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

Sep, 21, 2019

Explained: Global Climate Strike movement


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

The Global Climate Strike movement

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

Who is Greta Thunberg?

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

Why such strike?

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

What started the global school student movements?

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

Why are students protesting this time?

  • Even though climate change affects everyone, the present generation of youngsters is the ones who are going to be bearing the brunt of it in the coming decades.
  • The sentiments behind these are the “broken promises” of older generations, members of which continue to extract and use fossil fuels, leading to increased CO2 emissions and subsequently, increasing average global temperatures.
  • Distrust of political leaders among the younger generation is also a reason why they feel the need to take things into their own hands.
Sep, 20, 2019

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)


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

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)

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

Why in news?

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

Impact of AMOC slowdown

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

Need for delaying AMOC slowdown

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

Uncertainty ahead

  • Scientists don’t know for how long this enhanced warming in Indian Ocean will continue.
  • If other tropical oceans’ warming, especially the Pacific’s, catches up with the Indian Ocean, the advantage for AMOC will stop.
  • Moreover, it isn’t clear whether slowdown of AMOC is caused by global warming alone or it is a short-term anomaly related to natural ocean variability.
Sep, 14, 2019

Delhi Declaration to restore degraded land by 2030


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

Delhi Declaration

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

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


Explained: Land Degradation Neutrality

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Sep, 12, 2019

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


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


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

Sharing the burden

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

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

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

A new way for Climate Financing

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

Robin Hood Tax

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


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

Sep, 12, 2019

Basel Ban amendment becomes law


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

Basel Convention against global waste dumping

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

Giants are yet to ratify

  • Most countries like the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, India, Brazil, and Mexico are yet to ratify the ban.
  • The US produces the most waste per-capita but has failed to ratify the Basel Convention and has actively opposed the Ban Amendment.
  • Non-adherence to international waste trade rules has allowed unscrupulous US ‘recyclers’ to export hazardous electronic waste to developing countries for so-called recycling.
  • Nearly, 40 per cent of e-waste delivered to US recyclers is exported to Asian and African countries.
Sep, 11, 2019

[op-ed snap] Shades of green


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


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

Landscape restoration

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

Increasing forest cover

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

Land degradation and climate change

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


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



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

Sep, 05, 2019

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


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


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

India – vulnerability

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

Importance of resilience

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

Way ahead

  • Global leadership must act with greater urgency.
  • Countries should switch rapidly from polluting fossil fuels to cleaner renewable energy.
  • There is a need for building much stronger coastal and inland defences against climatic damage.
Sep, 04, 2019

ANDREX Project


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

ANDREX Project

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

Role of Southern Ocean in CO2 absorption

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


  • The dominant factor driving the uptake of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean was not related to dense water formation in the shallow seas close to Antarctica, but rather to biological processes further out in the sea.
  • The results carry implications for our understanding of how the high-latitude Southern Ocean, close to the Antarctic continent, influences atmospheric carbon and global climate on 100 to 1000-year timescales.
  • The findings are important both for our understanding of climate transitions in the past, such as the ice ages, as well as our projections of future climate change.
Sep, 02, 2019

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


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


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

History of superpower behavior

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

Arctic politics

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

Indian position

  1. So far, Indian involvement in the Arctic has centred around scientific and environmental studies, mostly in partnership with Norway. 
  2. Indian and Russian energy companies have signed agreements worth billions of dollars on exploration and joint production. 
  3. Conditions are favourable for private Indian investors to go beyond these and explore the Siberia and further North.
Sep, 02, 2019

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


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

Climate Change

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

Examples of Climate Change

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

Problems in tackling climate change action

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

Importance of Land Management

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

Efficient land management

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

Examples of change

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


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

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

Aug, 27, 2019

[op-ed snap] The Last Window


The latest IPCC report on ‘Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems’ states that the land surface air temperature has risen by nearly twice the global average temperature, at about 1.3°C.


The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global warming of 1.5°C said that human activities have caused a 0.87°C rise in global average temperature over pre-industrial times. 


