force of gravity, leading to a slightly lower effective gravity at the equator compared to the poles.
  • Polar Motion: Earth’s axis and the location of the poles are not fixed and can undergo slight movements. This phenomenon, known as polar motion, occurs due to various factors, including mass redistribution within the Earth, changes in water distribution, and atmospheric pressure variations.

The new findings of the study on the impact of groundwater extraction on Earth’s axis

  • Groundwater Extraction and Axis Shift: The study revealed that groundwater extraction plays a significant role in the shift of Earth’s rotational axis. The redistribution of groundwater resulting from activities like irrigation and meeting freshwater demands was found to be the largest contributor to the drift of the rotational pole.
  • Impact of Midlatitude Groundwater Extraction: The research showed that groundwater extraction from regions located at the Earth’s midlatitudes, specifically North America and northwestern India, had a more pronounced effect on polar motion compared to extraction taking place at the poles or equator. This finding highlights the sensitivity of the rotational pole to mass changes in midlatitude areas.
  • Contribution to Sea Level Rise: The study confirmed that groundwater extraction is a major contributor to the rise in global sea levels. The water extracted from the ground for various purposes eventually finds its way into the oceans. The researchers’ calculations aligned with previous studies, which estimated that groundwater extraction raised global sea levels by 6.24mm between 1993 and 2010

Impact of Climate Change on Polar Motion

  • Changes in Water Mass Distribution: Climate change is causing significant changes in the distribution of water masses on Earth. The melting of glaciers, ice sheets, and polar ice caps contributes to the redistribution of water from land to the oceans. This alteration in water mass distribution affects the planet’s rotational dynamics, including polar motion.
  • Melting of Greenland’s Ice: Greenland’s ice sheet is particularly susceptible to climate change. As it melts, vast amounts of water are discharged into the surrounding oceans. This influx of water alters the distribution of mass on Earth, leading to shifts in the rotational axis.
  • Accelerated Rotational Axis Shift: Recent studies suggest that climate change has accelerated the shift of Earth’s rotational axis since the 1990s. The increased melting of glaciers and ice sheets, combined with other climate-driven changes in water distribution, has intensified the movement of the rotational axis compared to historical patterns.
  • Influence on Polar Motion Magnitude: Climate-driven changes in water mass distribution have been found to have a significant impact on the magnitude of polar motion. The redistribution of water, particularly from the melting of ice, affects the planet’s overall mass distribution, causing shifts in the rotational pole.

What is the Significance of the Study?

  • Understanding Human Influence: The study highlights the significant influence of human activities, specifically groundwater extraction, on Earth’s rotational dynamics and polar motion. It emphasizes the need to recognize and account for human-induced changes in the delicate balance of the planet.
  • Environmental Consequences: By identifying groundwater extraction as a major contributor to global sea level rise, the study emphasizes the environmental consequences of excessive groundwater usage. It highlights the importance of sustainable groundwater management to mitigate the adverse effects on sea levels and coastal regions.
  • Climate Change Interactions: The findings establish a connection between climate change and Earth’s rotational dynamics. The study adds to the body of knowledge on how climate-driven changes in water distribution, including melting glaciers and ice sheets, can influence polar motion. Understanding these interactions contributes to a comprehensive understanding of climate change impacts.
  • Policy and Management Implications: The study provides valuable insights for policymakers, water resource managers, and environmental planners. It underscores the need to incorporate the impact of groundwater extraction on Earth’s axis and sea levels into decision-making processes. It highlights the urgency of implementing sustainable practices to manage groundwater resources effectively and mitigate adverse environmental effects.
  • Scientific Advancements: The study contributes to the field of geodesy, which focuses on the measurement and understanding of Earth’s shape, gravity, and rotation. It enhances our understanding of Earth’s rotational dynamics and the complex interactions between various factors influencing polar motion.

 Conclusion

  • The study’s results emphasize the need to recognize the far-reaching consequences of human activities on the Earth’s delicate equilibrium. Groundwater extraction, driven by agricultural and freshwater needs, has been found to impact the planet’s rotational axis, leading to polar motion and contributing to global sea level rise. Understanding these interactions is crucial for effective environmental management and sustainable practices to mitigate the adverse effects of human-induced changes on our planet

Also read:

Earth’s inner core rotating slower than surface: Study

 

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Blue Ocean Event: Arctic Ocean to be Ice-Free by 2030s

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Blue Ocean Event

Mains level: Not Much

blue ocean

Central Idea

  • A new study published in Nature Communications warns that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the 2030s, even with significant emission reduction efforts.
  • This alarming conclusion challenges previous predictions and highlights the global, damaging, and dangerous consequences of such a scenario.

Accelerated Climate Heating in the Arctic

  • Fastest Heating: The Arctic region has been experiencing climate heating at a faster rate than any other part of the planet, making it a frontline area for climate change.
  • Focus on Sea Ice: Scientists and local indigenous communities closely monitor the sea ice that covers much of the Arctic Ocean during winter, as it is a critical indicator of climate change.
  • Diminishing Sea Ice: Over the past 40 years, multiyear sea ice, which remains at the end of summer, has reduced from approximately 7 million sq. km to 4 million sq. km, representing a significant loss.

Predicting an Ice-Free Arctic: Blue Ocean Event

  • What is it: Scientists have been studying when the Arctic Ocean might become ice-free in summer, known as a “blue ocean event,” defined by the sea ice area dropping below 1 million sq. km.
  • Complex Modeling: Sea ice is challenging to model accurately due to its sensitivity to atmospheric and oceanic circulation and heat transfer. Previous climate models underestimated the loss of sea ice compared to actual observations.
  • Observationally Constrained Projections: The latest study takes a calibrated approach, using observational data to refine the models and project sea ice decline. It suggests the Arctic could become ice-free in summer as early as the 2030s, even with emission reductions.

Implications of an Ice-Free Arctic:

  • Climate Feedback: The loss of Arctic sea ice amplifies warming through positive feedback, as it reduces sunlight absorption by the ocean, potentially accelerating the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and contributing to sea-level rise.
  • Environmental Shifts: An ice-free Arctic would lead to changes in atmospheric circulation, storm tracks, and ocean biological activity, with far-reaching and undesirable consequences.
  • Slender Benefits: While there may be some perceived benefits, such as shorter shipping routes, they pale in comparison to the negative impacts on the climate system and global ecosystems.

Conclusion

  • The potential ice-free Arctic Ocean by the 2030s, as indicated by the study, underscores the urgent need for climate action.
  • The consequences of such a scenario extend far beyond.
  • The study highlights the imperative of mitigating climate change to avoid further damage to the Arctic and the planet as a whole.

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Bonn Climate Conference: Key Takeaways

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Global Stocktake (GST)

Mains level: Read the attached story

bonn climate

Central Idea

  • The Bonn Climate Change Conference was held from 5 to 15 June 2023.
  • Building on the mandates that emerged from COP 27 in Egypt last year, the conference hosted a large number of mandated events and continue discussions on issues of critical importance.
  • It is expected to make progress on these and other important issues and prepare draft decisions for adoption at COP 28 / CMP 18 / CMA 5 in the UAE in December 2023.

Key ideas discussed

  • Some progress was made on the global stocktake (GST) discussions.
  • However, the issues of historical responsibility and finance remained contentious, hindering the strengthening of climate actions.

climate

What is Global Stocktake (GST)?

  • GST is a process established under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • It serves as a mechanism to assess global progress in addressing climate change and to enhance collective climate action.
  • The GST aims to review the implementation of the Paris Agreement’s goals and targets and identify areas where additional efforts are needed to meet those objectives.

Key aspects of the Global Stocktake include:

  1. Timing: The Paris Agreement mandates that the GST be conducted every five years, starting in 2023. This regular assessment allows for tracking progress and adjusting strategies accordingly.
  2. Assessment of Collective Efforts: GST evaluates the collective efforts of all countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the impacts of climate change, and providing support to developing nations.
  3. Review of Goals and Targets: It assesses the effectiveness of countries’ actions in meeting the long-term temperature goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, primarily the goal to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  4. Transparency and Accountability: The GST promotes transparency and accountability by encouraging countries to report on their progress and actions taken toward achieving their climate goals. This allows for a comprehensive and objective assessment of global climate action.
  5. Identification of Gaps and Opportunities: The stocktake identifies gaps in collective efforts, including finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building support, and explores opportunities for enhanced actions to bridge those gaps.
  6. Decision-Making: The findings and recommendations from the GST inform future decision-making, including the setting of new targets and the adjustment of national climate plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Challenges in Climate Negotiations

  • Disputes and Delayed Agendas: Developed and developing countries engaged in disagreements, leading to delays in agreeing on meeting agendas.
  • Historical Responsibility Debate: Australia’s attempt to diminish the historical responsibility of developed nations in causing global warming sparked controversy.
  • Developing Countries’ Perspective: Developing nations emphasized the importance of acknowledging historical responsibility in addressing climate change.
  • Potential Conflict at COP28: The issue of historical responsibility is expected to resurface at COP28, posing challenges to reaching consensus.

Finance and Technology Transfer

  • Disparity in Support: Developing countries expressed concerns about inadequate financial and technological support from developed nations.
  • Burden of Implementation: Insufficient funds hinder the ability of developing countries to implement robust climate action plans.

Future Outlook

(1) Bridging Adequacy Gap:

  • Developed Nations’ Perspective: Australia and the United States questioned the sole responsibility of developed countries in bridging the adequacy gap.
  • Developing Nations’ Concerns: Developing countries emphasized the need for financial support and technology transfers to enhance their climate actions.
  • Value Addition: Bridging the adequacy gap requires global cooperation, equitable burden-sharing, and increased financial assistance for developing countries.

(2) Financing Climate Action:

  • Insufficient Funds: Current financial commitments fall short of the required resources for implementing climate action plans.
  • Summit for a New Global Financial Pact: A Paris summit aims to redirect global financial flows and raise new funds for climate change initiatives.

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Groundwater Extraction Shifts Earth’s Tilt Axis

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Earth's Axis and Rotation

Mains level: Not Much

earth tilt

Central Ideas

  • A recent study conducted by scientists at Seoul National University has revealed that the extraction of groundwater from the earth has caused a shift in the planet’s axis, tilting it nearly 80 cm to the east.
  • This phenomenon, along with the movement of water through melting ice caps and glaciers, has implications for both the earth’s rotation, sea-level rise, and the distribution of water resources.

Earth’s Axis and Rotation

  • The Earth’s axis and rotation play significant roles in shaping our planet’s climate, seasons, and day-night cycles.
  • Here are some key points about Earth’s axis and rotation:
  1. Axis: The axis is an imaginary line that extends between the North Pole and the South Pole and is tilted at an angle of approximately 23.5 degrees relative to its orbital plane around the Sun. This tilt is responsible for Earth’s seasons.
  2. Rotation: Earth rotates on its axis from west to east, completing one full rotation in approximately 24 hours. This rotation is what gives us the cycle of day and night. The side of the Earth facing the Sun experiences daylight, while the opposite side experiences darkness, resulting in day and night.
  3. Polar Regions: The axis of the Earth is inclined with respect to its orbital plane. This inclination causes the Polar Regions to experience variations in daylight throughout the year. During the summer solstice (around June 21), the North Pole is tilted towards the Sun, resulting in 24 hours of continuous daylight in the Arctic Circle and 24 hours of darkness in the Antarctic Circle. The opposite occurs during the winter solstice (around December 21).
  4. Equator: The equator is an imaginary line equidistant from the poles and divides the Earth into the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. The equator experiences relatively consistent day and night lengths throughout the year, with two equinoxes occurring when the Sun is directly above the equator. During the equinoxes (around March 21 and September 21), day and night are approximately equal in length worldwide.
  5. Precession (Cyclic Wobble): In addition to its axial tilt, Earth experiences a slow, cyclic wobble called precession. This wobble causes the orientation of Earth’s axis to change slightly over a period of approximately 26,000 years. Precession does not affect the tilt or the length of the seasons but does influence the positions of the celestial poles and the timing of Earth’s closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) and farthest point (aphelion).

Why in news?

  • Unlike a stable rotating globe, the earth’s axis experiences a wobble due to various factors such as weather, seasonal changes, the molten core, and natural events like hurricanes.
  • Scientists track this motion relative to astronomical phenomena, but the role of water movement, including groundwater extraction, had not been fully considered until now.
  • The earth’s axis wobbles in a circular pattern several meters wide every year.

Study Findings

  • Researchers at Seoul National University built a climate model linking the earth’s axis shift with water movement, including the melting of ice caps and glaciers.
  • Initially, the model did not match the observed drift of the axis until groundwater extraction was added to the equation.
  • Groundwater pumping accounted for the unexplained cause of the rotation pole drift.
  • The shift in the earth’s axis due to groundwater extraction was measured at nearly 80 cm tilt to the east.

Implications for Sea-Level Rise

  • The study revealed that approximately 2,150 billion tonnes of groundwater were pumped and drained into the oceans between 1993 and 2010, contributing to a sea-level rise of 6.24 mm.
  • Groundwater depletion plays a significant role in the location and magnitude of the axis drift.
  • Mid-latitude regions, particularly northwest India and western North America, showed the most significant groundwater redistribution effects.

Impact on Water Resources

  • Groundwater extraction for human activities, including irrigation, is affecting the distribution and availability of water resources.
  • Excessive groundwater pumping has led to a significant redistribution of water, altering the balance between surface water and groundwater reserves.

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Climate Change: Urgent Action Needed for a Sustainable Future

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Extreme weather events phenomenon exacerbated by climate change and Impact on Indian monsoon

Mains level: Climate change induced severity of weather events, impacts and Responsibility of Wealthier Nations in Addressing the Climate Crisis

Climate

Central Idea

  • The recent reports on the southwest monsoon in India have sparked concerns about the impact of climate change on weather patterns. The adverse consequences of extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, and crop damage, highlight the urgent need to address the climate crisis. The World Meteorological Organisation’s alarming report on global temperatures crossing the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark underscores the severity of the climate emergency.

How the Government Actions are Not Sufficient to Address the Climate Crisis?

  • Insufficient Emissions Reduction Targets: Many governments have set emissions reduction targets that are insufficient to meet the goals outlined in international agreements such as the Paris Agreement. These targets often fall short of what is required to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • Slow Implementation of Renewable Energy Policies: Governments have been slow to implement and scale up policies and incentives to promote renewable energy sources. The transition to renewable energy is crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but many governments have not provided adequate support or created an enabling environment for renewable energy development.
  • Reliance on Fossil Fuels: Governments continue to subsidize and support the fossil fuel industry, which contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. These subsidies impede the transition to cleaner energy sources and perpetuate the use of fossil fuels, despite their detrimental environmental impact.
  • Inadequate Climate Finance: The provision of climate finance, particularly from wealthier nations to developing countries, has fallen short of what is needed. The quantum of climate finance has not met the estimated requirements for adaptation and mitigation efforts outlined in international agreements like the Paris Agreement. This lack of financial support hinders developing countries’ ability to effectively address climate change.
  • Limited Investment in Sustainable Infrastructure: Governments have been slow to invest in sustainable infrastructure projects that promote low-carbon transportation, energy-efficient buildings, and resilient urban planning. Without substantial investment in sustainable infrastructure, the transition to a low-carbon economy becomes more challenging.
  • Weak Climate Policy Coordination: There is often a lack of coordination and collaboration between different government departments and agencies responsible for climate policy. This can lead to fragmented approaches and hinder the implementation of effective climate strategies.
  • Insufficient Climate Education and Public Awareness: Governments have not done enough to educate the public about the severity and urgency of the climate crisis. This lack of awareness can limit public support for climate action and impede the adoption of sustainable behaviours and practices.
  • Inadequate Preparedness for Climate Impacts: Governments have been slow to invest in measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as building resilient infrastructure, implementing early warning systems, and developing climate-resilient agriculture practices. This leaves communities vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

The Adverse Consequences of Extreme Weather Events Exacerbated by Climate Change

  • Loss of Human Lives: Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, heatwaves, and storms, can result in the loss of human lives. These events pose direct threats to individuals through injuries, drowning, and other hazards associated with severe weather conditions.
  • Physical Injuries and Health Impacts: Extreme weather events often lead to physical injuries, including cuts, fractures, and trauma. Additionally, they can have significant health impacts, such as heat-related illnesses, respiratory problems from air pollution, and waterborne diseases in the aftermath of floods.
  • Displacement and Homelessness: Severe weather events can displace large numbers of people from their homes. Flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires can destroy or severely damage houses, forcing individuals and communities to evacuate and seek temporary or long-term shelter.
  • Infrastructure Damage: Extreme weather events can cause substantial damage to infrastructure, including roads, bridges, buildings, and power lines. This damage hampers transportation, communication, and access to essential services, disrupting daily life and impeding recovery efforts.
  • Agricultural and Livelihood Losses: Droughts, floods, and storms can have devastating effects on agriculture and livelihoods. Crop failures, soil erosion, and livestock losses can result in food shortages, increased food prices, and economic instability for farmers and rural communities.
  • Economic Losses: Extreme weather events impose significant economic burdens on affected regions. Costs associated with repairing infrastructure, rebuilding homes, and restoring businesses can be substantial. Moreover, disruptions to industries such as tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing can lead to job losses and economic downturns.’
  • Ecological Impacts: Extreme weather events can cause ecological disruptions and harm biodiversity. For example, wildfires destroy habitats, leading to the loss of plant and animal species. Flooding can contaminate water bodies and disrupt aquatic ecosystems.
  • Social and Psychological Impact: The aftermath of extreme weather events can take a toll on individuals’ mental and emotional well-being. Displacement, loss of homes, and the challenges of recovery can lead to stress, anxiety, and trauma, both in the short and long term.

Climate

Responsibility of Wealthier Nations in Addressing the Climate Crisis

  • Historical Emissions: Wealthier nations, particularly industrialized countries, have historically been the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. Their extensive use of fossil fuels and industrial activities over the years has significantly contributed to the current climate crisis. As such, they bear a responsibility for their historical emissions and the consequent impacts on the climate.
  • Technological and Financial Capacity: Wealthier nations possess greater technological and financial resources to invest in clean energy technologies, adaptation measures, and climate mitigation strategies. Their capacity to support research and development, innovation, and the deployment of sustainable technologies can play a crucial role in addressing the climate crisis.
  • Climate Finance: Wealthier nations have an obligation to provide financial support to developing countries that are more vulnerable to climate change impacts but have fewer resources to address them. This includes fulfilling commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to provide climate finance for adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing nations.
  • Net Carbon Imports: Wealthier nations often rely on imported goods and services produced in countries with lower labor and environmental standards. These nations have a responsibility to account for the carbon emissions associated with their consumption and work towards reducing the carbon footprint of their supply chains.
  • Technology Transfer and Capacity Building: Wealthier nations can facilitate the transfer of clean and sustainable technologies to developing countries, assisting them in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. Capacity building initiatives can empower developing nations to implement effective climate solutions and build resilience.

Climate

Scalable Solutions and Renewable Energy for sustainable Future

  • Utility-Scale Solar Power: Solar energy has become one of the most scalable and cost-effective sources of power. Large-scale solar installations, such as solar farms and solar parks, can generate significant amounts of electricity and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Wind Power: Wind farms, consisting of multiple wind turbines, can generate substantial amounts of electricity, particularly in regions with consistent wind patterns. Advances in wind turbine technology, including larger and more efficient turbines, have increased the capacity and scalability of wind power.
  • Global Growth of Renewable Energy: Renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal, have experienced significant global growth in recent years. In 2022, 90 percent of the world’s power sector growth came from renewables.
  • Falling Costs of Renewable Energy: The cost of renewable energy technologies, particularly solar and wind, has been steadily declining. This cost reduction has made renewable energy more economically attractive and scalable, even without subsidies. The decreasing costs of solar panels, wind turbines, and energy storage systems have contributed to the rapid growth of renewable energy installations worldwide.
  • Expansion of Renewable Energy Capacity: Many countries have reported significant expansions of their renewable energy capacity. By increasing investments in renewable energy infrastructure, such as solar and wind power plants, countries have been able to scale up their clean energy generation and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Renewable Energy in Developing Countries: Renewable energy is playing an increasingly important role in providing electricity access to developing countries. Off-grid solar power systems and mini-grids have allowed communities without access to centralized electricity grids to meet their energy needs sustainably. This decentralized approach to renewable energy deployment has facilitated scalability and expanded energy access.

Way Ahead: Opportunities for the Fossil Fuel Industry

  • Expertise in Energy Technology: The fossil fuel industry possesses significant expertise in energy technology and infrastructure. This expertise can be leveraged to facilitate the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies. Fossil fuel companies can apply their engineering, project management, and operational skills to support the scaling up of renewable energy projects.
  • Investment in Renewable Energy: Fossil fuel companies have the financial resources to invest in renewable energy projects. By diversifying their portfolios and investing in renewable energy technologies, they can contribute to the growth and scalability of clean energy.
  • Offshore Capabilities: The offshore capabilities of the fossil fuel industry, particularly in areas such as offshore drilling and exploration, can be utilized in the development of offshore renewable energy sources. Offshore wind farms, for example, can benefit from the industry’s experience in offshore operations and infrastructure, facilitating the growth of this sector.
  • Clean Energy Retail: Fossil fuel companies can become providers of clean energy to support the growing demand for renewable energy. By incorporating renewable energy sources into their energy portfolios and retailing clean energy, they can play a significant role in accelerating the adoption of renewables and facilitating the energy transition.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): The fossil fuel industry can invest in and develop carbon capture and storage technologies. CCS technologies capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants and industrial processes, reducing their environmental impact. By implementing CCS technologies, the industry can mitigate its carbon emissions while continuing to utilize fossil fuels during the transition period.
  • Hydrogen Production: Fossil fuel companies can leverage their existing infrastructure and knowledge to participate in the production of clean hydrogen. Hydrogen produced through renewable energy sources, such as electrolysis, can be used as a low-carbon fuel or feedstock, providing an alternative to traditional fossil fuel-based processes.
  • Energy Transition Workforce: The fossil fuel industry can support the transition by retraining and transitioning its workforce to work in renewable energy sectors. This can help mitigate the potential negative impacts on jobs and livelihoods associated with the decline of the fossil fuel industry, ensuring a just transition for workers.

Conclusion

  • Climate change poses a grave threat to our planet and demands immediate and determined action from governments, corporations, and individuals. The reports of subpar southwest monsoon rains in India serve as a reminder of the increasing variability caused by climate change. The time for transformative change is now, and by adopting a long-term commitment to reducing emissions and investing in sustainable technologies, we can pave the way to a better and more resilient future

Also read:

Climate Change and the role of Panchayat Raj Institutes (PRI’s)

 

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50th anniversary of World Environment Day

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: World Environment Day

Mains level: Read the attached story

world environment day plastic

Central Idea

  • Plastics have become an integral part of human life, despite their adverse environmental impact.
  • World Environment Day (5th June) serves as a reminder of our responsibility to address plastic pollution.

Why in news?

  • 50th Anniversary of World Environment Day: The day, led by UNEP since 1973, marks its 50th anniversary this year.
  • Global Platform for Environmental Outreach: World Environment Day has grown into the largest global platform for environmental outreach.
  • Theme- #BeatPlasticPollution: This year’s World Environment Day focuses on the urgent need to combat plastic pollution.

World Environment Day 2023

Date June 5th
Theme (2023) Ecosystem Restoration
Host Country (2023) Pakistan
Established World Environment Day was established in 1972 by the United Nations at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment
Purpose To raise awareness and promote action for environmental protection
Importance Platform for global environmental campaigns and initiatives
Activities Various activities are organized worldwide, such as tree planting, clean-up drives, and educational programs
Previous Themes Previous themes have focused on topics like biodiversity, air pollution, plastic pollution, and more
Organized by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Plastic pollution and the need for Solutions

  • Plastic pollution is a pressing global issue that requires immediate attention.
  • Over 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually, with less than 10% being recycled.
  • Plastic pollution negatively affects ecosystems and poses risks to human health.

Understanding Plastic Pollution

platic environment day

  • Versatile Nature of Plastics: Plastics are synthetic materials capable of being shaped and molded according to requirements.
  • Types of Plastics: Commodity plastics, such as PET, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP, and PS, dominate global production.
  • Identification Codes and Different Properties: Plastics can be identified by their resin identification codes (RIC) and possess distinct properties.

Environmental impact of plastics

  • Plastics have revolutionized various industries but raise significant environmental concerns.
  • Plastics have a slow decomposition rate, leading to the persistence of plastic waste.
  • Microplastics, including primary and secondary types, accumulate in various environments.

Health risks and toxic chemicals

  • Microplastics contain toxic chemicals that pose risks to human health.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) in microplastics can have detrimental effects on human health.

Worst examples of Plastic Pollution

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a vast collection of plastic and microplastic waste.
  • It was formed due to converging ocean currents and is situated in the North Pacific Ocean.
  • It covers a surface area of 1.6 million sq km, with smaller patches in other oceans.

Actions against Plastic Pollution

  • Urgency for Collective Action: Plastic pollution necessitates collective efforts and immediate action.
  • World Environment Day’s Reminder of Responsibility: World Environment Day serves as a reminder of our responsibility to address plastic pollution.

Way forward

  • Plastic Recycling: Advanced recycling technologies offer new ways to efficiently recycle plastic waste.
  • Promoting Circular Economy Models: Embracing circular economy principles can reduce plastic waste and promote sustainable resource usage.
  • Education and Awareness Campaigns: Spreading awareness and educating the public about the impact of plastic pollution can drive behavioral change.
  • Collaboration between Industries and Governments: Cooperation between industries and governments is essential to develop comprehensive strategies for tackling plastic pollution.

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Role of Evapotranspiration in Earth’s Dynamic Processes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Evapotranspiration, Water Cycle

Mains level: NA

 

evapotranspiration

Central Idea:  Evapotranspiration is a key process in Earth’s dynamic systems, impacting the movement of water and nutrients, influencing the water cycle, and providing crucial information for farmers to manage irrigation and water resources effectively.

Understanding Evapotranspiration

  • Definition: Evapotranspiration refers to the movement of water from terrestrial surfaces into the atmosphere and is a crucial part of the planet-wide water cycle.
  • Water cycle and its connection to evapotranspiration: Evapotranspiration is an amalgamation of evaporation (water loss from soil) and transpiration (water movement and loss by plants), both of which contribute to the overall movement of water in the water cycle.
  • Breakdown of the term: Evapotranspiration encompasses the movement of water upward through plants and its subsequent loss into the air from exposed plant parts.

Factors affecting Evapotranspiration

  • Rate of evapotranspiration: Several factors impact the rate of evapotranspiration, including solar radiation, day length, soil moisture levels, ambient temperature, wind conditions, and the amount of water vapour already present in the air.
  • Insolation and its effect: The intensity of solar radiation directly affects the rate of evapotranspiration, as it provides the energy needed to evaporate water from terrestrial surfaces.
  • Role of day length: The length of the day, soil moisture content, ambient temperature, wind patterns, and the moisture content of the air all contribute to the rate at which evapotranspiration occurs.

Historical significance of evapotranspiration

  • Origin and age of the term: The term “evapotranspiration” has been in use for at least 86 years and was initially published with a hyphenated form.
  • Contribution of Charles Warren Thornthwaite in 1944: Thornthwaite, an American climatologist, defined and popularized the term “evapotranspiration” in 1944.
  • Relevance for farmers in estimating water needs for crops: Even today, evapotranspiration remains significant for farmers who utilize it to estimate the amount of water required to irrigate their crops effectively.

Back2Basics: Water Cycle

  • The water cycle, also known as the hydrological cycle, is the continuous movement and circulation of water on, above, and below the Earth’s surface.
  • Stages of the Water Cycle include:
  1. Evaporation: The process by which water changes from a liquid state to a gaseous state, rising into the atmosphere.
  2. Condensation: The cooling of water vapor in the atmosphere, causing it to change from a gaseous state back to a liquid state, forming clouds.
  3. Precipitation: When condensed water droplets combine and fall from the atmosphere as rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
  4. Runoff: The movement of water on the Earth’s surface, flowing into streams, rivers, lakes, and eventually into the oceans.
  5. Infiltration: The process by which water seeps into the ground and becomes groundwater.
  6. Transpiration: The release of water vapor from plant surfaces into the atmosphere.

 

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Enhancing Agricultural Research and Development for Climate Resilience

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate change and associated facts

Mains level: Climate change impact and need of agricultural research and development

Central idea

  • Recently the G-7 Summit 2023 held in Japan highlighted the urgent need to address climate change and set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  India has the largest workforce (45.6 per cent in 2021-22) engaged in agriculture amongst G20 countries faces significant challenges.  To mitigate the impact and ensure food and nutritional security, policymakers must prioritize agricultural research, development, education, and extension (ARDE).

Facts for prelims

  • At the Hiroshima Summit 2023, the G7 nations stressed that the peak for global Green House Gas (GHG) emissions should be reached by 2025.
  • They committed to an “Acceleration Agenda” for G7 countries to reach net-zero emissions by around 2040 and urged emerging economies to do so by around 2050.
  • China has committed to net zero by 2060 and India by 2070
  • World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has forecast that global near-surface temperatures are likely to increase by 1.1°C to 1.8°C annually from 2023 to 2027.

Importance of ARDE

  • ARDE, which stands for Agricultural Research, Development, Education, and Extension, plays a crucial role in addressing the challenges faced by the agriculture sector, particularly in the context of climate change.
  • Climate Resilience: Through research and development efforts, scientists and experts can identify crops and varieties that are more tolerant to changing climatic conditions, such as drought, heatwaves, or extreme rainfall. This enables farmers to adapt and minimize the negative impacts of climate change on crop yields and agricultural productivity.
  • Resource Efficiency: By focusing on research and innovation, it aims to optimize the use of key resources like water, soil, and energy. This includes the development of precision farming techniques, efficient irrigation systems, soil management practices, and sustainable pest and disease control methods. Such advancements help conserve resources, reduce input costs, and minimize the environmental footprint of agriculture.
  • Enhanced Productivity: This involves developing high-yielding crop varieties, improving agronomic practices, and disseminating knowledge and best practices through education and extension programs. By adopting these advancements, farmers can increase their yields, improve crop quality, and contribute to food security and economic growth.
  • Sustainable Agriculture: ARDE focuses on reducing reliance on chemical inputs, minimizing soil degradation, preserving biodiversity, and promoting organic farming. Through research and education, it supports the transition towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural systems, ensuring the long-term viability of the sector.
  • Innovation and Technology Adoption: By investing in research and development, it facilitates the discovery and dissemination of cutting-edge technologies, such as precision agriculture, genetic engineering, biotechnology, and smart farming solutions. These advancements help farmers improve efficiency, reduce losses, and enhance profitability.
  • Knowledge Transfer and Capacity Building: They focus on disseminating research findings, best practices, and agricultural knowledge to farmers, rural communities, and agricultural stakeholders. By strengthening the knowledge base and building capacity, ARDE empowers farmers with the skills and information necessary to make informed decisions and improve their farming practices.

India’s challenges in adapting to climate change

  • Vulnerability to Extreme Weather Events: India is highly susceptible to extreme weather events, including cyclones, floods, droughts, and heatwaves. These events can cause significant damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and livelihoods, impacting the overall resilience of communities.
  • Water Scarcity and Stress: Climate change exacerbates water scarcity in many regions of India. Changes in rainfall patterns, melting glaciers, and rising temperatures affect water availability for agriculture, domestic use, and industries. This poses challenges for irrigation, drinking water supply, and overall water management.
  • Agriculture and Food Security: The agricultural sector is crucial for India’s food security and rural livelihoods. However, climate change poses risks to crop yields, productivity, and quality. Erratic rainfall, increased pests and diseases, and extreme temperature fluctuations can impact crop growth and food production, leading to food security challenges.
  • Coastal Vulnerability: India has a long coastline, making it highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and storm surges. Coastal regions face threats to infrastructure, settlements, agriculture, and ecosystems. Climate change-induced sea-level rise also increases the risk of saltwater intrusion, affecting freshwater sources and agriculture in coastal areas.
  • Health Impacts: Climate change influences the spread of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue, as well as heat-related illnesses. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can affect the distribution of disease vectors and impact public health systems, particularly in vulnerable communities with limited access to healthcare.
  • Biodiversity Loss and Ecosystem Disruption: Climate change poses risks to India’s rich biodiversity and ecosystems. Habitats, wildlife, and fragile ecosystems like coral reefs and mangroves face threats from changing temperatures, altered rainfall patterns, and habitat loss. This can disrupt ecological balance and affect natural resources vital for human well-being.
  • Infrastructure Resilience: India’s infrastructure systems, including transportation networks, energy grids, and urban settlements, face challenges in adapting to climate change impacts. Infrastructure vulnerabilities can lead to disruptions in services, increased costs for repairs and maintenance, and hindered economic growth.
  • Socio-economic Inequalities: Climate change impacts can exacerbate existing socio-economic inequalities in India. Vulnerable communities, such as small farmers, tribal populations, and marginalized groups, are disproportionately affected by climate risks due to their limited resources, lack of access to information, and inadequate adaptive capacities.

Policy Reforms for Climate Resilience

  • National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: Developing a comprehensive national strategy focused on climate change adaptation is essential. This strategy should identify priority sectors, vulnerable regions, and specific adaptation measures.
  • Mainstreaming Climate Considerations: Integrating climate change considerations into sectoral policies and plans is vital. This includes incorporating climate resilience into agriculture, water management, urban planning, infrastructure development, and coastal zone management policies.
  • Strengthening Institutional Frameworks: Establishing robust institutional frameworks and coordination mechanisms for climate adaptation is necessary. This includes enhancing the capacity of relevant government departments, local authorities, and institutions to implement adaptation measures effectively.
  • Building Climate Information Systems: Developing and strengthening climate information systems includes improving meteorological services, climate monitoring networks, early warning systems, and climate data management. Accessible and reliable climate information helps policymakers, communities, and sectors plan and respond to climate risks effectively.
  • Promoting Nature-Based Solutions: Encouraging nature-based solutions can enhance climate resilience. This involves conserving and restoring natural ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and mangroves, which provide crucial ecosystem services. Nature-based solutions contribute to flood control, water regulation, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity conservation, thereby improving resilience to climate change.

Addressing Funding and Allocation Imbalance

  • Scaling Up Experiments: To address climate change challenges effectively, increased funding allocation for ARDE is essential. While there has been an increase in total expenditure on ARDE, research intensity (ARDE as a percentage of agri-GDP) has declined. It is crucial to allocate more funds to scale up experiments and innovations in sustainable agriculture.
  • Sector-wise Allocation: The current allocation of ARDE shows a skewed distribution towards crop husbandry, neglecting sectors like soil, water conservation, forestry, animal husbandry, dairy development, and fisheries. This imbalance needs correction to promote holistic agricultural research and development.

Conclusion

  • As global temperatures rise and climate change impacts intensify, addressing remaining gaps in agricultural research and development becomes imperative. Increased investment in ARDE, realignment of expenditures and policies, and a focus on sustainable farming practices are essential to build climate resilience in India’s agriculture sector. By prioritizing these measures, India can secure food and nutritional security while mitigating the challenges posed by climate change.

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Must read:

Food security and Climate change: The Interlink

 

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Slowing of Overturning Circulation in Antarctic

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Overturning Circulation

Mains level: Not Much

overturning

Central Idea

  • Recent research indicates that the Antarctic overturning circulation, a global network of ocean currents, is slowing down at a faster rate than previously predicted.
  • The overturning circulation is crucial for redistributing heat, carbon, and nutrients, and maintaining Earth’s climate stability and deep-ocean oxygen levels.

What is Overturning Circulation?

  • The overturning circulation (OC) refers to the large-scale circulation pattern in the global ocean, involving both surface and deep currents.
  • It is a network of ocean currents that plays a crucial role in redistributing heat, carbon, and nutrients around the globe.
  • It is driven by the sinking of dense, cold, oxygen-rich water from the ocean surface to the deep ocean and the rising of less dense water in different regions.

How does it work?

  • It operates on a global scale and involves the sinking and rising of water masses driven by density differences.
  • Cold, dense water sinks in certain regions, while warmer, less dense water rises in other areas, creating a continuous flow of water.

Key components and processes

  • Antarctic Bottom Water: Cold, dense water forms near Antarctica and sinks to the ocean floor, spreading northward along the seafloor.
  • North Atlantic Deep Water: Another dense water mass forms in the North Atlantic and sinks to great depths.
  • Thermohaline Circulation: Temperature and salinity differences drive the sinking and rising of water masses, influencing the overturning circulation.
  • Deep Ocean Currents: Once the dense water sinks, it flows along the deep ocean basins, connecting various regions of the world ocean.

Observing and studying the OC

  • Monitoring the overturning circulation is challenging due to its vast scale and complex dynamics.
  • Observations include ship-based measurements, moored instruments, floats, satellites, and numerical models.
  • Scientists use a combination of measurements and simulations to understand the behavior and changes in the overturning circulation.

Importance of the Overturning Circulation

  • Heat redistribution: The overturning circulation helps regulate Earth’s climate by transporting heat from the equator to the poles and vice versa.
  • Assist carbon cycle: It plays a vital role in redistributing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, impacting the global carbon cycle.
  • Nutrient cycling: The circulation also facilitates the transport of nutrients, affecting marine ecosystems and productivity.

Consequences of a Slowing OC

  • Climatic changes: A slowdown in the overturning circulation can have significant consequences for Earth’s climate and marine ecosystems.
  • Nutrient disruption: It can disrupt the transport of heat, carbon, and nutrients, leading to changes in regional and global climate patterns.
  • De-oxygenation: Reduced oxygen supply to the deep ocean can affect deep-sea marine life and potentially lead to shifts in species distribution.

Impact of Melting Antarctic Ice

  • Melting Antarctic ice disrupts the formation of Antarctic bottom water, a key component of the overturning circulation.
  • Freshening of surface waters due to melt-water makes them less dense and less likely to sink, slowing down the circulation.

Future Outlook

  • Antarctica’s ice loss is expected to continue and accelerate with global warming.
  • Anticipated freshening due to increased ice loss will prolong the slowdown and further decrease deep-ocean oxygen levels.
  • The consequences of the slowdown extend beyond Antarctica, affecting the global ocean, climate change, and sea level rise.
  • Urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to address these issues.

Way forward

  • Intensify efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Implement measures to mitigate ice loss from Antarctica and address the freshening of surface waters.
  • Promote scientific research and monitoring to understand and respond to the ongoing changes.
  • Raise awareness about the importance of the overturning circulation and its impact on climate and marine ecosystems.

 

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Alarming Decline in Antarctic Sea Ice: A Harbinger of Global Concerns

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ice-albedo feedback cycle, Climate change, global sea rise

Mains level: Decline in Antarctic sea ice, global sea rise and impact on weather patters, Need of immediate actions

Antarctic

Central Idea

  • The recent record-breaking drop in Antarctic Sea ice extent on February 19 has raised significant concerns about the impacts of global warming. This worrying trend, accompanied by rising global temperatures, poses a threat to coastal cities and has far-reaching consequences for weather patterns and underwater ecosystems. As sea ice continues to melt and global sea levels rise, urgent action is needed to address the environmental challenges presented by this alarming decline.

Melting Sea Ice and Rising Sea Levels: A worrying trend

  • Over the past six years, the Antarctic Sea ice cover has witnessed substantial declines, resulting in a rise in global sea levels.
  • NASA reports that meltwater from Antarctic ice accounts for approximately one-third of the global average sea level rise since 1993.
  • The sea ice extent in 2023 has often been notably lower than the levels seen in 2022, which had the second-lowest summer sea ice extent in Antarctica.
  • The Antarctic Sea ice extent as of May 21, 2023, has significantly shrunk compared to the median extent between 1981 and 2010
  • The April temperature in the Antarctic region in 2023 was 0.93°C higher than the 1910-2000 average for that month, marking the second-highest increase in the millennium.

Antarctic

Impact decline in Antarctic Sea ice on Global Weather and Ecosystems

  • Weather Pattern Alterations: The Southern Ocean, surrounding Antarctica, plays a crucial role in transferring heat from the atmosphere to the global oceans. Increased melting of Antarctic sea ice introduces cold, fresh water into the ocean, disrupting the circulation patterns of hot, cold, fresh, and salty water globally. This alteration in temperature and density can subsequently affect weather patterns, including wind patterns, precipitation, and storm formation.
  • Oceanic Currents and Nutrient Flows: Changes in water temperature and density due to melting sea ice can disrupt oceanic currents and nutrient flows. These currents are vital for distributing heat, nutrients, and oxygen across the world’s oceans. The disturbance in these flows can have cascading effects on marine ecosystems, impacting the distribution and availability of nutrients for various organisms.
  • Impact on Underwater Ecosystems: Sea ice serves as a critical habitat for various organisms, including algae, krill, and other marine life. Diminishing sea ice reduces the availability of food and alters the feeding patterns and reproductive cycles of species dependent on these ecosystems. This disruption can have significant consequences for the entire Antarctic food chain, affecting species such as whales, seals, penguins, and seabirds.
  • Altered Albedo Effect: The decline in sea ice coverage reduces the Earth’s albedo effect. Albedo refers to the ability of a surface to reflect sunlight back into space. Sea ice has a high albedo, meaning it reflects a significant portion of incoming solar radiation. As sea ice diminishes, darker ocean water absorbs more solar radiation, leading to increased warming and amplifying the overall warming trend.
  • Feedback Loops: The impacts of melting sea ice create feedback loops that exacerbate the effects of climate change. For example, as sea ice melts, more heat is absorbed by the ocean, further accelerating the melting process. These feedback loops contribute to the amplification of warming trends and the intensification of associated environmental changes.

Facts for prelims

What is ice-albedo feedback cycle?

  • The ice-albedo feedback cycle, also known as the snow-ice albedo feedback, refers to a positive feedback mechanism that amplifies the effects of global warming. It involves the interaction between ice or snow cover and solar radiation.
  • The albedo of a surface refers to its ability to reflect sunlight. Ice and snow have high albedo values, meaning they reflect a significant portion of incoming solar radiation back into space.
  • This reflection helps to cool the Earth’s surface. However, when ice or snow melts, it reveals darker surfaces beneath, such as dark ocean water or land, which have lower albedo values. These darker surfaces absorb more solar radiation, leading to increased warming
  • The ice-albedo feedback cycle operates in both polar regions, but it is particularly significant in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, where extensive ice and snow cover exist.
  • The reduction in sea ice extent and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets contribute to this feedback mechanism, accelerating the warming trend and exacerbating the impacts of climate change.