  1. World’s land systems have a direct impact on human well-being, livelihood, food security, and water security.
  2. Desertification of land under agricultural use will exacerbate the already worsening dangers of declining crop yields and crop failures. 

What needs to be done

  1. It requires the implementation of measures from several remedial options proposed in the report such as reduced tillage, planting cover crops, improvements in grazing management and greater use of agroforestry.
  2. Maintaining and extending forest cover is important as forests act as enormous natural carbon sinks.

Challenges to India

  1. The dilution of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in India seems regressive. 
  2. Agriculture in India accounts for more than an estimated 86% of the country’s freshwater use. The water intensity of Indian paddy is also below global best practices. 
  3. 2019 HIMAP report by ICIMOD has shown that with receding glaciers, there is a need to manage water better both in the short and in the long run to address the challenge of food security.
  4. Consumption and waste management in the food sector are considered to have climate implications as well. 

Way ahead

  1. Industrial development and environmental protection can be planned prudently to be compatible. 
  2. Land sparing industrialisation, appropriate zoning and environmental safeguards are possible without the replacement of the ecological services provided by the forest ecosystem.
  3. Global assessment reports have shown that consulting indigenous people is an important way of integrating local knowledge with scientific knowledge.
  4. Water management is also critical. Union government has taken up the goal of “irrigation water productivity”. Other solutions include
    • Promoting compatible irrigation practices like drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation
    • Shifting away from water-intensive cash crops
    • Alternate wetting and drying (AWR) practices in paddy cultivation
    • Extension services for providing access
    • Sensitizing farmers to efficient water use technologies and practices 
    • Use of water-efficient agricultural practices 
    • Traditional rainwater harvesting practices like building tanks and artificial ponds in low-lying catchment areas 
  1. A shift towards a more plant-based based diet is considered a healthy sustainable dietary option in the IPCC report. 
  2. The UN estimates that the world’s population could breach 9.7 billion by 2050, so there is a need to augment food supplies per unit availability of land and water. This shift is even more important for India due to a largely poor population. 
  3. Diversification of the food system, balanced diets, low meat diets is all identified with health benefits, adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development benefits. 
  4. Livestock sector management with crop management is necessary for multiple benefits.
  5. Education can play an important role in managing meat consumption. Market incentives to need to be aligned with human health benefits.

There are some cultural advantages and multiple options for India for adopting sustainable practices to avoid a carbon-intensive development path.

Aug, 20, 2019

Okjokull Glacier, Iceland


  • Iceland loses about 11 billion tonnes of ice per year, and scientists fear that all of the island country’s 400-plus glaciers will be gone by 2200.
  • In Iceland, people gathered to commemorate the loss of the glacier Okjokull, which was officially declared dead in 2014 at the age of 700.

Okjokull Glacier is now dead

  • Okjokull, also called OK (jokull is Icelandic name for “glacier”), was part of the Langjökull group.
  • The glacier was officially declared dead by the Icelandic Meteorological Office when it was no longer thick enough to move.
  • What once was glacier has been reduced to a small patch of ice atop a volcano.
  • The people attending the ceremony will walk up the volcano northeast of the capital Reykjavik to lay a plaque which carries a letter to the future.
  • The plaque is also labelled “415 ppm CO2”, referring to the record level of carbon dioxide measured in the atmosphere in May 2018.

Why is Iceland mourning?

  • An ice-free Iceland represents more than just an identity crisis for Icelanders.
  • If global leaders don’t take action to slow rising temperatures, the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet alone could raise sea-levels more than five feet in the next 200 years.
  • Enormous quantities of methane slumbering in the Arctic permafrost are threatening to come alive as record temperatures fry the poles.
  • Two fast-melting glaciers in Antarctica are holding back enough sea ice to flood oceans with another 11 feet of water.
Aug, 12, 2019

Explained: July 2019 was the hottest ever month on record; what now?


The World Meteorological Organization announced that July 2019 matched, and broke the record for the hottest month since analysis began.


  1. The previous warmest month on record was July 2016, and July 2019 was at least on par with it.
  2. July 2019 was close to 1.2°C above the pre-industrial level.