Understand this way: How do the ice-albedo feedback cycle operate?

  • Initial Warming: Due to various factors, including greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth’s temperature increases, leading to the melting of ice and snow cover.
  • Reduced Albedo: As ice and snow melt, the reflective white surface is replaced by darker surfaces with lower albedo values. These surfaces absorb more solar radiation rather than reflecting it back into space.
  • Increased Heating: The absorption of more solar radiation by darker surfaces results in increased heating of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.
  • Further Melting: The increased heating leads to more melting of ice and snow, further reducing the overall ice and snow cover.
  • Amplification of Warming: With less ice and snow cover, more heat is absorbed, contributing to a positive feedback loop. The amplified warming results in further ice and snow melt, creating a cycle of increasing temperatures.

Impact of Rising Sea Levels on coastal communities around the worldwide

  • Increased Flooding and Erosion: As sea levels rise, coastal areas are more susceptible to storm surges, high tides, and extreme weather events. This puts low-lying regions, including coastal cities and communities, at greater risk of inundation, property damage, and displacement of residents.
  • Coastal Infrastructure Vulnerability: Increased flooding and erosion can lead to the degradation and loss of critical infrastructure, disrupting transportation, energy supply, and essential services. This vulnerability can have substantial economic, social, and public safety implications.
  • Threat to Freshwater Resources: Rising sea levels can infiltrate freshwater sources and contaminate underground aquifers, particularly in coastal regions where freshwater and saltwater interfaces occur. This intrusion of saltwater can compromise drinking water supplies, agricultural irrigation, and ecosystems dependent on freshwater resources, exacerbating water scarcity issues.
  • Displacement of Communities: As coastal areas become uninhabitable due to sea-level rise and increased flooding, communities may face the prospect of forced relocation. This displacement can result in the loss of homes, cultural heritage, and livelihoods, leading to social disruption, economic challenges, and psychological impacts on affected populations.
  • Ecological Impacts: Coastal ecosystems, including mangroves, coral reefs, and wetlands, provide critical habitats, buffer against storms, and support biodiversity. Rising sea levels can inundate and degrade these ecosystems, leading to the loss of valuable ecological services, increased vulnerability to coastal hazards, and reduced coastal resilience.
  • Economic Consequences: The impacts of sea-level rise and coastal flooding can disrupt tourism, fishing, and shipping industries, leading to economic losses, job displacements, and decreased productivity. Additionally, the costs of coastal protection measures and infrastructure adaptations to rising sea levels can place a significant burden on local economies and governments.

Way Forward

  • Strengthening International Cooperation: Collaborate at global forums to address climate change and its impact on Antarctica, emphasizing the need for reduced emissions and sustainable practices.
  • Enhanced Monitoring and Research: Invest in further research to understand the dynamics of melting sea ice, its impact on ecosystems, and potential mitigation strategies.
  • Promoting Sustainable Practices: Encourage sustainable practices and responsible tourism in the Antarctic region to minimize human impact on the fragile ecosystem.
  • Climate Resilience Planning: Develop robust climate resilience plans for coastal cities and communities, considering rising sea levels and potential threats posed by diminishing sea ice.
  • Raising Public Awareness: Educate the public about the consequences of melting Antarctic sea ice, fostering a collective sense of responsibility and encouraging individual actions to mitigate climate change.

Conclusion

  • The alarming decline in Antarctic sea ice poses grave threats to global sea levels, weather patterns, and underwater ecosystems. Urgent action is required to mitigate climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote sustainable practices. Through international collaboration, research, and public awareness, we can strive to protect the Antarctic region and safeguard coastal communities worldwide from the impacts of melting sea ice. The time to act is now, as the consequences of inaction will be felt by future generations.

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Must read:

Oceans absorb 90% of human-induced planet warming: Study

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Antarctic Sea Ice Cover at Record Low

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Antarctic

Mains level: Read the attached story

antarctic

Central Idea

  • Sea ice in Antarctica reached its smallest area on record in February for the second consecutive year, continuing a decade-long decline.

Ice cover decline: Key data

(1) Square km decline

  • The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) provided the figures, highlighting the significant decrease in Antarctic sea ice.
  • On February 16, the ocean surface covered by ice around Antarctica shrank to 2.09 million square kilometers (800,000 square miles), the lowest level since satellite records began.

(2) Warming trends

  • Both the North and South poles have experienced significant warming, with temperatures rising by approximately 3 degrees Celsius compared to late 19th-century levels, three times the global average.
  • Arctic sea ice has been diminishing by about 3 percent per year since the late 1970s, while sea ice in Antarctica has remained relatively constant with large annual variations.

(3) Regional variances and vulnerabilities

  • Recent ice cover reduction during the southern hemisphere summer has been most pronounced in West Antarctica, which is more vulnerable to the impacts of global warming compared to East Antarctica.
  • Antarctica witnessed its first recorded heatwave in 2020, with temperatures 9.2 degrees Celsius above the mean maximum. Unusual temperature spikes have been observed in various parts of Antarctica.
  • The Arctic has also experienced significant declines in sea ice, with the record minimum sea ice extent occurring in 2012.

Impact of declining Ice Cover

  • Global sea level rise: Melting ice in Antarctica contributes to rising sea levels worldwide.
  • Disruption of ecosystems: Declining ice cover disrupts habitats and food sources for ice-dependent species.
  • Increased warming: Less ice reflects sunlight, leading to more heat absorption and further ice melting.
  • Changes in ocean circulation: Declining ice cover can disrupt currents and impact global climate patterns.
  • Release of stored carbon: Melting ice releases trapped carbon, potentially affecting marine ecosystems and contributing to climate change.
  • Amplification of global warming: Reduced ice cover creates a positive feedback loop, exacerbating climate change.
  • Disruption of biodiversity and food chains: Changing ice conditions impact species relying on ice algae and affect the overall Southern Ocean ecosystem.

Future projections

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted with high confidence that the Arctic Ocean would become practically ice-free in September at least once by mid-century.
  • The decreasing trends in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice highlight the urgent need to address climate change and its impact on the Polar Regions.

 

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India-EU discuss ways to resolve Carbon Border Tax

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM)

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea

Why such move?

  • The EU is India’s second-largest trading partner and export market.
  • India has expressed confidence that the intention behind CBAM was not to create a trade barrier but to promote sustainability.
  • CBAM has potential impact on India’s Steel and Aluminum sectors.

Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM)

Proposed by European Union (EU)
Purpose To reduce carbon emissions from imported goods and prevent competitive disadvantage against countries with weaker environmental regulations
Objectives Reduce carbon emissions from imported goods

Promote a level playing field between the EU and its trading partners

Protect EU companies that have invested in green technologies

 

How does CBAM work?

Coverage Applies to imported goods that are carbon-intensive
Integration Covered by the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), which currently covers industries like power generation, steel, and cement
Implementation CBAM taxes would be imposed on the carbon content of imported goods at the border, and the tax rates would be based on the carbon price in the EU ETS
Exemptions Possible exemptions for countries that have implemented comparable carbon pricing systems
Revenue Use Revenue generated from CBAM taxes could be used to fund the EU’s climate objectives, such as financing climate-friendly investments and supporting developing countries’ climate efforts

 

Who will be affected by CBAM?

Details
Countries Non-EU countries, including India, that export carbon-intensive goods to the EU
Items Initially covers iron and steel, cement, aluminium, fertilisers, and electric energy production
Expansion The scope of the CBAM may expand to other sectors in the future

Advantages offered

  • Encourages non-EU countries to adopt more stringent environmental regulations, reducing global carbon emissions.
  • Prevents carbon leakage by discouraging companies from relocating to countries with weaker environmental regulations.
  • Generates revenue that could be used to support EU climate policies.

Challenges with CBAM

  • Difficulty in accurately measuring the carbon emissions of imported goods, especially for countries without comprehensive carbon accounting systems.
  • Potential for trade tensions with the EU’s trading partners, especially if other countries implement retaliatory measures.

Ways to ease impact of CBAM

To minimize the impact of CBAM, India can consider several actions:

  • Set up a carbon trading mechanism: To reflect the level of development and adjust the carbon tax paid domestically when paying CBT to the EU.
  • Re-designate taxes on essential products: Make these as carbon taxes, which could help lower the net impact of CBT.
  • Create a cadre of energy auditors: To ensure fair assessment of carbon emissions for products and help the industry calculate carbon intensity and adopt cleaner technologies.
  • Start an industry awareness program: To educate sectors affected by CBT and create a dedicated group involving government, industry associations, and researchers.
  • Devise a WTO-compatible retaliation mechanism: To counter CBT, considering that developing countries exporting to developed nations will also suffer from it.
  • Sign new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs): After resolving the CBT issue, as high CBT would undermine the benefits of zero import duties.
  • Expose the perceived hypocrisy: Utilize global platforms to expose offshoring pollution of developed countries and proposing to tax imports, while not addressing their own consumption patterns.

Conclusion

  • The CBAM is a proposed policy by the EU to reduce carbon emissions from imported goods and to promote a level playing field between the EU and its trading partners.
  • Although the CBAM has its challenges, it has the potential to incentivize non-EU countries to adopt more stringent environmental regulations and reduce global carbon emissions.

 

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Preventing Heat Strokes: Lessons from Ahmedabad’s Heat Action Plan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heat stroke and related terminologies in news

Mains level: Heat stroke related mortality and preventive measures

Heat Stroke

Central Idea

  • The recent deaths of 14 people due to heat stroke in Navi Mumbai serves as a reminder of the dangers of heat waves, and with the IMD predicting a hotter summer this year, it’s essential that we take proactive steps to prevent heat-related deaths and illnesses. The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan (HAP), launched in 2013, offers a blueprint that can be applied across India to combat heat stroke-related mortality and morbidity.

What is Heat Stroke?

  • Heat stroke is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s temperature regulation system fails, leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature.
  • This can happen when a person is exposed to high temperatures and humidity for prolonged periods, leading to dehydration, loss of fluids and electrolytes, and an inability to cool down through sweating.
  • Symptoms of heat stroke include high body temperature, rapid heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, confusion, agitation, disorientation, seizures, and in severe cases, loss of consciousness and organ failure.
  • Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention, as it can be fatal if left untreated.

Facts for prelims: Heat related terminologies in news

Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the body’s temperature regulation system fails, and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels, usually above 104°F (40°C). It can lead to organ damage and even death if not treated promptly.

Heat cramps: Heat cramps are painful muscle contractions that can occur during physical activity in hot weather.

Heat wave: A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which can be accompanied by high humidity levels. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) defines a heat wave as when the daily maximum temperature of more than five consecutive days exceeds the average maximum temperature by 5°C, and the normal minimum temperature is also exceeded.

Heat index: It is the measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to actual air temperature. The higher the heat index, the hotter it feels.

Thermal stress: It is the stress on the human body caused by high temperatures, humidity, and solar radiation.

Urban Heat Island: It refers to the phenomenon where urban areas experience higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas due to human activities like transportation, industrialization, and construction.

Wet bulb globe temperature: It is a measure of heat stress in direct sunlight, which takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover.

Diurnal temperature range: It is the difference between the maximum and minimum temperatures in a 24-hour period. A low diurnal temperature range indicates high humidity and poor air quality.

Heat Stroke

Features of Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan (HAP)

  • The Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan (HAP) includes five components that are designed to prevent heat stroke-related mortality and morbidity. These components are:
  1. Prediction and Alert System: The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts temperature levels for over 500 cities and all districts of India. Local governments can use historical temperature data to issue red, orange, and yellow alerts depending on the severity of the heat wave.
  2. Public Awareness: Raising public awareness about the actions to be taken during heat waves. Simple measures like carrying water while going out, avoiding direct exposure to sunlight, and taking frequent rests can prevent heat stroke.
  3. Provision of Water and Shade: Providing water and shade in public places and construction sites.
  4. Vulnerable Populations: Special attention should be given to vulnerable populations like the elderly and those with comorbidities. Those who work outside, such as traffic police, labourers, and street vendors, should be informed about ways to protect themselves from heat stroke.
  5. Annual Review: Each city and district should appoint a Heat officer to ensure that the HAP is implemented effectively. An annual review of the plan can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that the most vulnerable are protected from heat stroke-related mortality and morbidity.

Heat Stroke

Why India have not paid much attention to heat-related mortality and morbidity?

  • People accustomed to hot weather: Most people in India are accustomed to hot weather, and heat waves are not seen as a major threat. Traditionally, most cultures in India have words to describe heat stroke, and people know that it is a serious condition, so it has not been seen as a new or emerging issue.
  • Weak commitment to public health: The country is facing several other pressing issues and has a weak national commitment to public health in general.
  • Lack of awareness: Lack of awareness about the dangers of heat stroke and the need for preventive measures.
  • Overshadow effect: The focus on communicable diseases and other health issues has overshadowed the impact of heat waves on public health.
  • Limited research and data: Limited research and data on the extent of heat stroke-related morbidity and mortality in India.
  • Limited resources: Limited infrastructure and resources for managing heat waves and providing relief to affected populations.
  • Inadequate political will: Insufficient political will and resources to prioritize public health interventions related to heat waves.

Long-term measures that the government can take to combat the effects of heat waves

  • Increase green cover: Trees and plants can help to reduce the effects of heat waves by providing shade and absorbing carbon dioxide. The government can undertake afforestation drives and promote the planting of trees in cities, towns, and villages.
  • Promote cool roofs: Painting roofs white or using reflective roofing materials can help to reflect sunlight and reduce the absorption of heat. The government can promote the use of cool roofs in new construction and retrofitting of existing buildings.
  • Improve access to water: Access to safe drinking water is crucial during heat waves. The government can undertake initiatives to improve access to water in public places, especially for vulnerable populations.
  • Develop urban heat island mitigation strategies: Urban areas are more susceptible to the effects of heat waves due to the urban heat island effect. The government can develop strategies to mitigate the effects of urban heat islands, such as increasing green cover, promoting cool roofs, and improving ventilation in buildings.
  • Improve healthcare infrastructure: The healthcare system must be prepared to deal with the increased incidence of heat stroke during heat waves. The government can improve healthcare infrastructure by increasing the number of hospitals and clinics, providing adequate medical supplies and equipment, and training healthcare professionals to deal with heat stroke cases.
  • Improve public transport: The use of public transport can reduce the number of vehicles on the road, thereby reducing emissions and heat. The government can promote the use of public transport by improving the quality and availability of public transport services.
  • Promote energy efficiency: The government can promote energy efficiency by undertaking energy audits of public buildings and promoting the use of energy-efficient appliances.

Heat Stroke

Conclusion

  • The Heat Action Plan offers a simple, effective framework for preventing heat stroke-related deaths and illnesses. With interdepartmental coordination and top-level commitment, it is possible to protect vulnerable populations during heat waves. It is essential that all cities, districts, and villages in India prepare for heat waves and take proactive measures to prevent heat stroke-related mortality and morbidity.

Mains Question

Q. What do you understand by mean is Heat Stroke? India has witnessing high number of heat related mortality and morbidity. In light of this serious concern, illustrate how India can take measures to prevent heat stroke-related mortality and morbidity.

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Understanding Temperature Anomalies

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Temperature Anomaly

Mains level: Not Much

temperature

Central idea: Global warming does not mean that each month or each year will be warmer than the previous month or the previous year.

What is Temperature Anomaly?

  • This is a measure of how much the actual temperature deviates from the long-term average temperature for a particular location and time period.
  • Anomalies are calculated by taking the difference between the actual temperature and the long-term average temperature, and then averaging this difference over a specified period.
  • The anomalies are due to land-ocean-atmosphere processes that dynamically determine the weather and climate.
  • It is a useful tool for understanding changes in climate over time, as they allow scientists to compare temperatures from different time periods and locations.
  • For example, a temperature anomaly of +2°C in a particular region in a given year means that the temperature in that region was 2°C higher than the long-term average for that region and time period.

Why study this?

  • Long-term trend: By analyzing temperature anomalies over time, scientists can identify long-term trends in climate change and predict future changes.
  • Track extreme weather event: These are also used to monitor extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, and floods, which can have significant impacts on human health, agriculture, and natural ecosystems.

Recent context: Second warmest March on record

  • The fact that March 2023 was the second warmest March on record suggests that the planet is experiencing long-term warming.
  • It is a clear indication of the impact of human activities on the planet.
  • The burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have led to an increase in greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
  • This warming trend is expected to continue and worsen in the coming years, leading to more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other negative impacts on the planet.

What does this mean for local weather?

  • The second warmest March on record can have significant impacts on local weather patterns.
  • As mentioned earlier, the warming over the northwest to the west of India caused cooler than normal weather over Mumbai and excess pre-monsoon rains over the northwest.
  • On the other hand, Kerala and Odisha experienced scorching heatwaves.
  • These weather anomalies can have serious implications for agriculture, water resources, and public health.

Implications

  • Crop yields decline: This can be affected by extreme weather events, and changes in precipitation patterns can lead to water shortages or flooding.
  • Heatwaves: This can cause heat stress and other health problems, particularly for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and young children.

 

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Botanical Gardens Today Represent a Metric of National Success

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Important Botanical gardens

Mains level: Significance of botanical gardens and challenges

Botanical Gardens

Central Idea

  • The establishment of a large botanical garden in Tamil Nadu, the Chengalpattu Botanical Garden, is a welcome piece of news as it has the potential to become a major center for the exploration and discovery of India’s plant wealth, research, education, citizen science, and outreach in plant biology.

Chengalpattu Botanical Garden (CBG)

  • It will be India’s largest botanical garden: The ₹300 crore Chengalpattu Botanical Garden (CBG), at Kadambur village in Chengalpattu district, is being planned across 138 hectares and will be India’s largest botanical garden.
  • Potential major centre exploration and discovery of our plant wealth: The CBG has the potential to become a major center for the exploration and discovery of our plant wealth, a center of research, education, citizen science, and outreach in plant biology, and be a forceful voice in conservation.

Background: Historical association of Plants and Gardens

  • Plants have been the foundation of human civilization and the long-standing association of humanity with gardens can be traced back to the dawn of agriculture over 11,000 years ago.
  • The tradition of home gardens, which are planned spaces around homes to grow edible and medicinal plants, has been noted in ancient texts and depicted in cave paintings, demonstrating the antiquity of gardening.
  • Rulers, from ancient to modern civilizations, have owned botanical gardens that are rich in native plants and plants collected from distant places.
  • These patrons of botanical gardens not only funded them but also oversaw botanical collections as a beautiful garden was a metric of one’s prosperity and eclectic administration.

History of Botanical Gardens

  • European explorations led to the establishment of several academic botanical gardens between the 15th to 17th centuries.
  • The oldest of these, Orto Botanico di Padova in Italy, was founded in 1545, and the most well-known, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew near London, was formally consolidated in 1840.

Botanical Gardens in India

  • Oldest garden: The oldest of the Indian academic gardens, the Acharya Jagadish Chandra (AJC) Bose Indian Botanic Garden, in Howrah, Kolkata, was established in 1787.
  • Exact number is not yet known: The exact number of botanical gardens in India is not known, but only a handful of botanical gardens have plant exploration and education programs.
  • India’s flora diversity: India is home to approximately 47,000 plant species, which make up around 6-7% of the world’s total plant species. The Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalayas are two of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, with a large number of endemic plant species found in these regions.
  • The Importance of Plants: India has a high diversity of plants and animals. Plants are the structural foundations of our diverse ecological communities that feed us, provide us with nutrition and medicine, mitigate climate change, enrich our spirits, and secure us against an uncertain future. Yet, our knowledge of our vast botanical heritage is extremely limited.

Facts for prelims: Botanical Garden in India

Botanical Garden Location Established Special Features
Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden Howrah, West Bengal 1787 Oldest botanical garden in India; over 12,000 specimens of plants
Lalbagh Botanical Garden Bangalore, Karnataka 1760 Known for its collection of rare plants, Glass House which hosts an annual flower show
Ooty Botanical Gardens Ooty, Tamil Nadu 1848 Spread over 55 acres, collection of over 650 species of plants and trees, Toda tribal hut
Jijamata Udyan Botanical Garden Mumbai, Maharashtra 1861 Oldest Botanical Garden in Western India; houses Mumbai’s Byculla Zoo
Shalimar Bagh Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir 1619 Mughal garden, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Government Botanical Garden Udhagamandalam, Tamil Nadu 1848 Home to over 1000 species of plants including some rare ones, Fossil Tree Trunk
The National Botanical Research Institute Botanical Garden Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh 1953 Over 6000 species of plants including rare medicinal plants
The Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University Botanical Garden Guntur, Andhra Pradesh 1964 Specializes in medicinal and aromatic plants
The Calcutta Botanical Garden Kolkata, West Bengal 1786 Has a large collection of plants including rare plants, Cactus House
The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park and Botanical Garden Darjeeling, West Bengal 1958 Botanical garden houses a collection of Himalayan plants, zoo has endangered species such as Red Panda

 What are Botanical Gardens?

  • Botanical gardens are institutions that are dedicated to the collection, cultivation, preservation, and display of a wide range of plants, with the aim of promoting public education and awareness of the importance of plants in the ecosystem.
  • These gardens may be associated with universities, museums, or government bodies, and are often open to the public for visitation and education.
  • They are often involved in research, conservation, and horticultural activities, and may collaborate with other botanical gardens around the world to share knowledge and resources.
  • Botanical gardens typically feature a variety of plants from different regions and climates, including rare and endangered species, and may also include features such as greenhouses, herbaria, and educational exhibits.

Significance of botanical gardens

  • Conservation of plant species: Botanical gardens often maintain collections of rare, threatened, and endangered plant species for conservation purposes. These gardens also serve as a refuge for plants in danger of extinction and work towards their preservation.
  • Scientific research: Botanical gardens play a significant role in scientific research related to plants and their uses. Researchers use the gardens to study the characteristics and behavior of various plant species, their adaptability to different environmental conditions, and their potential uses in medicine, agriculture, and other fields.
  • Education and awareness: Botanical gardens offer an opportunity for the public to learn about plant diversity, conservation, and ecology. They often organize tours, exhibitions, and educational programs to raise awareness about the importance of plants and their role in sustaining life on earth.
  • Recreation and tourism: Botanical gardens are often popular tourist destinations and provide a peaceful and scenic setting for people to relax and enjoy nature. They also offer recreational activities such as hiking, bird watching, and photography.
  • Aesthetic value: Botanical gardens are also valued for their aesthetic beauty and are often designed to showcase different plant species in a visually appealing manner. The gardens often include water features, sculptures, and other artistic elements that enhance their beauty and appeal to visitors.

Challenges related to botanical gardens in India

  • Maintenance and conservation: Botanical gardens require regular maintenance to ensure that the plants remain healthy and the infrastructure is in good condition. Lack of funding and trained staff can make it difficult to maintain the gardens, leading to deterioration of the plants and infrastructure.
  • Climate change: Climate change is a major challenge for botanical gardens, as it can affect the growth and survival of plants. Changing rainfall patterns, temperature fluctuations, and extreme weather events can all have a negative impact on the plants in the gardens.
  • Invasive species: Invasive species can pose a serious threat to the biodiversity of botanical gardens. These non-native plants can outcompete local species and disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem in the garden.
  • Urbanization: Urbanization and the expansion of cities can lead to the destruction of natural habitats and reduce the available space for botanical gardens. It can also lead to increased pollution, which can have negative effects on the plants in the gardens.
  • Lack of public awareness: Many people in India are not aware of the importance of botanical gardens and the role they play in conservation and research. This can make it difficult to raise funds and gain support for the gardens, which can limit their potential impact.

Way ahead: Steps to conserve botanical gardens in India

  • Conservation measures: The conservation of botanical gardens can be done through various measures, such as preserving rare and endangered plant species, protecting the habitats of various plants, and using sustainable gardening practices.
  • Education and awareness: Education and awareness programs should be conducted to promote the significance of botanical gardens and their role in preserving plant diversity. It can help in spreading the knowledge about the importance of plants, conservation methods, and ecosystem services.
  • Scientific research: Scientific research on plant biology, taxonomy, and ecology can be carried out in botanical gardens. It can help in better understanding the plants and their natural habitat, thus helping in developing better conservation strategies.
  • Sustainable practices: Botanical gardens should adopt sustainable practices, such as the use of eco-friendly materials, rainwater harvesting, and composting, to conserve the environment and reduce carbon footprint.
  • Community participation: Community participation can be encouraged in botanical gardens by organizing various events, such as plant shows, gardening competitions, and nature walks. It can help in creating awareness and generating interest in plant conservation.
  • Collaboration and partnerships: Collaboration and partnerships with various organizations, such as NGOs, research institutions, and government agencies, can help in creating a network for sharing knowledge, resources, and expertise. It can also help in developing new conservation strategies and initiatives.

Conclusion

  • Given the complex engineering that goes behind the construction and maintenance of a successful garden, botanical gardens today represent a metric of national success, from the perspectives of science, technology, and outreach, just as in the golden ages of this region, dating as far back as the Maurya monarch, Aśoka, when a botanical garden was a display of prosperity, scientific dispositions, and eclectic administration.
  • In this era of climate change and declining biodiversity, we need every inch of our backyards and elsewhere to nurture native plants and associated living organisms, to remind ourselves and the generations to come of the need to heal our earth through the power of plants.

Mains Question

Q. Establish historical association of botanical gardens and discuss its significance along with challenges associated with its conservation.

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Oceans absorb 90% of human-induced planet warming: Study

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heat Budget of Earth

Mains level: Read the attached story

ocean

The study published in the journal Earth System Science Data estimates that almost 90% of the warming that has occurred in the last 50 years has been absorbed by the ocean, with the remaining heat absorbed by the land, cryosphere and atmosphere.

Earth’s energy balance: A quick recap

ocean

  • It is the balance between the amount of energy that Earth receives from the Sun and the amount of energy that Earth radiates back into space.
  • It is also known as the radiation budget.
  • The energy from the Sun that Earth receives is mainly in the form of visible light and ultraviolet radiation.
  • This energy is absorbed by the Earth’s surface and atmosphere, which then radiate it back into space in the form of infrared radiation.
  • The balance between incoming and outgoing radiation is crucial for maintaining the Earth’s temperature and climate.
  • Any imbalance between the two can lead to global warming and climate change.
Description
Total incoming solar radiation Approximately 342 W/m² reaches Earth’s atmosphere
Albedo About 30% of incoming solar radiation is reflected back to space
Greenhouse effect Remaining 70% of incoming solar radiation is absorbed by Earth’s surface and atmosphere, creating the greenhouse effect
Atmospheric heat Atmosphere contains only 0.001% of Earth’s heat energy, but is crucial in regulating heat budget

 

Key highlights of the Study: Heat Accumulation

heat

  • The study estimates that approximately 381 zettajoules (ZJ) of heat accumulated on the planet from 1971-2020 due to anthropogenic emissions.
  • This roughly equals a heating rate of approximately 0.48 watts per square metre (Earth Energy Imbalance or EEI). EEI is the difference between incoming and outgoing solar radiation.
  • According to the study, about 89% of the accumulated heat is stored in the ocean, 6% on land, a percent in the atmosphere, and about 4% available for melting the cryosphere.

Implications

(1) Land Heat Accumulation

  • Heat accumulated on land drives up ground surface temperatures, which may increase soil respiration, releasing carbon dioxide in the process.
  • Higher soil respiration will likely decrease soil water, depending on climatic and meteorological conditions and factors.

(2) Inland Water Bodies and Permafrost Thawing

  • Heat storage within inland water bodies has increased to roughly 0.2 ZJ since 1960. For permafrost thawing, it was about 2 ZJ.
  • The accumulation of heat in inland water increases lake water temperatures, making conditions ripe for algal blooms.
  • Permafrost heat content could inject methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the researchers warned.

(3) Ocean and Troposphere heating

  • The upper ocean (0-300 and 0-700 meters depth) has taken up a major fraction of heat, according to the new estimates.
  • During 2006-2020, ocean warming rates for the 0-2,000 meters depth reached record rates of roughly 1.03 watts per square meter.
  • The troposphere is also warming up due to increased heat accumulation.

(4) Cryosphere heating

  • The cryosphere – the frozen water part of the Earth system – gained roughly 14 ZJ of heat from 1971-2020.
  • Half of the uptake triggered the melting of grounded ice, while the remaining half is linked to the melting of floating ice.
  • The Antarctic Ice Sheet contributed about 33% to the total cryosphere heat gain, while Arctic sea ice stood second, having contributed 26%.

 

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Heatwaves in India: Increasing Frequency Needs Range of Measures to Mitigate

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heatwaves, Urban heat island effect

Mains level: Climate change induces weather variability, its impact and mitigating measures

Heatwave

Central Idea

  • India is facing an increasing heatwave due to climate change, leading to significant agricultural crop losses, urban unlivability and reduced labour productivity. India need to take range of measures to mitigate the problem, such as expanding green cover, upgrading urban building standards, embracing public transportation, and improving waste segregation and management.

What is Heat wave?

  • A heatwave is a prolonged period of abnormally hot weather.
  • Heatwaves usually last for several days or weeks and can occur in both dry and humid climates.
  • They are characterized by temperatures that are significantly higher than the average for a particular region during that time of year. This is because climate change is causing a rise in global temperatures. As the planet heats up, it leads to more extreme weather events, such as heat waves. Its geography makes India particularly vulnerable to these events.

Frequency of Heatwaves in India

  • Increase in frequency and intensity: India has been witnessing an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves in recent years.
  • For instance: In April and May 2022, around 350 million Indians were exposed to strong heat stress. On an average, five-six heat wave events occur every year over the northern parts of the country.
  • Rise in summer temperatures as well as winter temperature: Summer temperatures have risen by an average of 0.5-0.9°C across districts in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan between 1990 and 2019. In addition, around 54% of India’s districts have seen a similar rise in winter temperatures.
  • Temperature rise projection: It is expected that between 2021 and 2050, the maximum temperature will rise by 2-3.5°C in 100 districts and by 1.5–2°C in around 455 districts. Winter temperatures will also rise between 1°C and 1.5°C in around 485 districts

heatwave

Fact for prelims: Urban Heat Island Effect

  • High temperature in Urabn areas: The urban heat island effect is a phenomenon in which urban areas experience higher temperatures than the surrounding rural areas.
  • For instance: Cities in India are beset with the urban heat island effect, with temperatures 4-12°C higher than rural outlying areas.
  • Human activities are primary reason: This is primarily caused by human activities such as transportation, industrial processes, and energy consumption, which release heat and pollutants into the atmosphere.
  • Urab landscape made up of concrete absorbs more heat: The urban landscape, with its large amounts of concrete and asphalt, also absorbs and retains more heat than natural surfaces such as forests and grasslands.
  • Reduced vegetation is a contributing factor: Additionally, reduced vegetation and tree cover in urban areas contribute to the urban heat island effect, as plants help to cool the environment through evapotranspiration.
  • Negative impact: The urban heat island effect can have negative impacts on human health, as well as on energy consumption, air and water quality, and ecological systems.

heatwave

The Socio-economic impact of heat waves

  • Health: Heatwaves can cause heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke, leading to hospitalization and death. People working outdoors, such as farmers, construction workers, and street vendors, are particularly vulnerable. The elderly, children, and people with pre-existing health conditions are also at a higher risk of heat-related illnesses.
  • Labor productivity: High temperatures reduce work capacity and productivity, especially for outdoor workers. This can lead to income loss and lower economic growth.
  • For instance: For labourers doing heavy work, heat exposure leads to a loss of 162 hours per year, as per one study. A rise in temperatures directly impacts labour productivity. About 50% of India’s workforce is estimated to be exposed to heat during their working hours. This includes marginal farmers, labourers at construction sites and street vendors parlaying their produce on the streets; increasingly, even gig economy workers are affected.
  • Agriculture: Heatwaves can damage crops and livestock, leading to reduced yields and income loss for farmers. High temperatures and low soil moisture can also lead to drought and water scarcity, which can further exacerbate the agricultural impact.
  • For example: 90% of India’s cumin production is from Gujarat and Rajasthan. The recent weather variability has destroyed the majority of the cumin crop in Rajasthan. From agricultural crop losses, it is a short step towards drought and higher mortality.
  • Energy demand: During heatwaves, the demand for electricity and other forms of cooling increases, leading to power outages and blackouts. This can affect businesses, hospitals, and other critical infrastructure.
  • Migration: Heatwaves can lead to migration as people seek cooler areas or better living conditions. This can strain resources in the destination areas and lead to social tensions.

Heatwave

Ways to Mitigate the Problem

  • Greening could help mitigate part of the problem: Ideally, for every urban citizen in India should have at least seven trees in the urban landscape. However, many urban localities even in leafy Delhi fall short. Development plans for Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities can set up a mandate to increase urban surface area that is permeable, while pushing to increase the density and area of urban forests.
  • Expanding and restoring wetlands: Expanding wetlands and restoring dead and decaying ponds/lakes may also help ensure ecological functioning along with reducing urban heat.
  • Reducing the urban heat island effect: This requires a push for greater usage of permeable materials in civic infrastructure and residential construction and enhancing natural landscapes in urban areas. Urban layouts such as brick jalis for ventilation and terracotta tiles to allow hot air to escape, and curbs on anthropogenic heat emissions from vehicles, factories, etc. may be considered.
  • Avoiding usage of heat absorbent material: Urban building standards should be upgraded to avoid usage of heat-absorbent galvanized iron and metal roof sheets.
  • Using cleaner cooking fuels: Using cleaner cooking fuels will reduce indoor air pollution, which may also help reduce urban heat.
  • Increasing natural vegetation: Streets with low ventilation may need further expansion, or an increase in natural vegetation
  • Voluntary and other measures: Other measures can also be considered such as, from embracing public transportation, to reducing personal vehicle usage and, most importantly, reducing the size of landfills. A push for waste segregation, along with solid waste management at source, can help.
  • Improving our forecasting ability: India needs to improve our forecasting ability, including the potential impact of heat on food production.
  • Improving economic models: Current econometric models associated with food inflation primarily look at the variability in the monsoon, minimum support prices and vegetable prices. India needs to add local heat trends to the mix as well, given the impact of heat on food production, storage and sale.
  • Detailed management policies: We need detailed policies and guidelines on weather variability and urban heat management at the State, district, city and municipality ward levels.

Value addition box: The Chandigarh Model, a template to build climate-responsive architecture

  • Natural green belts: The city was set up by the foothills of the Shivaliks, between two river beds, while natural green belts were incorporated within the city’s master plan.
  • For instance: A large green belt of mango trees was also planted around the city to help reduce urban sprawl and to serve as a buffer between the residential city and the industrial suburbs.
  • Climate responsive architecture: Local architecture such as mud houses within the region was considered as a template to build climate-responsive architecture.
  • City cooling plans: A small rivulet was dammed to create the Sukhna lake, to help cool the city, while small water bodies were developed near large buildings.
  • Increased tree cover: Parks were planned out in every sector, along with tree plantations alongside all the major roads. Large forest areas were also reserved.

Conclusion

  • With climate change exacerbating local weather patterns, we are likely to see April-May temperatures reaching record highs every three years. Moreover, an El Niño-influenced monsoon bodes ill for marginal farmers and urban migrants. Policymakers must take mitigatory action early, while instituting structural infrastructure measures to help Indians adapt to these conditions.

Mains Question

Q. What do you understand by mean urban heat island effect? What measures can be taken to mitigate the impact of rising heatwaves and how can these efforts be integrated with broader climate change adaptation strategies?

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Bioluminescence observed at Visakhapatnam beach

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bioluminiscence

Mains level: NA

bio

The blooms of Noctiluca Scintillans, commonly known as “sea sparkle or bioluminescence” are being witnessed along the coasts of Visakhapatnam, AP.

Noctiluca Scintillans

  • Scintillans is a bioluminescent specie that brightens the seawater during the night.
  • It grazes on other micro-organisms such as larvae, fish eggs, and diatoms. But the unicellular phytoplankton that lives inside it can photosynthesize, turning sunlight into energy.
  • They help their host cell survive even when food was scarce.
  • Thus, N. Scintillans acts as both a plant and an animal

Threats posed

  • According to marine experts, the phenomenon is an indicator of climate change.
  • While smaller blooms may be harmless, slow-moving larger blooms may have an impact on deep-sea fishes.
  • The toxic blooms of N. Scintillans were linked to massive fish and marine invertebrate kills.
  • Though the species does not produce a toxin, it was found to accumulate toxic levels of ammonia, which is then excreted into the surrounding waters, possibly acting as the killing agent in blooms.
  • They have displaced microscopic algae called diatoms, which form the basis of the marine food chain. This has deprived food for the planktivorous fish.

Back2Basics: Bioluminescence

  • It is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light.
  • Animals, plants, fungi and bacteria show bioluminescence. A remarkable diversity of marine animals and microbes are able to produce their own light.
  • It is found in many marine organisms such as bacteria, algae, jellyfish, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, fish and sharks.
  • Luminescence is generally higher in deep-living and planktonic organisms than in shallow species.

 

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Carbon Pricing: The Way For Decarbonization

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GHG's, carbon tax,

Mains level: Carbon pricing mechanism, global efforts

Carbon

Central Idea

  • Environmental destruction has been a consequence of boosting GDP growth in every country due to the absence of a price for natural resources like air and forests. To combat this, the biggest economies of the G-20 must agree on valuing nature, including by pricing carbon effluents. As president of the G-20 this year, India can take the lead in carbon pricing, which will open unexpected avenues of decarbonization.

Pricing Carbon at present

  • Three ways of pricing carbon: carbon tax, emissions trading system (ETS), and import tariff on the carbon content
  • GHG emission: 46 countries price carbon, covering only 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • IMF’s proposed price: International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposed price floors of $75, $50, and $25 a ton of carbon for the United States, China, and India, respectively
  • Benefits: Economy-wide benefits of carbon pricing in terms of damages avoided generally outweighed the cost it imposed on individual industries in EU, British Columbia, Canada, and Sweden
  • Boost to renewables: Carbon pricing makes investment in renewable energy such as solar and wind more attractive.

Facts for prelims

Carbon Pricing Method Description
Carbon Tax A domestic tax imposed on carbon emissions, directly discouraging the use of fossil fuels and raising revenue for investment in cleaner sources of energy or protection of vulnerable consumers. Example: Korea and Singapore.
Emissions Trading System (ETS) A system that allows entities with excess emissions allowances to sell them to those that are emitting more than their allotted limit. Example: European Union and China.
Import Tariff on Carbon Content A tax on imported goods based on the amount of carbon emissions produced during their manufacturing process, designed to discourage importing high-emissions products. Example: Proposed by the European Union.
Carbon Offsets A voluntary mechanism in which companies or individuals pay for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These projects may include reforestation, renewable energy, or energy efficiency initiatives. The amount of emissions reduced by the project can then be used to offset the emissions of the buyer.

Carbon pricing for India

  • Among the three ways of pricing, India could find a carbon tax appealing as it can directly discourage fossil fuels, while raising revenues which can be invested in cleaner sources of energy or used to protect vulnerable consumers
  • IMF proposed $25 a ton as a starting point for India
  • The main obstacle is the argument by industrial firms about losing their competitive advantage to exporters from countries with a lower carbon price
  • All high, middle, and low-income countries should set the same rate within each bracket

Carbon

Way ahead: Need for Global Carbon Pricing

  • The first movers will be the most competitive: High enough carbon tax across China, the US, India, Russia, and Japan alone (more than 60% of global effluents), with complementary actions, could have a notable effect on global effluents and warming. The first movers will be the most competitive
  • India’s leadership: India can play a lead role by tabling global carbon pricing in the existential fight against climate change as president of the G-20 summit this September
  • Communication is important: Any type of carbon pricing faces stiff political opposition therefore communicating the idea of wins at the societal level is vital.

Back to Basics: GHG’s

Greenhouse Gas

Properties Major Sources

Impact

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) -Long-lived in atmosphere.

-Traps heat from the sun

– Burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas)

-Deforestation

– Accounts for 76% of global GHG emissions – Primary cause of climate change
Methane (CH4) – Short-lived in atmosphere

– Traps more heat than CO2

– Agriculture (livestock digestion, manure management)

– Energy production

– Landfills

– Accounts for 16% of global GHG emissions – Contributes to both climate change and air pollution
Nitrous Oxide (N2O) – Long-lived in atmosphere

– Traps more heat than CO2

– Agriculture (fertilizer use, manure management)

– Industrial processes

– Combustion of fossil fuels

– Accounts for 6% of global GHG emissions

– Contributes to both climate change and air pollution

Fluorinated Gases (HFCs, PFCs, SF6) – Can have high global warming potential – Industrial processes (refrigeration, air conditioning)

– Semiconductors

– Electrical transmission equipment

– Accounts for less than 3% of global GHG emissions

– Can have very high global warming potential

Ozone (O3) – Not a GHG, but plays a role in climate change – Human-made chemicals that release ozone into the atmosphere – Contributes to climate change by trapping heat
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – Human-made chemicals that destroy ozone in the atmosphere – Used in refrigeration, air conditioning, and aerosol sprays – Contributes to climate change by destroying ozone, which leads to greater heat-trapping

Carbon

Conclusion

  • India can take the lead in carbon pricing as president of the G-20 this year. By pricing carbon effluents, India can promote investment in renewable energy, protect vulnerable consumers, and contribute to the global fight against climate change. However, there is a need for effective communication to ensure that the idea of carbon pricing is understood at the societal level, and any type of carbon pricing faces stiff political opposition.

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Arctic scientists race to preserve ‘Ice Memory’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ice Memory Project

Mains level: Not Much

snap

Scientists from Italy, France, and Norway have set up camp in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago to extract samples of ancient ice for analysis before the frozen layers melt away due to climate change.

‘Ice Memory’ Project

  • Scientists will drill a series of tubes as far as 125 meters (137 yards) below the surface, which contains frozen geochemical traces dating back three centuries.
  • The scientists will work for three weeks in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit) to extract ice.
  • The Ice Memory foundation is running the operation.
  • The ice cores will provide scientists with valuable data about past environmental conditions.