  1. Exceptional heat has been observed across the globe in recent weeks, with several European countries recording temperature highs.
  2. The extraordinary heat was accompanied by dramatic ice melt in Greenland, in the Arctic and on European glaciers.
  3. Unprecedented wildfires raged in the Arctic devastating the pristine forests which absorb carbon dioxide and turning them into fiery sources of greenhouse gases.

If we do not take action on climate change now, these extreme weather events are just the tip of the iceberg.

Aug, 10, 2019

[op-ed snap] Climate on the farm

A report released on Thursday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that better management of the world’s farms and forests is necessary to tackle climate change.


  1. Land use has always been part of conversations on climate change and activities like afforestation have held an important place in the fight against global warming.
  2. Discourse on combating global warming has given more thrust to curbing vehicular and industrial emissions. 

What the report says

  1. The IPCC report warns that clean energy, clean transport and reducing emissions alone will not cut global emissions enough to avoid warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius.
  2. It points out that the global food system is responsible for 21 to 37% of the world’s GHG emissions.
  1. About a quarter of the Earth’s ice-free land area is subjected to “human-induced degradation”. 
  2. Rapid agricultural expansion has led to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands and other ecosystems.
  3. Soil erosion from agricultural fields is 10 to 100 times higher than the soil formation rate.
  4. When land is degraded, it becomes less productive, restricting what can be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon. 
  5. Agriculture and allied activities like cattle rearing are major sources of methane and nitrous oxide and are more dangerous GHGs than carbon dioxide.

Way ahead

  1. It raised a key scientific input for future climate negotiations, such as the CoP of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the UNFCCC CoP25.
  2. It could pressure developing countries like India to ramp up their global warming mitigation targets.

India should pay heed to the IPCC report’s recommendations on curbing land degradation and soil erosion by improving knowledge systems.

Aug, 02, 2019

Sardine Run


Sardine Run

  • The sardine run is well known among residents of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline that runs along South Africa’s east coast.
  • Every year in winter, sardines migrate close to the shoreline. The event is well documented in the local press.
  • The sardine run is of great economic importance because it provides prime fishing opportunities and attracts large numbers of tourists who come for dolphin and shark sightings.
  • Similar migration patterns are seen in Sweden, Chile, and the Pacific Ocean.

A phenological event

  • The sardine run is what scientists term a “phenological event” — a biological event that occurs at the same time every year.
  • Phenological events are standard for plants and include the appearance of leaf and flower buds, blossoming, fruit development, fruit harvest and leaf colouration and fall.
  • For animals, the events are more varied and include hibernation, hatching, animal calls, moulting, and in the case of birds, game and fish (among others) migration.

Why is phenology so important?

  • Scientists have become very interested in phenology over the past few decades, because it’s one of the most sensitive biological indicators of climate change.
  • As temperatures increase, the plants or animals experience their triggers for spring earlier and their triggers for winter later.
  • As a result, many of these phenological events are occurring at different times of the year.

Nature’s biological clock

  • Phenological shifts are specific to species and location.
  • For example, Granny Smith apple trees are flowering approximately four days earlier for each 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature in Poland.
  • In South Africa, these Granny Smith apples are flowering two days earlier for each 1°C increase in temperature.
  • For many species these events are happening earlier. This is because they are spring events and, under climate change, the temperatures that are perceived by plants and animals to be the onset of spring are occurring in late winter.
  • For events that occur in autumn, the events are often occurring later, because the cooling that marks the start of winter has not yet occurred.

Why study Sardines?

  • A recently published paper reports sardine run between 1946 and 2012 the South African coast.
  • Researchers explored how the dates of the sardine run have changed over the 65-year period, and statistically examined oceanographic and climatological factors to determine the cause of this change.
  • It’s also known that climate affects the timing of phenological events globally, including marine environments.
  • The study found that sardines arrived off the coast of Durban increasingly late — at a rate of 1.3 days later per decade.

Why delay in sardines run?