Analysis and storage

  • One set of ice tubes will be used for immediate analysis, while a second set will be sent to Antarctica for storage in an “ice memory sanctuary” under the snow.
  • The samples will be preserved for future generations of scientists.

Reason for drilling

  • The Arctic is warming between two and four times faster than the global average, and water from melting ice is altering the geochemical records preserved in ancient ice beneath.
  • Hence, scientists are in a race against time to preserve crucial ice records before it disappears forever from the surface of the planet.

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ICJ and Climate Justice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ICJ

Mains level: Climate justice and reparations

Central idea: On March 29, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the obligations countries have towards climate change reduction.

Facts for prelims: International Court of Justice (ICJ)

  • The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN).
  • It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
  • The court is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was brought into being through, and by, the League of Nations.
  • It held its inaugural sitting at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, in February 1922.
  • After World War II, the League of Nations and PCIJ were replaced by the United Nations and ICJ respectively.
  • The PCIJ was formally dissolved in April 1946, and its last president, Judge José Gustavo Guerrero of El Salvador, became the first president of the ICJ.
  • Four Indians have been members of the ICJ so far.
  • Justice Dalveer Bhandari, former judge of the Supreme Court, has been serving at the ICJ since 2012.

 

Vanuatu seeks climate reparations

  • The resolution, which was passed by consensus, was pushed through by the Pacific Island of Vanuatu, which was devastated by Cyclone Pam in 2015.
  • This resolution is significant because it invokes article 96 of the U.N. Charter and seeks to clarify the legal obligations of states to protect the climate system.

Resolution A/77/L.58: What does it seek?

The draft resolution (A/77/L.58) asks the ICJ to deliberate on two questions:

  1. Obligations of states: Under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system for present and future generations
  2. Legal consequences: For states that have caused significant harm to the climate system, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and for people who are harmed?

Frameworks invoked by Vanuatu

The resolution refers to several international protocols, including the-

  1. Paris Agreement
  2. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and
  3. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

What do sponsors of the resolution want?

  • The sponsors of the resolution expect an advisory opinion from the ICJ to bolster the efforts under the global climate pledge.
  • The opinion is also expected to clarify more contentious issues, such as-
  1. Climate reparations by the developed world,
  2. Legal culpability for countries that don’t achieve their NDC promises
  3. Climate support to the most vulnerable parts of the world

Where does India stand over this?

  • India has been silent about the resolution, although it is generally supportive of climate justice and holding the developed world accountable for global warming.
  • India did not co-sponsor the draft resolution, unlike its neighbors Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

If ICJ intervenes, what would change?

  • Only advisory opinion: The ICJ is being asked for an advisory opinion, which would not be legally binding as an ICJ judgment.
  • Puts moral obligation: The ICJ carries “legal weight and moral authority”.
  • Symbolic significance: ICJ’s clarification of international environmental laws would make the process more streamlined, particularly as the COP process looks at various issues like climate finance, climate justice, and the most recently agreed to “loss and damages” etc.

Conclusion

  • The resolution passed by the UNGA requesting an advisory opinion from the ICJ is a step in the right direction towards clarifying the legal obligations of states to mitigate climate change and protect the environment for future generations.
  • To ensure the success of this effort, countries need to continue to engage in diplomatic efforts and work towards shared goals.
  • Countries should also actively participate in the ICJ process and respect the advisory opinion it delivers.

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IPCC’s Synthesis Report: Urgent Action Needed For Climate-resilient Development

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IPCC's report

Mains level: Climate change, dire consequences, efforts of mitigation, progress and challenges

Central Idea

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released the synthesis report of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) cycle, which serves as a survival guide for humanity. The report highlights the urgent need for a climate-resilient development model that integrates adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development for all.

Key Takeaways from the AR6 Report

  • Human activity is driving global temperature rise, currently at 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, with an estimated trajectory of 2.8°C by 2100.
  • While the rate of emissions growth has slowed in the past decade, humanity is estimated to be on a 2.8° C (2.1°-3.4° C range) trajectory by 2100.
  • This temperature rise is causing widespread impacts on climatic systems, with greater risks at lower temperatures than previously assessed.
  • The IPCC report highlights that by 2019, humanity had already used up 80% of its carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C, with developed economies being the biggest contributors.
  • The report also notes that existing modelling studies, which are often used to assess emission trajectories, do not explicitly account for questions of equity.

Major implications for limiting warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C

  1. Carbon Budget and Temperature Targets:
  • The world’s carbon budget for 1.5°C is much lower than for 2°C. Global pathways show that limiting warming to 1.5°C requires a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, while for 2°C it is 21%.
  • Even more concerning is that projected CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure already surpass the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C.
  • Striving for a 1.5° C target implies deep and immediate reductions in emissions in all sectors and regions, which makes more salient different national circumstances and questions of climate equity and operationalisation of the UNFCCC’s core principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities.
  1. Climate adaptation itself has limits:
  • The report highlights that adaptation itself has limits, which implies that some losses and damages of climate change are inevitable.
  • For example, the report finds that some coastal and polar ecosystems have already reached hard limits in their ability to adapt to a changing climate.

Key message of the report

  • Climate-resilient development: Urgently adopting climate-resilient development a developmental model that integrates both adaptation and mitigation to advance sustainable development for all.
  • Green transition: The report assesses the plethora of technologies and design options, such as solar energy or electric vehicles, that can help countries reduce emissions or become more resilient today at low costs, and in a technically feasible manner.
  • Equity and social justice: Prioritising and addressing equity and social justice in transition processes are shown to be key to climate-resilient development.
  • Net-zero emissions: To achieve climate-resilient development, the world needs to reach net-zero emissions. This may depend on large-scale carbon dioxide removals, which are challenging to achieve.

Progress and gaps in Climate Response

  • Some progress has been made in policies and laws, with the effectiveness of policy tools like carbon markets.
  • The report points out that there are gaps between modelled sustainable pathways and what countries have pledged (ambition gaps) as well as substantial gaps between what countries pledge and what they actually do (implementation gaps).

Way ahead

  • Policy package: Policy packages that comprehensively address climate objectives can help countries meet short-term economic goals.
  • Investment: Delayed action risks locking-in to high carbon infrastructure in this decade, and creating stranded assets and financial instability in the medium term. Therefore, high upfront investments in clean infrastructure are imperative.
  • Financing needs to be increased manyfold: Despite sufficient global capital, both adaptation and mitigation financing need to increase many-fold, between three to six times for annual modelled mitigation investments, from 2020 to 2030.

Conclusion

  • The IPCC AR6 synthesis report provides a blueprint for sustainable development and presents a sobering account of the present and future damages to ecosystems and vulnerable populations. It is crucial for governments and individuals worldwide to act urgently to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and pursue climate-resilient development.

 


 

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Meeting India’s ‘Carbon Sink’ target

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Carbon capture and storage techniques

Mains level: Read the attached story

carbon-sink

Central idea: India’s commitment to reduce its carbon emissions and increase its carbon sink as part of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Agreement is a legally binding international treaty signed by 196 parties, including India, to limit global warming to well below 2°C.

What is a carbon sink?

  • A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that absorbs and stores carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
  • It can be a natural ecosystem such as forests, oceans, or soil, or it can be an artificial system like carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
  • Carbon sinks help to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

Methods of Carbon Sinks

There are two types of carbon sinks:

(A) Natural Carbon Sinks: These are ecosystems that naturally absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. The most common natural carbon sinks are:

  • Forests: Trees absorb CO2 through photosynthesis and store it in their trunks, branches, and roots.
  • Oceans: The Ocean absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, where it dissolves and forms carbonic acid.
  • Soil: Carbon can be stored in soil in the form of organic matter, such as dead plant and animal material, which is broken down by microorganisms.

(B) Artificial Carbon Sinks: These are human-made technologies that capture and store carbon from the atmosphere. The most common artificial carbon sinks are:

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): CCS technology captures CO2 emissions from industrial processes, such as power plants, and stores it underground.
  • Direct Air Capture (DAC): DAC technology captures CO2 directly from the air and stores it underground or repurposes it for other uses.

India’s carbon sink target

  • India has pledged to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030.
  • This will be achieved through afforestation, reforestation, and other land-use changes.

India’s progress towards its carbon sink target

  • India has already achieved 24.6% of its carbon sink target as of 2017.
  • This was primarily due to afforestation and tree plantation programs, such as the Green India Mission and the National Afforestation Programme.

Challenges in meeting India’s carbon sink target

  • Unavailability of accurate data: There is a lack of accurate data on the extent and health of India’s forests, which makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness of afforestation and reforestation programs.
  • Conversion of natural forests: The conversion of natural forests to monoculture plantations that have lower carbon sequestration potential can reduce the effectiveness of carbon sinks.
  • Pressure on land: The pressure on land for agriculture and other forms of development can lead to deforestation and the loss of carbon sinks.
  • Lack of funding: Afforestation and reforestation programs require significant funding, which can be a challenge for India.
  • Lack of awareness: Lack of awareness among the public and policymakers about the importance of carbon sinks and the need for their conservation and restoration can hinder efforts to meet India’s carbon sink targets.

Conclusion

  • India’s commitment to increasing its carbon sink is crucial in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
  • More efforts are needed to ensure the success of afforestation and reforestation programs and to address the challenges facing India’s forests.

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UNEP pitches for Global Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Infrastructure

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Global Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Infrastructure

Mains level: NA

greenhouse

Central idea: The article discusses the United Nations’ development of a new system for tracking greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse Gases

  • Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect.
  • Examples of greenhouse gases include-
  1. Water vapor (H2O)
  2. Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  3. Methane (CH4)
  4. Nitrous oxide (N2O)
  5. Fluorinated gases, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
  6. Ozone (O3)
  • The greenhouse effect is a natural process that occurs when certain gases in the atmosphere absorb and re-emit infrared radiation from the sun, trapping heat and keeping the planet warm enough to sustain life.
  • Human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes have significantly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to an enhanced greenhouse effect and causing global warming and climate change.

Global Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Infrastructure

  • The new system, also known as the Common Global Standard for Sustainability, is being developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • It will provide a standardized framework for measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions across various sectors, including agriculture, transport, and energy.

Need for the new system

  • The current system for tracking greenhouse gas emissions is fragmented and lacks standardization, making it difficult to compare emissions across different sectors and countries.
  • The new system aims to address this issue by providing a standardized framework for measuring and reporting emissions.

Benefits offered

  • The new system will provide a more accurate and comprehensive picture of greenhouse gas emissions across different sectors and countries.
  • It will enable policymakers and businesses to develop more effective strategies for reducing emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Challenges

  • The success of the new system will depend on the willingness of countries and businesses to adopt and implement it.
  • There may be resistance from some countries and businesses that are reluctant to disclose their emissions data or make changes to their current reporting practices.

 


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Heatwaves in India: A Serious Concern

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heat waves

Mains level: Climate Change induced rising temperatures, Heatwaves, Socio-economic impact and measures

Heatwave

Central Idea

  • Heat waves have become a major concern for India this year. The scorching summer heat has started prematurely, as per the recent IMD reports. If the record temperatures of the recent past are any indication, the heat wave is likely to become more intense. Rising temperatures lead to several health problems, from dehydration and heat exhaustion to more severe conditions like heatstroke. They also affect the economy and the environment.

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What is Heat wave?

  • A heatwave is a prolonged period of abnormally hot weather.
  • Heatwaves usually last for several days or weeks and can occur in both dry and humid climates. They are characterized by temperatures that are significantly higher than the average for a particular region during that time of year.
  • This is because climate change is causing a rise in global temperatures. As the planet heats up, it leads to more extreme weather events, such as heat waves. Its geography makes India particularly vulnerable to these events.

Heatwaves in India

  • In India Heat waves typically occur from March to June, and in some rare cases, even extend till July.
  • On an average, five-six heat wave events occur every year over the northern parts of the country.
  • Single events can last weeks, occur consecutively, and can impact large population.
  • Its geography makes India particularly vulnerable to these events.

Some of the hottest summers on record in recent years that India has experienced

  • In May 2016, Phalodi in Rajasthan registered 51 degrees Celsius, the highest temperature ever recorded in the country.
  • In 2021, India saw its hottest day on May 22, with the temperature touching 48 degrees Celsius in Barmer, also in Rajasthan.
  • In 2022, Jaipur experienced a severe heatwave. Rajasthan’s capital recorded 45 degrees Celsius in April a record for the city for the month.
  • Delhi, Agra, Pilani and Rohtak are among the well-known hot cities in India, where temperatures, of late, have gone up to 43 degrees Celsius in early summer

Link: Climate change and Heat waves

  • Rising heat waves: Climate change is directly linked to the increase in the frequency, intensity, and duration of heatwaves around the world.
  • More severe and more frequent: As the Earth’s climate continues to warm, heatwaves are becoming more severe and occurring more frequently.
  • Global warming: This is because global warming is causing changes in the atmosphere, such as increased greenhouse gas concentrations, which trap heat and cause temperatures to rise.
  • For instance: Climate change is also causing heatwaves to last longer. A study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that heatwaves are lasting an average of 2.5 days longer than they did in the middle of the 20th century.

Heatwave

The Socio-economic impact of heat waves

  1. Impact on Health: Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, are becoming more common, particularly among vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children, and outdoor workers.
  • In addition, heat waves can exacerbate existing health problems, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
  1. Impact on the environment
  • One of the biggest problems is the depletion of water resources:
  • Water sources are drying up as temperatures rise, leading to crises in many parts of the country.
  • As people try to keep cool, they use more air conditioning, increasing electricity use. This leads to an increase in the use of fossil fuels, which significantly contributes to air pollution.
  1. Impact on agriculture:
  • Impact on environment in turn, leads to agricultural problems, with crops failing and farmers struggling to make a living.
  • Given that around 40 per cent of India’s population is engaged in agriculture, this is a significant concern.
  • Reports are already coming from Punjab and Western Uttar Pradesh that the early heatwave has affected the growth of wheat crops and is expected to negatively affect the crop to the tune of 20 per cent.
  1. Impact on growth:
  • The healthcare costs associated with heat-related illnesses can be significant, particularly for vulnerable groups who may not have access to affordable healthcare.
  • In addition, heat waves can lead to a decrease in worker productivity, which can impact economic growth.

Heatwave

What can be done to deal with such problems?

  • Increase public awareness: People need to be educated about the impact of rising temperatures on their health, the environment, and the economy. This can be done through public campaigns, schools, and the media.
  • Increase the use of renewable energy: India has already made significant progress in this area. However, much remains to be done. The government could incentivise individuals and businesses to invest in renewable energy, such as solar panels. This would help reduce the impact of rising temperatures, create new jobs, and stimulate economic growth.
  • Improving water management: This could include introducing more efficient irrigation systems, better rainwater harvesting, and using recycled water for non-potable purposes. This would help to conserve water resources and reduce the impact of rising temperatures on agriculture.
  • Investing in infrastructure that can cope with extreme temperatures: This could include the construction of roads and buildings that are designed to withstand high temperatures, as well as the development of more efficient cooling systems that use less energy.

Heatwave

Conclusion

  • The rising heat wave in India is a serious concern that needs to be addressed urgently. The impacts of rising temperatures on human health, the environment, and the economy are significant. However, with the right strategies in place, it is possible to mitigate the impact of rising temperatures and ensure a sustainable future for the country.

Mains Question

Q. Climate change is exacerbating the problem of heat waves. In this backdrop discuss its socioeconomic impact and what measures can be done to tackle this problem?

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Heat Waves and the anatomy behind

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heat Waves

Mains level: Read the attached story

heat

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has already started sensing the first signs of heat waves for this summer season.

What is the news?

  • The IMD warned that the maximum temperatures over northwest, west, and central India would be 3-5° C higher than the long-term average in this week.
  • If the heat waves had played out, they would have been the earliest these regions would have experienced this deadly phenomenon.

What are Heat Waves?

  • Heatwaves generally occur over India between March and June.
  • IMD declares a heatwave event when the maximum (day) temperature for a location in the plains crosses 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Over the hills, the threshold temperature is 30 degrees Celsius.

How are they formed?

  • Heatwaves form when high pressure aloft (3,000–7,600 metres) strengthens and remains over a region for several days up to several weeks.
  • This is common in summer (in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres) as the jet stream ‘follows the sun’.
  • On the equator side of the jet stream, in the upper layers of the atmosphere, is the high pressure area.
  • Summertime weather patterns are generally slower to change than in winter. As a result, this upper level high pressure also moves slowly.
  • Under high pressure, the air subsides (sinks) toward the surface, warming and drying adiabatically, inhibiting convection and preventing the formation of clouds.
  • Reduction of clouds increases shortwave radiation reaching the surface.
  • A low pressure at the surface leads to surface wind from lower latitudes that brings warm air, enhancing the warming.
  • Alternatively, the surface winds could blow from the hot continental interior towards the coastal zone, leading to heat waves.

Following criteria are used to declare heatwave:

To declare heatwave, the below criteria should be met at least in 2 stations in a Meteorological subdivision for at least two consecutive days and it will be declared on the second day.

(a) Based on Departure from Normal

  • Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.5°C to 6.4°C
  • Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.4°C

(b) Based on Actual Maximum Temperature (for plains only)

  • Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥ 45°C
  • Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47°C

 

Recent context: El Nino + heat waves

  • The last three years have been La Nina years, which has served as a precursor to 2023 likely being an El Nino
  • The El Nino is a complementary phenomenon in which warmer water spreads west-east across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • As we eagerly await the likely birth of an El Nino this year, we have already had a heat wave occur over northwest India.
  • Heat waves tend to be confined to north and northwest India in El Nino years.

Why do heat waves occur in the first place?

  • Heat waves are formed for one of two reasons: because warmer air is flowing in from elsewhere or because something is producing it locally.
  • Air is warmed locally when the air is warmed by higher land surface temperature or because the air sinking down from above is compressed along the way, producing hot air near the surface.

How do different processes contribute to the formation of a heat wave?

  • The direction of air flowing in from the west-northwest, warming in the Middle East, and compression over mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan cause warm air to enter India.
  • The warming Arabian Sea also contributes to the warming trend.
  • Upper atmospheric westerly winds control near-surface winds, which rotate faster than the planet itself.
  • Additionally, the lapse rate, or the rate at which temperatures cool from surface to upper atmosphere, is declining due to global warming.

Regional occurrences

  • The other factors that affect the formation of heat waves are the age of the air mass and how far it has traveled.
  • The north-northwestern heatwaves are typically formed with air masses that come from 800-1,600 km away and are around two days old.
  • Heat waves over peninsular India on the other hand arrive from the oceans, which are closer (around 200-400 km) and are barely a day old.
  • As a result, they are on average less intense.

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Centre in final stages of notifying Emissions Trading Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Carbon Trading

Mains level: Emission Trading Schemes

After the passing of the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill last December, the Centre is now in the final stages of notifying an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)

  • India does not currently have a national Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). However, there have been some efforts to introduce an ETS in the country.
  • In 2018, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) released a draft of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
  • It proposed the introduction of a market-based mechanism for reducing air pollution for the first time.
  • The mechanism was not explicitly called an ETS, but it was described as a “cap-and-trade system.”

Successful example of Carbon Market: EU’s emissions trading system (ETS)

  • Under the EU’s ETS launched in 2005, member countries set a cap or limit for emissions in different sectors, such as power, oil, manufacturing, agriculture, and waste management.
  • This cap is determined as per the climate targets of countries and is lowered successively to reduce emissions.
  • Entities in this sector are issued annual allowances or permits by governments equal to the emissions they can generate.
  • If companies produce emissions beyond the capped amount, they have to purchase additional permit, either through official auctions or from companies.
  • This makes up the ‘trade’ part of cap-and-trade.

How is carbon price determined?

  • The market price of carbon gets determined by market forces when purchasers and sellers trade in emissions allowances.
  • Notably, companies can also save up excess permits to use later.
  • Through this kind of carbon trading, companies can decide if it is more cost-efficient to employ clean energy technologies or to purchase additional allowances.
  • These markets may promote the reduction of energy use and encourage the shift to cleaner fuels.

Other such examples

  • China launched the world’s largest ETS in 2021, estimated to cover around one-seventh of the global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Markets also operate or are under development in North America, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, and New Zealand.

Significance of Carbon Market

  • The World Bank estimates that trading in carbon credits could reduce the cost of implementing NDCs by more than half — by as much as $250 billion by 2030.
  • Last year, the value of global markets for tradable carbon allowances or permits grew by 164% to a record 760 billion euros ($851 billion).
  • The EU’s ETS contributed the most to this increase, accounting for 90% of the global value at 683 billion euros.
  • As for voluntary carbon markets, their current global value is comparatively smaller at $2 billion.

What is the progress at UN?

  • The UN international carbon market envisioned in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is yet to kick off as multilateral discussions are still underway about how the inter-country carbon market will function.
  • Under the proposed market, countries would be able to offset their emissions by buying credits generated by greenhouse gas-reducing projects in other countries.
  • In the past, developing countries, particularly India, China and Brazil, gained significantly from a similar carbon market under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997.
  • India registered 1,703 projects under the CDM which is the second highest in the world.
  • But with the 2015 Paris Agreement, the global scenario changed as even developing countries had to set emission reduction targets.