  • Through analysis comparing the constructed phenological record with climate and ocean data, the study concluded that the delay could be caused by two things.
  • First, the ocean water is warmer. Sardines can tolerate a maximum surface temperature of 21°C. But this temperature isn’t being reached consistently at the same time every year due to changes in ocean temperature.
  • The second factor is mid-latitude cyclones. There have been an increasing number of these in the east coast region.

Why it matters

  • The delay is concerning. First, the large influx of sardines is important for the fishery industry.
  • If the sardine run occurs at an unexpected time, or doesn’t occur at all, supply chains are disrupted and fishermen are placed at economic risk.
  • The unpredictability is also a problem for tourism. The sardine run attracts visitors who are keen on shark and dolphin sightings and may leave disappointed.
  • The delays in the sardine run also result in food shortages for predators such as sharks, which feed on the sardines.
  • This is termed a species mismatch, and is increasingly observed as a result of climate change induced phenological shifts, where predators and their prey are no longer in the same place at the same time.
  • This is because each species has its own unique trigger for a particular activity.
Jul, 17, 2019

[op-ed of the day] The wheels to a low-carbon transport system


Congested streets and polluted air are common experiences in India’s metropolises, although the average Indian contributes only minuscule amounts of transport-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to global climate change. Patterns of road transport, however, diverge wildly between cities and districts. Delhi tops the charts and emissions are more than twice as high as other Indian megacities, such as Mumbai, Bengaluru or Ahmedabad.

Poor Conditions

  • Studies show that India’s road transport emissions are small in global comparison but increasing exponentially.
  • In fact, the Global Carbon Project reports that India’s carbon emissions are rising more than two times as fast as the global rise in 2018.
  • Globally, the transport sector accounts for a quarter of total emissions, out of which three quarters are from road transport.
  • Reducing CO2 emissions of road transport leverages multiple co-benefits, for example, improving air quality and increasing physical activity, which are critical for well-being, particularly in urban areas.
  • Climate action also requires an understanding of how emissions vary with spatial context.
  • In India, we find in our new study (published in Environmental Research Letters), that income and urbanisation are the key determinants of travel distance and travel mode choice and, therefore, commuting emissions.

Public Transport’s Role

  • The way cities are built and the design of public transit are critical for low-carbon mobility systems.
  • The study is based on the most recent results of the Indian Census in 2011.
  • Average commuting emissions in high-emitting districts (Delhi) are 16 times higher than low-emitting districts (most districts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh).
  • Average per capita commuting emissions are highest for the most affluent districts, which are predominantly urban, and that heavily use four-wheelers for commuting.
  • This is a surprising result, as in other parts of the world such as the United States, commuting emissions are low in urban areas but high in suburban or ex-urban settings.
  • In contrast, average per capita commuting emissions are lowest for Indian districts that are poor, and commuting distances are short and rarely use three-wheelers.

Suggestions To improve

Two policy implications follow.

1.Organise cities around public transport  –

  • First, mayors and town planners should organise cities around public transport and cycling, thereby improving mobility for many, while limiting car use.
  • Uptake of non-motorised transport emerges as a sweet spot of sustainable development, resulting in both lower emissions and better public health in cities.
  • According to the recent National Family Health Survey (2015-16), nearly 30% of all men are overweight or obese in southwest Delhi, but only 25% in Thiruvananthapuram and 13% in Allahabad.
  • These data correlate with high reliance of car use in Delhi and low demand for walking.

Effect on Health

  • Addressing Chronic Diseases – Another of our studies that investigates data from the India Human Development Survey shows that a 10% increase in cycling could lower chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases for 0.3 million people, while also abating emissions.
  • Car use, in contrast, correlates with higher rates of diabetes.
  • Therefore, fuel price increases, congestion charges or parking management could be a strategy that improves the well-being of individuals living in urban areas.
  • In contrast, fuel price increases would be detrimental in poorer rural areas, impairing mobility where there is a lack of alternatives.