India’s efforts

The new Bill empowers the Centre to specify a carbon credits trading scheme.

  • Issuance of credit certificates: Under the Bill, the central government or an authorised agency will issue carbon credit certificates to companies or even individuals registered and compliant with the scheme.
  • Tradable carbon credits: These carbon credit certificates will be tradeable in nature. Other persons would be able to buy carbon credit certificates on a voluntary basis.

Existing mechanisms

  • Notably, two types of tradeable certificates are already issued in India-
  1. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and
  2. Energy Savings Certificates (ESCs)
  • These are issued when companies use renewable energy or save energy, which are also activities which reduce carbon emissions.

Lacunas of the bill

  • No clear mechanism: The Bill does not provide clarity on the mechanism to be used for the trading of carbon credit certificates— whether it will be like the cap-and-trade schemes or use another method— and who will regulate such trading.
  • Confusion over nodal agency: The right ministry to bring in a scheme of this nature, pointing out that while carbon market schemes in other jurisdictions like the US, UK are framed by their environment ministries, the Indian Bill was tabled by the power ministry instead of the MoEFCC.
  • Ambiguity over existing certificates: The Bill does not specify whether certificates under already existing schemes would also be interchangeable with carbon credit certificates and tradeable for reducing carbon emissions.
  • Overlapping: The question, thus, is whether all these certificates could be exchanged with each other. There are concerns about whether overlapping schemes may dilute the overall impact of carbon trading.

Challenges to carbon markets

  • Double counting: of greenhouse gas reductions
  • Quality and authenticity: These parameters of climate projects that generate credits to poor market transparency
  • Greenwashing: Companies may buy credits, simply offsetting carbon footprints instead of reducing their overall emissions or investing in clean technologies.
  • Inefficiency: The IMF points out that including high emission-generating sectors under trading schemes to offset their emissions by buying allowances may immensely increase emissions on net.

Way forward

  • Alignment with NDCs: The UNDP emphasizes that for carbon markets to be successful, emission reductions and removals must be real and aligned with the country’s NDCs.
  • Transparent financing: It says that there must be “transparency in the institutional and financial infrastructure for carbon market transactions”.

 

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Thwaites glacier at mercy of sea warmth increase

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Thwaites Glacier

Mains level: Sea Level rise

thwaites

The new research suggests that even low amounts of melting can potentially push Thwaites glacier further along the path toward eventual disappearance.

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.

How is Thwaites glacier melting?

thwaites

  • Thwaites Glacier is melting due to a combination of warming ocean currents and a weakening of the ice shelf that acts as a barrier between the glacier and the ocean.
  • The cause of the melting is thought to be the influx of relatively warm bottom water drawn in from the wider ocean.
  • In the 1990s it was losing just over 10 billion tonnes of ice a year. Today, it’s more like 80 billion tonnes.

Why is this glacier so important?

  • Huge size: Flowing off the west of the Antarctic continent, Thwaites is almost as big as Great Britain.   It is one of the largest and most important glaciers in Antarctica, as it acts as a gateway to a vast area of the continent.
  • Melting faster: It’s a majestic sight, with its buoyant front, or “ice shelf”, pushing far out to sea and kicking off huge icebergs. But satellite monitoring indicates this glacier is melting at an accelerating rate.
  • Seal level rise: Thwaites’ ice loss contributes approximately 4% to the annual rise in global sea-levels, with the potential to add 65cm in total should the whole glacier collapse.  Its melting could also destabilize the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, leading to a further rise in sea levels.

 

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How do ruminants contribute to Methane Pollution?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Methane Pollution

Mains level: Not Much

methane

Bill Gates has invested in a climate technology start-up that aims to curtail the methane emissions of cow burps.

What is the news?

  • The startup Rumin8 is developing a variety of dietary supplements to feed to cows in a bid to reduce the amount of methane they emit into the atmosphere.
  • The supplement includes red seaweed, which is believed to drastically cut methane output in cows.

What is Methane?

  • Methane is a greenhouse gas, which is also a component of natural gas.
  • There are various sources of methane including human and natural sources.
  • The anthropogenic sources are responsible for 60 per cent of global methane emissions.
  • It includes landfills, oil and natural gas systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, wastewater treatment, and certain industrial processes.
  • The oil and gas sectors are among the largest contributors to human sources of methane.
  • These emissions come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, decomposition in landfills and the agriculture sector.

How do cows and other animals produce methane?

  • Ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, goats, and buffaloes release this methane mainly through burping.
  • They have a special type of digestive system that allows them to break down and digest food that non-ruminant species would be unable to digest.
  • Stomachs of ruminant animals have four compartments, one of which, the rumen, helps them to store partially digested food and let it ferment.
  • This partially digested and fermented food is regurgitated by the animals who chew through it again and finish the digestive process.
  • However, as grass and other vegetation ferments in the rumen, it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

How much do these ruminants contribute to emissions?

  • Given the very large numbers of cattle and sheep on farms in dairy-producing countries, these emissions add up to a significant volume.
  • It is estimated that the ruminant digestive system is responsible for 27 per cent of all methane emissions from human activity.

Why is methane such a big problem?

  • Methane is one of the main drivers of climate change, responsible for 30 per cent of the warming since preindustrial times, second only to carbon dioxide.
  • Over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide, according to a report by the UNEP.
  • It’s also the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a colourless and highly irritating gas that forms just above the Earth’s surface.
  • According to a 2022 report, exposure to ground-level ozone could be contributing to 1 million premature deaths every year.
  • Several studies have shown that in recent years, the amount of methane in the atmosphere has dramatically shot up.

Mitigating methane emissions

  • Scientists have been working on to make these animals more sustainable and less gassy.
  • A 2021 study, published in the journal PLUS ONE, found that adding seaweed to cow feed can reduce methane formation in their guts by more than 80 per cent.
  • Apart from this, researchers are also trying to find gene-modifying techniques to curtail methane emissions in these animals.
  • Last year, scientists in New Zealand announced they had started the world’s first genetic programme to address the challenge of climate change by breeding sheep that emit lower amounts of methane.

Global collaboration against methane pollution

Ans. Global Methane Initiative (GMI)

  • GMI is a voluntary Government and an informal international partnership having members from 45 countries including the United States and Canada.
  • India last year co-chaired along with Canada the GMI leadership meet held virtually.
  • The forum has been created to achieve global reduction in anthropogenic methane emission through partnership among developed and developing countries having economies in transition.
  • The forum was created in 2004 and India is one of the members since its inception and has taken up Vice-Chairmanship for the first time in the Steering Leadership along with USA.

Back2Basics: CO2 Equivalents

  • Each greenhouse gas (GHG) has a different global warming potential (GWP) and persists for a different length of time in the atmosphere.
  • The three main greenhouse gases (along with water vapour) and their 100-year global warming potential (GWP) compared to carbon dioxide are:

1 x – carbon dioxide (CO2)

25 x – methane (CH4) – I.e. Releasing 1 kg of CH4into the atmosphere is about equivalent to releasing 25 kg of CO2

298 x – nitrous oxide (N2O)

  • Water vapour is not considered to be a cause of man-made global warming because it does not persist in the atmosphere for more than a few days.
  • There are other greenhouse gases which have far greater global warming potential (GWP) but are much less prevalent. These are sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
  • There are a wide variety of uses for SF6, HFCs, and PFCs but they have been most commonly used as refrigerants and for fire suppression.
  • Many of these compounds also have a depleting effect on ozone in the upper atmosphere.

 

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Munroe Thuruthu: Kerala’s Sinking Island

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Munroe Island

Mains level: Not Much

munroe

A study conducted by the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS) has revealed anthropogenic interventions as the main reason for the sinking of Munroe Thuruthu Kerala’s, Kerala’s Sinking Island.

Note: This Island has nothing to do with Thomas Monroe, the erstwhile Governor of Madras Presidency (1820-27).

Munroe Thuruthu

  • Munroe Thuruthu is an inland island group located at the confluence of Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River, in Kollam district of Kerala.
  • The place is named in honour of Resident Colonel John Munro of the former Princely State of Travancore.
  • It is a group of eight small islets comprising a total area of about 13.4 km2.
  • This island is also known as “Sinking Island of Kerala”.

How was this island inhabited?

  • In 1795 the British established their supremacy in South India and the princely state of Travancore came under their governance.
  • From 1800 onwards, a Resident was appointed by East India Company as administrative head of Travancore.
  • The first Resident was Colonel Colin Macaulay, followed by Colonel John Munro.
  • During his tenure Munro oversaw the land reclamation efforts in the delta where Kallada River joins Ashtamudi Lake and the reclaimed island was named after him as Munroe Island.

Why in news?

  • The islanders are facing steady land subsidence, tidal flooding and lower agricultural productivity, all of which have triggered a mass exodus from the region.
  • According to the study, almost 39% of the land area of the Munroe Thuruthu has been lost with Peringalam and Cheriyakadavu islands recording a land depletion of around 12% and 47% respectively.
  • The study finds that anthropogenic activities have considerably affected the isostatic conditions and land neutrality of Munroe Thuruthu.

 

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Ozone Hole filling up now

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ozone Layer, Ozone Hole

Mains level: Not Much

ozone

The ozone ‘hole’, once considered to be the gravest danger to planetary life, is now expected to be completely repaired by 2066, a scientific assessment has suggested.

What is Ozone and Ozone Layer?

ozone

  • An ozone molecule consists of three oxygen atoms instead of the usual two (the oxygen we breathe, O2, makes up 21% of the atmosphere).
  • It only exists in the atmosphere in trace quantities (less than 0.001%), but its effects are very important.
  • Ozone molecules are created by the interaction of ultra-violet (UV) radiation from the Sun with O2 molecules.
  • Because UV radiation is more intense at higher altitudes where the air is thinner, it is in the stratosphere where most of the ozone is produced, giving rise to what is called the ‘ozone layer’.
  • The ozone layer, containing over 90% of all atmospheric ozone, extends between about 10 and 40km altitude, peaking at about 25km in Stratosphere.

Why need Ozone Layer?

  • The ozone layer is very important for life on Earth because it has the property of absorbing the most damaging form of UV radiation, UV-B radiation which has a wavelength of between 280 and 315 nanometres.
  • As UV radiation is absorbed by ozone in the stratosphere, it heats up the surrounding air to produce the stratospheric temperature inversion.

What is Ozone Hole?

  • Each year for the past few decades during the Southern Hemisphere spring, chemical reactions involving chlorine and bromine cause ozone in the southern polar region to be destroyed rapidly and severely.
  • The Dobson Unit (DU) is the unit of measure for total ozone.
  • The chemicals involved ozone depletion are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs for short), halons, and carbon tetrachloride.
  • They are used for a wide range of applications, including refrigeration, air conditioning, foam packaging, and making aerosol spray cans.
  • The ozone-depleted region is known as the “ozone hole”.

Tropical Ozone Hole

  • According to the study, the ozone hole is located at altitudes of 10-25 km over the tropics.
  • This hole is about seven times larger than Antarctica, the study suggested.
  • It also appears across all seasons, unlike that of Antarctica, which is visible only in the spring.
  • The hole has become significant since the 1980s. But it was not discovered until this study.

What caused an ozone hole in the tropics?

  • Studies suggested another mechanism of ozone depletion: Cosmic rays.
  • Chlorofluorocarbon’s (CFC) role in depleting the ozone layer is well-documented.
  • The tropical stratosphere recorded a low temperature of 190-200 Kelvin (K).
  • This can explain why the tropical ozone hole is constantly formed over the seasons.

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

 

Post your answers here:
6
Please leave a feedback on thisx

 

 

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What are Black Carbon Aerosols?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Black Carbon Aerosols

Mains level: Not Much

black carbon

Black carbon aerosols have indirectly affected the mass gain of the Tibetan Plateau glaciers by changing long-range water vapour transport from the South Asian monsoon region, a study has found.

What are Black Carbon Aerosols?

  • Black Carbon (BC) aerosol, often called soot, is the dominant form of light absorbing particulate matter in the atmosphere.
  • They are emitted by incomplete combustion processes, both human (e.g., diesel engines) and natural (e.g., wildfire).
  • Its ability to absorb visible and infrared radiation means BC can heat the atmosphere and darken surfaces, specifically snow and ice.
  • These effects have important consequences on earth’s climate and climate change.
  • BC may also have adverse impacts on human health. Unlike long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, BC is removed from the atmosphere in 1-2 weeks, so its impacts tend to be more regional rather than global.

Deposition over Himalayas

  • The South Asia region adjacent to the Tibetan Plateau has among the highest levels of black carbon emission in the world.
  • Many studies have emphasised black carbon aerosols from South Asia can be transported across the Himalayas to the inland region of the Tibetan Plateau.

Impact on glaciers melting

  • Black carbon deposition in snow reduces the albedo of surfaces — a measure of how much of Sun’s radiations are reflected.
  • This accelerates the melting of glaciers and snow cover, thus changing the hydrological process and water resources in the region.
  • They heat up the middle and upper atmosphere, thus increasing the North-South temperature gradient.
  • As a result, precipitation in the central and the southern Tibetan Plateau decreases during the monsoon, especially in the southern Tibetan Plateau.
  • The decrease in precipitation further leads to a decrease of mass gain of glaciers.
  • From 2007 to 2016, the reduced mass gain by precipitation decrease accounted for 11% of the average glacier mass loss on the Tibetan Plateau and 22.1% in the Himalayas.

 

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What is a ‘Bomb Cyclone’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bomb Cyclone

Mains level: Not Much

bomb

Bomb cyclone continued to unleash havoc as the death toll due to weather-related incidents in the United States mounted to 34 and has left millions without power.

What is Bomb Cyclone?

  • A bomb cyclone is a large, intense mid-latitude storm that has low pressure at its center, weather fronts and an array of associated weather, from blizzards to severe thunderstorms to heavy precipitation.
  • It becomes a bomb when its central pressure decreases very quickly—by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.
  • When a cyclone “bombs,” or undergoes bombogenesis, this tells us that it has access to the optimal ingredients for strengthening, such as high amounts of heat, moisture and rising air.

Why is it called a bomb?

  • Most cyclones don’t intensify rapidly in this way.
  • Bomb cyclones put forecasters on high alert, because they can produce significant harmful impacts.

Its etymology

  • The word “bombogenesis” is a combination of cyclogenesis, which describes the formation of a cyclone or storm, and bomb, which is, well, pretty self-explanatory.
  • This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters.
  • The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone.

How does it occur?

  • Over the warmer ocean, heat and moisture are abundant.
  • But as cool continental air moves overhead and creates a large difference in temperature, the lower atmosphere becomes unstable and buoyant.
  • Air rises, cools and condenses, forming clouds and precipitation.

Where does it occur the most?

  • The US coast is one of the regions where bombogenesis is most common.
  • That’s because storms in the mid-latitudes – a temperate zone north of the tropics that includes the entire continental US – draw their energy from large temperature contrasts.
  • Along the US East Coast during winter, there’s a naturally potent thermal contrast between the cool land and the warm Gulf Stream current.

 

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Mapping: Great Lakes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Great Lakes

Mains level: Not Much

lake

Scientists are building a sensor network to detect the trends in the water chemistry of Lake Huron, one of the five Great Lakes of North America.

What is the Acidification of water bodies?

  • Acidification of oceans or freshwater bodies takes place when excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gets rapidly absorbed into them.
  • Scientists initially believed this might be a good thing, as it leaves less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • But in the past decade or so, it has been established that absorption of carbon dioxide leads to a lowering of the pH, which makes the water bodies more acidic.

What are Great Lakes?

  • The Great Lakes are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the mid-east region of North America that connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River.
  • There are five lakes, which are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario and are in general on or near the Canada–US border.
  • Hydrologically, lakes Michigan and Huron are a single body joined at the Straits of Mackinac.
  • By itself, Lake Huron is the world’s third largest freshwater lake, after Lake Superior and Lake Victoria.
  • The Great Lakes Waterway enables modern travel and shipping by water among the lakes.

Why are they significant?

  • The Great Lakes contain a fifth of the world’s total freshwater, and is a crucial source of irrigation and transportation.
  • They also serve as the habitat for more than 3,500 species of plants and animals.

Acidification of Great Lakes

  • Scientists are developing a system that would be capable of measuring the carbon dioxide and pH levels of the Great Lakes over several years.
  • It is known that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has caused the world’s oceans to turn more acidic.
  • Recently, it has been observed that by 2100, even the Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario — might approach acidity at around the same rate as the oceans.
  • Researchers hope the data from the Lake Huron project would add to scientific information on the subject.

Consequences of acidification

  • The Great Lakes are believed to have been born some 20,000 years ago, when the Earth started to warm and water from melting glaciers filled the basins on its surface.
  • However, this rich ecosphere is under threat as the five lakes would witness a pH decline of 0.29-0.49 pH units — meaning they would become more acidic — by 2100.
  • This may lead to a decrease in native biodiversity, create physiological challenges for organisms, and permanently alter the structure of the ecosystem, scientists say.
  • It would also severely impact the hundreds of wooden shipwrecks that are believed to be resting at the bottom of these lakes.

 

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Climate Change Induced Migration

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Climate change and associated migration

Climate Change

Context

  • Climate-induced displacements have increased both in numbers and magnitude worldwide. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s (IDMC) report, 23.7 million people experienced displacements in 2021 as a result of cyclones and floods.

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Climate Change

Estimates about Migration

  • IOM estimates: The International Organisation on Migration (IOM) estimates that on a global scale, between 25 million and 1 billion people would be compelled to migrate from their homes because of climate change and environmental degradation by 2050.
  • Situation in south Asia: South Asia is no exception to it. Disasters cause most of the internal displacements occurring in South Asia every year, and in the year 2021, nearly 5.3 million disaster displacements were reported.
  • CANSA Report: The Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) reports that approximately 45 million people in India alone, shall be compelled to migrate by 2050 due to climate disasters, with a threefold increase in current figures.

Climate change

How women and children are most vulnerable?

  • UN report: The United Nations asserts that around 80 percent of climate change displaces include women.
  • Global International Migrant Stock: The present share of women migrants in the Global International Migrant Stock oscillates between 48 percent and 52 percent, as they frequently experience ‘triple discrimination’ given their positions as women, unprotected workers and migrants.
  • Developing countries are most vulnerable: The situation becomes even more precarious in developing countries like India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and several small island nations in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Violence is likely: Women uprooted due to climate change become more vulnerable to violence, human trafficking, and armed conflicts. For instance, a study by the Sierra Club (2018) revealed how women impacted by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar witnessed increased occurrences of sexual and domestic abuse, forced prostitution, and sex and labour trafficking.

What is the New York Declaration on international Migration?

  • Global compact for migration (GCM): It mandated the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in 2018 and for the first time, a comprehensive framework recognising the concept of climate change-induced migration within the broader concept of international migration was developed.
  • Global compact on refugee: The Declaration also paved the way for an adoption of a Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) in the same year, but an extension of refugee law to cater to the needs of those displaced by the forces of climate change does not really resolve this humanitarian concern.
  • More investment in research: It also highlights the need for pumping in more investments towards research to tackle the challenges of environmental migration and rests on important climate change mitigation instruments like the Paris Climate Agreement, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
  • Share responsibility on states: The Zero Draft of the GCM itself highlights how it sets out shared responsibilities of the states in commitment to the causes of migration– showing how the GCM relies on the countries having a sense of moral responsibility for the fulfilment of its goals and objectives.

Discussion in COP27 about climate migration

  • Global goal on adaptation: The 2022 Conference of the Parties’ (or COP27) summit was seen as a platform that would lend visibility to the concept of climate migration, especially in light of how a work programme for defining a Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) towards identifying collective needs and solutions in light of the ongoing climate crisis that has already affected so many countries around the world, was established in the 2021 COP26 summit.
  • Lack of progress on migration: While COP27 established a framework towards the attainment of the GGA (likely to be adopted in 2023 at COP28), its progress towards protecting and assisting climate migrants remains in a state of limbo.
  • Task force on displacement: As highlighted in a study by the ECDM, the key problem lies in how the Task Force on Displacement has projected climate-induced mobility as a “loss and damage” concern, in turn putting forth the idea that this kind of human mobility stands as a failed adoption strategy.

What role India can play on climate-induced migration?

  • No clear reference to climate migration: Paragraph 40 of the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration talks about preventing irregular migration flows, the trafficking of migrants and holding such talks in the future G20 summits to come, but the term “climate migration” fails to make an appearance.
  • Leverage G20 for climate migration consensus: India seeks to play a significant role in the international efforts for climate action, and its commitment can be reflected in it being party to the UNFCCC and its instruments–the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. Its presidency could provide a platform for the G20 countries to work together in addressing the growing concerns of human mobility in forms of both migration and displacements.
  • Intergovernmental dialogue: Also, knowledge gaps pertaining to human mobility because of climate change and environmental degradation can be addressed through intergovernmental dialogues to be held at the G20 platform under India’s Presidency.

Climate change

Conclusion

  • Policymakers meet to discuss the several concerns of climate change at various platforms, progress concerning any support for the climate migrants remain insufficient till date, resting on goodwill gestures instead. World must pay attention and money to firmly address the climate migration issue.

Mains Question

Q. What is climate induced migration? How women and children are most vulnerable to climate migration? What role India can play to address the issue?

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What are Western Disturbances?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Western Disturbances

Mains level: Not Much

disturbance

The days have been unusually warm for winter in New Delhi with the maximum temperature remaining above normal mostly on account of fewer western disturbances affecting this year.

Western Disturbances

  • A western disturbance is an extratropical storm originating in the Mediterranean region that brings sudden winter rain to the northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent.
  • They are labelled as an extra-tropical storm originating in the Mediterranean, is an area of low pressure that brings sudden showers, snow, and fog in northwest India.
  • In the term “extra-tropical storm”, storm refers to low pressure. “Extra-tropical” means outside the tropics. As the WD originates outside the tropical region, the word “extra-tropical” has been associated with them.
  • It is a non-monsoonal precipitation pattern driven by the westerlies.
  • The moisture in these storms usually originates over the Mediterranean Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.
  • Extratropical storms are global phenomena with moisture usually carried in the upper atmosphere, unlike their tropical counterparts where the moisture is carried in the lower atmosphere.
  • In the case of the Indian subcontinent, moisture is sometimes shed as rain when the storm system encounters the Himalayas.
  • Western disturbances are more frequent and strong in the winter season.

Impact: Winter Rainfall and Extreme Cold

  • Western disturbances, specifically the ones in winter, bring moderate to heavy rain in low-lying areas and heavy snow to mountainous areas of the Indian Subcontinent.
  • They are the cause of most winter and pre-monsoon season rainfall across northwest India.
  • An average of four to five western disturbances forms during the winter season.

Its significance

  • Precipitation during the winter season has great importance in agriculture, particularly for the rabi crops.
  • Wheat among them is one of the most important crops, which helps to meet India’s food security.

Try this PYQ:

Consider the following statements:

  1. The winds which blow between 30°N and 60°S latitudes throughout the year are known as westerlies.
  2. The moist air masses that cause winter rains in the North-Western region of India are part of westerlies.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) Only 1

(b) Only 2

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Post your answers here.
9
Please leave a feedback on thisx

 

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Cyclone Mandous makes landfall in Tamil Nadu

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cyclone Mandous

Mains level: Tropical Cyclones

mandous

Cyclone Mandous crossed the north Tamil Nadu coast with fierce winds and heavy downpour.

Cyclone Mandous

  • ‘Mandous’ was a name submitted by WMO member United Arab Emirates and is pronounced as ‘Man-Dous.’
  • It means ‘treasure box’ in Arabic.

What are Tropical Cyclones?

  • A tropical cyclone is an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans and is characterized by low atmospheric pressure, high winds, and heavy rain.
  • Cyclones are formed over slightly warm ocean waters. The temperature of the top layer of the sea, up to a depth of about 60 meters, need to be at least 28°C to support the formation of a cyclone.
  • This explains why the April-May and October-December periods are conducive for cyclones.
  • Then, the low level of air above the waters needs to have an ‘anticlockwise’ rotation (in the northern hemisphere; clockwise in the southern hemisphere).
  • During these periods, there is an ITCZ in the Bay of Bengal whose southern boundary experiences winds from west to east, while the northern boundary has winds flowing east to west.
  • Once formed, cyclones in this area usually move northwest. As it travels over the sea, the cyclone gathers more moist air from the warm sea which adds to its heft.

Requirements for a Cyclone to form

There are six main requirements for tropical cyclogenesis:

  • Sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures
  • Atmospheric instability
  • High humidity in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere
  • Enough Coriolis force to develop a low-pressure centre
  • A pre-existing low-level focus or disturbance
  • Low vertical wind shear

How are the cyclones named?

  • In 2000, a group of nations called WMO/ESCAP (World Meteorological Organisation/United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) decided to name cyclones.
  • It comprised Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, decided to start naming cyclones in the region.
  • After each country sent in suggestions, the WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones (PTC) finalized the list.
  • The WMO/ESCAP expanded to include five more countries in 2018 — Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Basics

Cyclones

  • The atmospheric disturbances which involve a closed circulation of air around a low pressure at the center and high pressure at the periphery, rotating anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere (due to the Coriolis force) are called “cyclones”.

Cyclones are broadly classified into two types based on the latitudes of their origin-

  • Tropical cyclones
  • Temperate/Extra-tropical cyclones

Tropical Cyclones

  • Tropical cyclones develop in the region between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. These are violent storms that originate over oceans in tropical areas and move on to the coastal regions bringing large-scale destruction caused by violent winds, very heavy rainfall and storm surges. These cyclones are one of the most devastating natural calamities.
  • Tropical cyclones mostly move along with the direction of trade winds, so they travel from east to west and make landfall on the eastern coasts of the continents.
  • Tropical cyclones are known by different names depending on the regions of the world. They are known as Hurricanes in the Atlantic, Typhoons in the Western Pacific and South China Sea, Willy-willies in Western Australia and Cyclones in the Indian Ocean.

Temperate Cyclones/Extra-Tropical Cyclones

  • It occurs between 30°-60° latitude in both hemispheres (in between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic circle in the northern hemisphere and in between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle in the southern hemisphere).
  • These cyclones move with the westerlies and are therefore oriented from west to east.

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Places in news: Great Barrier Reef

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Corals, Coral Bleaching

Mains level: Great Barrier Reef

A joint report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre (WHC) expressed concern about the status of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in Australia, recommending that it “be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.”

About Great Barrier Reef

  • Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system stretching across 2,300 km and having nearly 3,000 individual reefs.
  • It hosts 400 different types of coral, gives shelter to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.
  • Coral reefs support over 25% of marine biodiversity even as they take up only 1% of the seafloor.
  • The marine life supported by reefs further fuels global fishing industries.
  • Besides, coral reef systems generate $2.7 trillion in annual economic value through goods and service trade and tourism.
  • In Australia, the Barrier Reef, in pre-COVID times, generated $4.6 billion annually through tourism and employed over 60,000 people including divers and guides.

What does the new report say?

  • The current report surveyed 87 reefs in the GBR between August 2021 and May 2022.
  • Coral cover is measured by determining the increase in the cover of hard corals.
  • The hard coral cover in northern GBR had reached 36% while that in the central region had reached 33%.
  • Meanwhile, coral cover levels declined in the southern region from 38% in 2021 to 34% in 2022.
  • The record levels of recovery, the report showed, were fuelled largely by increases in the fast-growing Acropora corals, which are a dominant type in the GBR.

Threats found

  • Acropora corals are also the most susceptible to environmental pressures such as rising temperatures, cyclones, pollution, crown-of-thorn starfish (COTs) attacks which prey on hard corals and so on.

Does this mean the reef is out of the woods?

  • Behind the recent recovery in parts of the reef, are the low levels of acute stressors in the past 12 months — no tropical cyclones, lesser heat stress in 2020 and 2022 as opposed to earlier.
  • Besides predatory attacks and tropical cyclones, scientists say that the biggest threat to the health of the reef is climate change-induced heat stress, resulting in coral bleaching.
  • The concern is that in the past decade, mass bleaching events have become more closely spaced in time.
  • The first mass bleaching event occurred in 1998 when the El Niño weather pattern caused sea surfaces to heat, causing 8% of the world’s coral to die.
  • The second event took place in 2002.
  • But the longest and most damaging bleaching event took place from 2014 to 2017. Mass bleaching then occurred again in 2020, followed by earlier this year.

Back2Basics: Coral Reefs

  • Corals are marine invertebrates or animals which do not possess a spine.
  • They are the largest living structures on the planet.
  • Each coral is called a polyp and thousands of such polyps live together to form a colony, which grow when polyps multiply to make copies of themselves.
  • Corals are of two types — hard corals and soft corals.
  1. Hard corals extract calcium carbonate from seawater to build hard, white coral exoskeletons. Hard corals are in a way the engineers of reef ecosystems and measuring the extent of hard coral is a widely-accepted metric for measuring the condition of coral reefs.
  2. Soft corals attach themselves to such skeletons and older skeletons built by their ancestors. Soft corals also add their own skeletons to the hard structure over the years. These growing multiplying structures gradually form coral reefs.

How do corals bleach?

  • Corals share a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae.
  • The algae prepares food for corals through photosynthesis and also gives them their vibrant colouration.
  • When exposed to conditions like heat stress, pollution, or high levels of ocean acidity, the zooxanthellae start producing reactive oxygen species not beneficial to the corals.
  • So, the corals kick out the colour-giving algae from their polyps, exposing their pale white exoskeleton and leading to coral starvation as corals cannot produce their own food.
  • Bleached corals can survive depending on the levels of bleaching and the recovery of sea temperatures to normal levels.
  • Severe bleaching and prolonged stress in the external environment can lead to coral death.

Try this PYQ:

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 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

 

Post your answers here.
5
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Education as a tool of innovation for the climate change generation.

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climate change. LiFE movement

Mains level: A climate-resilient education system.

Education

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Context

  • Instead of mirroring a broken development paradigm predicated on an extractive relationship with nature, India can lead with an approach that’s better for both people and the planet. A climate-resilient education system will be essential to realising this opportunity.

Background

  • India’s LiFE mass movement: At COP27, India released its Long-Term Low Emissions and Development Strategies (LT-LEDS). This outlines priorities for carbon-intensive sectors like electricity and industry and transport, and emphasizes the role of a Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) as a mass movement towards sustainable consumption and production.
  • Education is vital: From behavioral shifts of individuals to the re-shaping of markets, education has a vital role in the LiFE movement.
  • Potential of demand side actions: According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this could make a significant dent in reducing planet-warming gases, demand-side actions have the potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70 per cent in 2050.

Education

What are the challenges facing the education sector and children at present?

  • School closures during the Covid pandemic affect productivity: school closures during the pandemic have led to a learning deficit that’s getting reflected in reduced test scores. This will likely impact productivity and per capita income levels in the long term. One year of school closures could reduce GDP levels by anywhere from 1.1 to 4.7 per cent by mid-century, according to a paper by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
  • Hinderance to the economic mobility: The lasting impacts of Covid-19 could hinder economic mobility for a generation of Indians and alter the arithmetic for public finance.
  • Climate change impacts children more: Climate impacts are already disrupting children’s learning and well-being globally. For instance, extreme heat reduces students’ learning levels and causes physiological harm. Schools are temporarily shut down and children’s health is affected due to persistently poor air quality in cities like Delhi.
  • Disasters and displacing families affecting children: Debilitating deluges are permanently displacing families, often leading to children (and disproportionately girls) dropping out of schools and being trafficked or subject to child labour due to distressed household incomes. As these disasters grow more frequent and intense, we must prepare the infrastructure, content, and delivery of the public education system to protect the most vulnerable citizens, many of whom will be climate refugees.
  • Anxiety about the future: The lived experiences of climate-induced disasters and anxiety about the future are causing despair and dread among young people. This is compounded by digital platforms and news cycles that don’t linger long enough to make sense of challenges or build a widespread understanding of breakthroughs like the significant reductions in the costs of renewable energy.

Education

How can the climate education system be used to both prevent crisis and create opportunity?

  • Creating a strong and inclusive climate-resilient education system at national level: At a national level, a strong enabling framework for a climate-resilient education system shall cover matters from curricula to nutrition to school building codes in a climate-changed world. With its scale and reach, the public school system is not only a source of learning but also shelter, clothing, food, and community for millions.
  • Programs in states shall be implemented according to the local demands: Design and implementation in states and districts should be shaped by existing local needs and anticipated climate risks. This could involve infrastructure investments so school buildings can double up as emergency shelters in cyclone-prone areas and capacity additions so government schools in mega-cities that are destinations for climate migrants can integrate and empower children
  • Emphasize should be on social and emotional learning: Students’ mental health needs should be served through an empathic expansion and an emphasis on social and emotional learning. Across the board, children should be able to access clean water and nutritious food.
  • Technical curriculum with indigenous knowledge shall be applied: Curricula can be infused with scientific and technical know-how alongside indigenous and local knowledge. In pockets, there are already innovative initiatives under-way where non-government organisations are adding tremendous value through contextualisation and close work with communities.
  • Integrating biodiversity conservation learning process: Students should be taught about the potential of integrating biodiversity conservation with regenerative agriculture. Youth must be empowered and encourages to take civic and climate actions from waste management to recycle, to lake restorations and to make their city more liveable.
  • Fostering critical thinking: The cross-cutting imperative should be to foster critical thinking instead of rote learning so that the next generation can embrace complexity and make informed choices.

Education

Way ahead

  • There is a need for climate education across society rather than simply at the primary and secondary levels.
  • There is need to retrain workers in industries that have a future in a green economy.
  • So is the need to priorities technical training in colleges and universities so we can rapidly accelerate our decarbonization pathway.

Conclusion

  • We can’t afford to be narrowly focusing on technical training for the innovation, research, and development of climate technologies. Rather, we should develop strong analytical capabilities and holistic thinking about societal transformations and how new technologies will be embedded in communities. As Elizabeth Kolbert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist put it, “the ‘invisible hand’ always grasps for more”.

Mains question

Q. Climate change is rapidly altering the environment and economy, especially affecting children. In this light, Climate resilient education systems can be used to prevent crises and create opportunities. Discuss.

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Climate Change and the role of Panchayat Raj Institutes (PRI’s)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Role of PRI's in a fight against climate change

Panchayat

Context

  • If India has to achieve the set of goals enunciated in the ‘Panchamrit’ resolution of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow 2021, it is necessary that Panchayati raj institutions, the third tier of government which are closest to the people are involved.

Climate change and rural area

  • Major impact on rural areas: The greater variability in rainfall and temperatures, etc. experienced of late has directly affected the livelihood and well-being of millions of rural households.
  • PRI excluded from National action plan: India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change 2008 identifies a range of priority areas for coordinated intervention at the national and State levels. However, there would have been better results had Panchayati raj institutions been given a greater role.
  • Decentralization of climate efforts are necessary: Through the ongoing decentralization process which ensures people’s participation, panchayats can play a crucial and frontline role in coordinating effective responses to climate risks, enabling adaptation and building climate-change resilient communities.

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Panchayat

What is carbon neutrality?

  • Zero carbon production:
  • The climate change discussion also focuses on the emerging and widely accepted concept of ‘carbon neutrality’ which puts forth the notion of zero carbon developments, nature conservation, food, energy and seeds sufficiency, and economic development.
  • As human activities are the cause of the current climate crisis, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to growing and extreme weather events are critical.
  • Zero carbon development which promotes sustainable living is the effective solution to reducing anthropogenic emissions and improving climate resilience.

Panchayat

Efforts of Panchayat raj institutes to fight climate change: Case study of Meenangadi

  • Carbon neutral Meenangadi: In 2016, the panchayat envisaged a project called ‘Carbon neutral Meenangadi’, the aim being to transform Meenangadi into a state of carbon neutrality. There were campaigns, classes and studies to begin with. An awareness programme was conducted initially. A greenhouse gases emission inventory was also prepared. The panchayat was found to be carbon positive.
  • Implementation of Multi-sectoral schemes: An action plan was prepared by organising gram Sabha meetings. Socio-economic surveys and energy-use mapping were also carried out. Several multi sector schemes were implemented to reduce emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and preserve the ecology and bio-diversity.
  • Tree plantation Initiative: ‘Tree banking’ was one of landmark schemes introduced to aid carbon neutral activities which encouraged the planting of more trees by extending interest-free loans. Interestingly 1,58,816 trees were planted which have also been geo-tagged to monitor their growth.
  • People’s participation: The entire community was involved in the process, with school students, youth, and technical and academic institutions given different assignments. Five years have passed and the changes are visible. Local economic development was another thrust area where LED bulb manufacturing and related micro-enterprises were initiated.

Panchayat

Government of India’s effort to support climate change: ‘Clean and Green Village’

  • SDG theme: The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has focused its attention on localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a thematic basis.
  • Various activities delegated to PRI: ‘Clean and Green Village’ has been identified as the fifth theme where panchayats can take up activities on natural resource management, biodiversity protection, waste management and afforestation activities.
  • Documentation of best practices: According to the latest data, 1,09,135-gram panchayats have prioritised ‘Clean & Green Village’ as one of their focus areas for 2022-23. The Ministry has highlighted the need for the documentation of best practices and for wider dissemination.
  • Integrated panchayat development plan: The net result is that many panchayats are coming forward with their eco plans. The integrated Panchayat Development Plan prepared by all panchayats is a stepping stone towards addressing many of the environmental concerns of villages.

Conclusion

  • In today’s age of rapid technological advancements and digital transformation, India’s rural local bodies are silently contributing their strength to ensuring the global target of carbon neutrality, as envisaged in the UN conference on climate change.

Mains Question

Q. What role PRIs can play in a fight against climate change? What is the scheme of “Clean and Green Village” of Ministry of Panchayat Raj?

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What is the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: KJWA

Mains level: Agricultural emissions

India has expressed its concern over the draft decision text to implement the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.

What is the news?

  • India said developed countries are blocking a pro-poor and pro-farmer decision by insisting on expanding the scope for mitigation to agriculture.
  • Developed countries are thereby compromising the very foundation of food security in the world.

What is the Koronivia Joint Work?

  • The KJWA is a decision under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • It seeks to recognize the unique potential of agriculture in tackling climate change.
  • It emphasizes reducing emissions of greenhouse gases due to the agriculture sector.
  • The Koronivia decision addresses six interrelated topics on soils, nutrient use, water, livestock, methods for assessing adaptation, and the socio-economic and food security dimensions of climate change across the agricultural sectors.

India’s arguments against Koronivia joint work

  • India said that agricultural emissions are not “luxury” emissions but “survival” emissions of the poor.
  • The world is facing a climate crisis today because of the excessive historic cumulative emissions by the developed nations.
  • These nations are unable to reduce their emissions domestically by any worthwhile change in their lifestyles.
  • Rather, they are searching for cheaper solutions abroad.
  • In most developing countries across the world, agriculture is done by small and marginal farmers who toil hard and brave the vagaries of extreme weather and climate variability to ensure food security.

Back2Basics: Agricultural Emissions

koronivia

  • Farms emitted 6 billion tonnes of GHGs in 2011, or about 13 percent of total global emissions.
  • That makes the agricultural sector the world’s second-largest emitter, after the energy sector (which includes emissions from power generation and transport).
  • Most farm-related emissions come in the form of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
  • Cattle belching (CH4) and the addition of natural or synthetic fertilizers and wastes to soils (N2O) represent the largest sources, making up 65 percent of agricultural emissions globally.
  • Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues, and fuel use on farms.

 

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Is climate change affecting global health?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Impact of climate change on human health

A recent report by Lancet, has traced in detail the intimate link between changing weather events and their impact on the health of people.

What is the news?

  • The 2022 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Health at the Mercy of Fossil Fuels points out that the world’s reliance on fossil fuels increases the risk of disease, food insecurity and other illnesses related to heat.

Impact of climate change on health

 (1) Extreme Events

  • Heatwaves: The Lancet report indicates that rapidly increasing temperatures exposed vulnerable populations (adults above 65 years old and children younger than 1) to 3.7 billion more heatwave days in 2021 than annually in 1986–2005.
  • Shift in patterns: There is no doubt that events such as floods, droughts and recurrent cyclones are direct outcome of climate change.

(2) Impact on health

  • Infectious diseases: The changing climate is affecting the spread of infectious disease, raising the risk of emerging diseases and co-epidemics. For instance, coastal waters are becoming more suited for the transmission of Vibrio pathogens.
  • More vector borne diseases: The number of months suitable for malaria transmission has increased in the highland areas of the Americas and Africa.
  • More lives loss: The WHO has predicted that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 2,50,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
  • Others: Low air quality, Rise in zoonotic diseases.

(3) Food security

  • Crop loss: Higher temperatures threaten crop yields directly, with the growth season shortening for many cereal crops.
  • Supply chain disruptions: Extreme weather events disrupt supply chains, thereby undermining food availability, access, stability, and utilisation.
  • Malnutrition: The prevalence of undernourishment increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and up to 161 million more people faced hunger in 2020 than in 2019.

Way forward

  • Health-centred response: A health-centred response to the coexisting climate, energy, and cost-of-living crises provides an opportunity to deliver a healthy, low-carbon future.
  • Realization of the problem: The governments’ commitment to assess and address the threats from climate change, are positive signs, the report stresses.
  • Holistic approach: This is the way a health-centred response would work – it would reduce the likelihood of the most catastrophic climate change impacts, while improving energy security and creating an opportunity for economic recovery.
  • Shift in dietary patterns: The report also calls for an accelerated transition to balanced and more plant-based diets, as that would help reduce emissions from red meat and milk production, and prevent diet-related deaths.
  • Easing the healthcare: The report emphasizes reducing the strain on health-care providers, and leading to more robust health systems.

 

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PM launches Mission LiFE

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mission LiFE

Mains level: Read the attached story

Prime Minister, in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, launched ‘Mission LiFE’ (Lifestyle For Environment).

What is Mission LiFE?

  • NITI Aayog has conceptualized the idea of mission LiFE.
  • It states that the aim of the mission is to follow a three-pronged strategy for changing our collective approach toward sustainability.
  • PM elaborated that Mission LiFE emboldens the spirit of the P3 model i.e. Pro Planet People.
  • The approach of LiFe campaign includes:
  1. Focus on individual behaviours: To make life a mass movement (Jan Andolan).
  2. Co-create globally: Crowdsourcing empirical and scalable ideas
  3. Leverage Local Cultures: Leverage climate-friendly social norms and beliefs of different cultures worldwide to drive the campaign

Understanding Sustainable living

  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the global authority that sets environmental agenda and promotes the implementation of environmental dimension of sustainable development.
  • UNEP says that as the population of the world is increasing the demand for food, fashion, travel, housing, etc also increases.
  • Hence, a sustainable living approach is necessary to make a balance between the needs of the present generation with that of the future.
  • Sustainable living means acknowledging day-to-day life choices and reflecting if there can be alternatives that may impact the environment less.

 

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Private: Early warning for heatwaves sees huge improvement

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Heatwaves

Mains level: Heatwaves prediction

heatwave

Indian scientists have, for the first time, been able to predict heatwaves even one season in advance.

What is the news?

  • In a recent study, the India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences have documented for the first time that Indian heatwaves can be predicted even one season in advance.
  • They used 37 years (1981-2017) of hindcasts from the Monsoon Mission Coupled Climate Forecast Model (MMCFS).
  • It documented the seasonal predictions of frequency and duration of Indian heatwaves during April-June are very useful.

What is a Heatwave and when is it declared?

  • Heatwaves occur over India between March and June.
  • IMD declares a heatwave event when the maximum (day) temperature for a location in the plains crosses 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Over the hills, the threshold temperature is 30 degrees Celsius.

How are they formed?

heatwave

  • Heatwaves form when high pressure aloft (3,000–7,600 metres) strengthens and remains over a region for several days up to several weeks.
  • This is common in summer (in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres) as the jet stream ‘follows the sun’.
  • On the equator side of the jet stream, in the upper layers of the atmosphere, is the high pressure area.
  • Summertime weather patterns are generally slower to change than in winter. As a result, this upper level high pressure also moves slowly.
  • Under high pressure, the air subsides (sinks) toward the surface, warming and drying adiabatically, inhibiting convection and preventing the formation of clouds.
  • Reduction of clouds increases shortwave radiation reaching the surface.
  • A low pressure at the surface leads to surface wind from lower latitudes that brings warm air, enhancing the warming.
  • Alternatively, the surface winds could blow from the hot continental interior towards the coastal zone, leading to heat waves.

Following criteria are used to declare heatwave:

To declare heatwave, the below criteria should be met at least in 2 stations in a Meteorological subdivision for at least two consecutive days and it will be declared on the second day.

a) Based on Departure from Normal

  • Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.5°C to 6.4°C
  • Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.4°C

b) Based on Actual Maximum Temperature (for plains only)

  • Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥ 45°C
  • Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47°C

How long can a heatwave spell last?

  • A heatwave spell generally lasts for a minimum of four days.
  • On some occasions, it can extend up to seven or ten days.
  • The longest recorded heatwave spell, in recent years, was between 18 and 31 May 2015.

Impact of Heatwaves

  • Heat Strokes: Very high temperatures or humid conditions pose an elevated risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
  • Increased healthcare costs: Effects from extreme heat are also associated with increased hospitalizations and emergency room visits, increased deaths from cardio-respiratory and other diseases, mental health issues, adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, etc.
  • Lesser work productivity: Extreme heat also lessens worker productivity, especially among the more than 1 billion workers who are exposed to high heat on a regular basis.
  • Risk of wildfires: The heat domes act as fuel to wildfires, which destroys a lot of land area every year in countries like the US.
  • Weather impacts: The condition also prevents clouds from forming, allowing for more radiation from the sun to hit the ground.
  • Effect on Vegetation: The trapping of heat can also damage crops, dry out vegetation and result in
  • Increased energy demands: The sweltering heat wave also leads to rise in energy demand, especially electricity, leading to pushing up rates.

Mitigating its impacts

  • Adaptation to heatwaves can be effective to minimise the negative impacts.
  • This can be done by developing a comprehensive heat response plan that includes early warnings, awareness rising and technology intervention.
  • India has now a strong national framework for heat action plans involving the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the National and State disaster management authorities, and local bodies.
  • Early warning systems are an integral part of this heat action plan.

Way forward

  • Seasonal forecasts should use a multi-model ensemble (MME) forecasting strategy.
  • Short-range ensemble forecasts should use higher-resolution global models, initialized with observed soil moisture data, which are available from microwave satellites and IMD’s soil moisture network.

 

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What is International Argo Program?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Argo

Mains level: Not Much

argo

The International Argo Program system to observe carbon concentration in the world’s oceans is extremely inadequate to meet the growing and urgent need for information on oceanic carbon, says a report.

What is Argo?

  • Argo is an international program that uses profiling floats to observe temperature, salinity, currents, and, recently, bio-optical properties in the Earth’s oceans; it has been operational since the early 2000s.
  • The real-time data it provides is used in climate and oceanographic research.
  • A special research interest is to quantify the ocean heat content (OHC).
  • Each instrument (float) spends almost all its life below the surface.
  • The name Argo was chosen because the array of floats works in partnership with the Jason earth observing satellites that measure the shape of the ocean surface.
  • In Greek mythology Jason sailed on his ship the Argo in search of the Golden Fleece.

What are its aims?

  • The data that Argo collects describes the temperature and salinity of the water and some of the floats measure other properties that describe the biology/chemistry of the ocean.
  • The main reason for collecting these data is to help us understand the oceans’ role in earth’s climate.
  • For example, the changes in sea level (once the tides are averaged out) depend partly on the melting of icecaps and partly on the amount of heat stored in the oceans.
  • Argo’s temperature measurements allow us to calculate how much heat is stored and to monitor from year to year how the distribution of heat changes with depth and from area to area.
  • As ocean heat content increases, sea level rises, just like the mercury in a thermometer.

How does it work?

  • Each Argo float (costing between $20,000 and $150,000 depending on the individual float’s technical specification) is launched from a ship.
  • The float’s weight is carefully adjusted so that, as it sinks, it eventually stabilizes at a pre-set level, usually 1 km.
  • Ten days later, an internal battery-driven pump transfers oil between a reservoir inside the float and an external bladder.
  • This makes the float first descend to 2km and then return to the surface measuring ocean properties as it rises.
  • The data and the float position are relayed to satellites and then on to receiving stations on shore.
  • The float then sinks again to repeat the 10 day cycle until its batteries are exhausted.

 

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Why Cloudbursts forecast in India still remains elusive?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cloudburst

Mains level: Flash floods and cloudbursts

cloudbursts

The characteristics of cloud burst events remain elusive, and our efforts in monitoring and forecasting them is at an embryonic stage.

Cyclones can be predicted about one week in advance. However, cloudburst forecasts still remain elusive.

What is Cloudbursts?

  • A cloudburst is a localised but intense rainfall activity.
  • Short spells of very heavy rainfall over a small geographical area can cause widespread destruction, especially in hilly regions where this phenomenon is the most common.
  • Not all instances of very heavy rainfall, however, are cloudbursts.
  • A cloudburst has a very specific definition: Rainfall of 10 cm or more in an hour over a roughly 10 km x 10-km area is classified as a cloudburst event.
  • By this definition, 5 cm of rainfall in a half-hour period over the same area would also be categorized as a cloudburst.

Which clouds do burst?

  • Cloudburst events are often associated with cumulonimbus clouds that cause thunderstorms and occasionally due to monsoon wind surges and other weather phenomena.
  • Cumulonimbus clouds can grow up to 12-15 km in height through the entire troposphere (occasionally up to 21 km) and can hold huge amounts of water.
  • Tall cumulonimbus clouds can develop in about half an hour as the moisture updraft happens rapidly, at a pace of 60 to 120 km/hr.
  • A single-cell cloud may last for an hour and dump all the rain in the last 20 to 30 minutes, while some of these clouds merge to form multi-cell storms and last for several hours.
  • However, cloudbursts are not defined based on cloud characteristics and do not indicate clouds exploding. Cloudbursts are defined by the amount of rainfall.

How is it different from normal rainfall?

  • According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), 100 mm of rain in an hour is called a cloudburst.
  • Usually, cloudbursts occur over a small geographical region of 20 to 30 sq. km.

When do they occur?

  • In India, cloudbursts often occur during the monsoon season, when the southwesterly monsoon winds bring in copious amounts of moisture inland.
  • The moist air that converges over land gets lifted as they encounter the hills.
  • The moist air reaches an altitude and gets saturated, and the water starts condensing out of the air forming clouds.
  • This is how clouds usually form, but such an orographic lifting together with a strong moisture convergence can lead to intense cumulonimbus clouds taking in huge volumes of moisture that is dumped during cloudbursts.

How common are cloudbursts?

  • Cloudbursts are not uncommon events, particularly during the monsoon months.
  • Most of these happen in the Himalayan states where the local topology, wind systems, and temperature gradients between the lower and upper atmosphere facilitate the occurrence of such events.
  • However, not every event that is described as a cloudburst is actually, by definition, a cloudburst.
  • That is because these events are highly localized.
  • They take place in very small areas which are often devoid of rainfall measuring instruments.

Climate change and cloudbursts: How are they related?

  • Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of cloudbursts worldwide.
  • As the air gets warmer, it can hold more moisture and for a longer time. We call this the Clausius Clapeyron relationship.
  • A 1-degree Celsius rise in temperature may correspond to a 7-10% increase in moisture and rainfall.
  • This increase in rainfall amount does not get spread moderately throughout the season.
  • As the moisture holding capacity of air increases, it results in prolonged dry periods intermittent with short spells of extreme rains.
  • Deeper cumulonimbus clouds will form and the chances of cloudbursts also increase.

Why are they so destructive?

  • The consequences of these events, however, are not confined to small areas.
  • Because of the nature of terrain, the heavy rainfall events often trigger landslides and flash floods, causing extensive destruction downstream.
  • This is the reason why every sudden downpour that leads to destruction of life and property in the hilly areas gets described as a “cloudburst”, irrespective of whether the amount of rainfall meets the defining criteria.
  • At the same time, it is also possible that actual cloudburst events in remote locations aren’t recorded.

Detecting cloudbursts

  • Satellites are extensively useful in detecting large-scale monsoon weather systems.
  • However the resolution of the precipitation radars of these satellites can be much smaller than the area of individual cloudburst events, and hence they go undetected.
  • Weather forecast models also face a similar challenge in simulating the clouds at a high resolution.
  • The skillful forecasting of rainfall in hilly regions remains challenging due to the uncertainties in the interaction between the moisture convergence and the hilly terrain.
  • There also involves the cloud microphysics, and the heating-cooling mechanisms at different atmospheric levels.
  • Multiple radars can be a quick measure for providing warnings, but radars are an expensive affair, and installing them across the country may not be practically feasible.

Solutions to cloudbursts forecast

  • Multiple doppler weather radars can be used to monitor moving cloud droplets and help to provide nowcasts (forecasts for the next three hours).
  • A long-term measure would be mapping the cloudburst-prone regions using automatic rain gauges.
  • If cloudburst-prone regions are co-located with landslide-prone regions, these locations can be designated as hazardous.

 

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What causes Rainbow Clouds (Cloud Iridescence)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cloud iridescence

Mains level: NA

Last week, pictures of an unusually-shaped rainbow cloud that appeared over China were widely shared on social media.

What is the news?

  • The cloud in question resembles a pileus cloud.
  • Such phenomenon of bright colours appearing on a cloud is called cloud iridescence.

What is a Pileus Cloud?

  • A pileus cloud is usually formed over a cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud.
  • It is formed when the base cloud pushes a moist current of air upwards and the water vapour from the current condenses to somewhat resemble wave-like crests, or umbrellas.
  • In popular western culture, it is called as an “accessory cloud” that is “rather like a cloud haircut”.
  • A pileus cloud is transient in nature and lasts barely for a few minutes, making it difficult, and at the same time, exciting, to spot.

What is cloud iridescence?

  • Cloud iridescence or Irisation is an optical phenomenon that mostly occurs in wave-like clouds, including pileus and Altocumulus lenticularis.
  • Iridescence in clouds means the appearance of colours on clouds, which can either be in the form of parallel bands like in a rainbow, or mingled in patches.
  • In ancient Greek mythology, Iris is the goddess of rainbow. “Irisation”, the phenomenon of rainbow-like colours in clouds, is derived from her name.

What is a photometeor?

  • Iridescence of clouds is a photometeor.
  • It is an optical phenomenon produced by the reflection, refraction, diffraction or interference of sunlight.

What causes cloud iridescence?

  • In pileus clouds, small water droplets or ice crystals, usually of a similar size, diffract the sunlight falling on them.
  • The thinness of the cloud ensures more exposure to sunlight for each water droplet or ice crystal.
  • To ensure its wave crest-like appearance, water droplets or ice crystals in these clouds are always moving – droplets form at one side of the cloud and evaporate from the other end – and hence these clouds remain small and thin since the droplets have no way of combining and growing in size.
  • In its International Cloud Atlas, the World Meteorological Organisation says that iridescence or Irisation is caused by diffraction within 10 degrees from the sun.
  • Beyond ten degrees and up till about 40 degrees, interference of light is the main cause of iridescence.

 

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

Concept of ‘Lifestyle for the Environment’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Concept of LiFE

Mains level: Paper 3- LiFE movement

Context

In the midst of a global climate crisis, and as India gets closer to hosting the G20 presidency, it is important to recognise our country’s leadership at both ends of the climate debate: By walking the talk on our climate commitments as well as leading people-powered climate action.

Power of individual and collective action to address the climate change

  • Adopting eco-friendly behaviours: According to the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP), if one billion people out of the global population of close to eight billion adopt eco-friendly behaviours in their daily lives, global carbon emissions could drop by approximately 20 per cent. 
  • Such eco-friendly behaviours include turning off ACs, heaters and lights when not in use, as this, for instance, can conserve up to 282 kilowatts of electricity per day.
  • Avoiding food wastage can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by 370 kg per year.

The concept of Lifestyle for Environment

  • In November 2021, at the CoP 26 in Glasgow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in addition to announcing the panchamrit, or five climate-related commitments of the country, also articulated the concept of “Lifestyle for the Environment” (LiFE).
  • Mindful and deliberate utilisation: The concept advocate for mindful and deliberate utilisation by people worldwide, instead of “mindful and wasteful consumption”.
  • LiFE was launched on June 5, 2022, World Environment Day, by PM Modi, with a vision of harnessing the power of individual and collective action across the world to address the climate crisis.
  • The objective of the movement is to nudge individuals and communities to adopt simple and specific climate-friendly behaviours in their daily lifestyles.
  •  For instance, an individual can carry a reusable cloth bag instead of a plastic bag.
  • By making such daily actions an integral part of our collective social norms, LiFE aims to activate a global community of “Pro Planet People” and steer the world towards a sustainable model of development.
  • Global precedents: There are already precedents of pro-planet initiatives around the world.
  • For example, Denmark promotes the use of bicycles by limiting parking within the city centre and providing exclusive bike lanes.
  • Japan has its unique “walk-to-school” mandate, which has been in practice since the early 1950s.
  •  LiFE, however, is planned as a first-of-its-kind global movement, led by India in partnership with other countries, that will provide the world with a unique people-powered platform to relentlessly focus on bringing individual and collective actions to the core of the climate action narrative.

How the LiFE moment can change people’s behaviour

  • 1] Consume responsibly: The prevailing perception that climate-friendly behaviour necessarily implies a frugal lifestyle has played a major role in preventing populations worldwide from adopting a sustainable lifestyle.
  • LiFE plans to methodically break down this mental model by nudging the world to consume responsibly, rather than consuming less.
  • Using behavioural technique: Building on the unique insights from Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), LiFE will deploy a range of tested behavioural techniques, including nudges, social and behaviour change communication and norm influencing to make mindful consumption a mass movement.
  • 2] Produce responsibly: Our society reflects our markets and vice versa.
  • If sustainable choices are not supported from the supply-side, any change in our consumption patterns will only be temporary.
  • By nudging the consumption patterns of the society at scale, LiFE can also trigger a huge boost for the sustainability market.
  • Several green industries and a large number of jobs are likely to be initiated as a positive externality of LiFE.
  • 3] Live responsibly: The Covid pandemic is a wake-up call to all of us that no matter how much technological progress we make as a global society, we all remain at the mercy of the natural world.
  • As a global community of people with a shared natural world, a threat to one is a threat to all.
  • In this context, through its multi-dimensional, multi-cultural and global approach, the LiFE movement can play a pivotal role in not merely reversing the effects of climate change but, at a broader level, mainstream a harmonious and mindful way of living.

Conclusion

As the world moves in fits and starts towards its shared commitment to achieve ambitious climate goals, the time is ripe for India to lead the LiFE movement and mainstream it into the climate narrative.

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What is causing Arctic Amplification?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Arctic Amplification

Mains level: Climate Change

Finnish researchers have found that the Arctic is heating four times faster than the rest of the planet.

Arctic is warming faster

  • The warming is concentrated in the Eurasian part of the Arctic, where the Barents Sea north of Russia and Norway is warming at an alarming rate — seven times faster than the global average.
  • Other studies indicate that the Arctic amplification is four times the global rate.

What is Arctic Amplification?

  • Global warming has hastened due to anthropogenic forces or human activities since pre-industrial times and has increased the planet’s average temperature by 1.1 degrees Celsius.
  • While changes are witnessed across the planet, any change in the surface air temperature and the net radiation balance tend to produce larger changes at the north and south poles.
  • This phenomenon is known as polar amplification; these changes are more pronounced at the northern latitudes and are known as the Arctic amplification.

What causes amplification?

  • Among the many global warming-driven causes for this amplification, the ice-albedo feedback, lapse rate feedback, water vapour feedback and ocean heat transport are the primary causes.
  • Sea ice and snow have high albedo (measure of reflectivity of the surface), implying that they are capable of reflecting most of the solar radiation as opposed to water and land.
  • In the Arctic’s case, global warming is resulting in diminishing sea ice.
  • As the sea ice melts, the Arctic Ocean will be more capable of absorbing solar radiation, thereby driving the amplification.
  • The rate at which the temperature drops with elevation i.e. lapse rate decreases with warming.
  • Studies show that the ice-albedo feedback and the lapse rate feedback are responsible for 40% and 15% of polar amplification respectively.

What do the previous studies say?

  • The extent of Arctic amplification is debated, as studies show various rates of amplification against the global rate.
  • Studies have shown that the Arctic was warming at twice the global rate prior to the beginning of the 21st century.
  • Already the Arctic surface air temperature has likely increased by more than double the global average over the last two decades.

What are the consequences of Arctic warming?

  • The causes and consequences of Arctic amplification are cyclical — what might be a cause can be a consequence too.
  • The Greenland ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate, and the rate of accumulation of sea ice has been remarkably low since 2000.
  • This is also marked by young and thinner ice replacing the old and thicker ice sheets.
  • Greenlandic ice sheet holds the second largest amount of ice, after Antarctica, and therefore it is crucial for maintaining the sea level.
  • In 2019, this was the single biggest cause for the rise in the sea level, about 1.5 metres.

Visible impacts

  • If the sheet melts completely, the sea level would rise by seven metres, capable of subsuming island countries and major coastal cities.
  • The warming of the Arctic Ocean and the seas in the region, the acidification of water, changes in the salinity levels, are impacting the biodiversity, including the marine species and the dependent species.
  • The warming is also increasing the incidence of rainfall which is affecting the availability and accessibility of lichens to the reindeer.
  • The Arctic amplification is causing widespread starvation and death among the Arctic fauna.
  • The permafrost in the Arctic is thawing and in turn releasing carbon and methane which are among the major greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
  • Experts fear that the thaw and the melt will also release the long-dormant bacteria and viruses that were trapped in the permafrost and can potentially give rise to diseases.

What is the impact on India?

  • In recent years, scientists have pondered over the impact the changing Arctic can have on the monsoons in the subcontinent.
  • The link between the two is growing in importance due to the extreme weather events the country faces, and the heavy reliance on rainfall for water and food security.
  • A study says that reduced sea ice in the Barents-Kara sea region can lead to extreme rainfall events in the latter half of the monsoons — in September and October.
  • The changes in the atmospheric circulation due to diminishing sea ice combined with the warm temperatures in the Arabian Sea contribute to enhanced moisture and drive extreme rainfall events.

Steps taken by India

  • In 2014, India deployed IndARC, India’s first moored-underwater observatory in the Kongsfjorden fjord, Svalbard.
  • It aims to monitor the impact of the changes in the Arctic Ocean on tropical processes such as the monsoons.

 

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Development vs sustainability

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Green carbon fee

Mains level: Sustainable development

Context

  • According to NITI Aayog, “600 million people in India face high to extreme water stress with nearly 70% of water being contaminated; India is placed at 120th amongst 122 countries in the water quality index”.
  • The latest global environmental ranking by Yale and Columbia Universities puts India at the bottom among 180 countries.

What is development?

  • Economic development means different things to different people. On a broad scale, anything a community does to foster and create a healthy economy can fall under the auspice of economic development.

What is sustainability?

  • The integration of environmental health, social equity and economic vitality in order to create thriving, healthy, diverse and resilient communities for this generation and generations to come. The practice of sustainability recognizes how these issues are interconnected and requires a