2.Technology transition

  • Electric Vehicles – Second, India should double down in its strategy to transition to electric two and three-wheelers.
  • A recent study reports that India has 1.5 million battery-powered three-wheeler rickshaw (over 300,000 e-rickshaws sold in 2018).
  • Rampant Growth – In the coming years, experts judge that the electric three-wheeler market is expected to grow by at least 10% per year. In 2019, nearly 110,000 electric two-wheelers were also sold, and the annual growth rate may be above 40% per year.
  • Make in India – India is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers in two- and three- wheelers and Indian companies can take a leading role in switching to electric vehicles. This will also help in transforming India’s vision of ‘Make in India’.

Way Forward

  • Compact cities improve accessibility and reduce emissions from transport and even the building sector.
  • Most Indian cities are already very dense, with few benefits expected by further high-rise.
  • Short routes and fast access – City managers should ensure that existing urban areas provide short routes and fast access to schools, hospitals and jobs, otherwise, residents would be required to travel long distances.
  • To achieve this aim, mayors and decision-makers need to rethink how to deliver basic services such as education and health.
  • Achieving low carbon development – Building schools and hospitals matters especially for informal settlements and are critical in achieving low carbon development as well as improving the quality of life.
  • Access to public service Centres – Providing access to public service, choosing rapid transit over car driving in cities and supporting the rise of electric two and three-wheelers will help drive India to a modern and low-carbon transport system fit for the 21st century.
Jul, 11, 2019

Bengal port records country’s highest sea level rise in 50 years


  • Of the major ports in India, Diamond Harbour in West Bengal located at the mouth of river Hooghly has recorded the maximum sea level increase.

Freaky rise in Sea Levels

  • Going by the data from the Ministry of Earth Sciences, four ports — Diamond Harbour, Kandla, Haldia and Port Blair — recorded a higher sea level rise than the global average.
  • Chennai and Mumbai, recorded a sea level rise far below the global and the national averages at 0.33 mm per year (1916-2005) and 0.74 mm (1878-2005) respectively.
  • Sea level rise in the country has been estimated to be 1.3 mm/year along India’s coasts during the last 40-50 years, at Diamond Harbour the rise was almost five times higher at 5.16 mm per year.
  • The mean sea level rise for Diamond Harbour was based on recordings over the period from 1948 to 2005.
  • This is followed by Kandla port in Gujarat where the sea level rise was 3.18 (1950 to 2005) , followed by Haldia in West Bengal, which recorded a sea level rise of 2.89 mm a year (1972 to 2005).
  • Port Blair also recorded a sea level rise of 2.20 mm per year (1916-1964).

Why rise in sea level?

  • Sea level rise is said be linked with global warming and as per the fifth assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change.
  • The global sea level was rising at an average rate of 1.8 mm per year over the last century.
  • Global warming not only causes melting of ice and glaciers, but also leads to internal expansion of water in oceans and thus a rise in the sea level.
  • Heavy rainfall and temperature extremes like heat waves and shifts in semi-arid regions were some of the recent findings which may have linkages with climate change and global warming.
  • Studies over Indian region have shown a warming trend of 0.6°C on all India average basis, mainly contributed by maximum temperatures.
  • The sea level rise is higher in West Bengal, particularly in the Sunderbans delta is because of the deltaic sediment deposition as a result of the mixing of fresh water and saline water, according to experts.


  • Rising sea levels can exacerbate the impacts of coastal hazards such as storm surge, tsunami, coastal floods, high waves and coastal erosion in the low lying coastal areas.
  • In addition it causes gradual loss of coastal land to sea.
Jul, 11, 2019

[op-ed snap] Turning down the heat


During the run-up to the Paris climate change meeting in 2015 (COP-21) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, each country decided the level and kind of effort it would undertake to solve the global problem of climate change.

These actions were later referred to as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Enhancing green cover

  • India has yet to determine how its carbon sink objectives can be met.
  • In a recent study, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has estimated, along with the costs involved, the opportunities and potential actions for additional forest and tree cover to meet the NDC target.
  • Given that forest and green cover already show a gradual increase in recent years, one might use this increase as part of the contribution towards the NDC.
  • Or one might think of the additional 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent sink as having to be above the background or business-as-usual increase.

Ways to achieve sinks

  • The additional increase in carbon sinks, as recommended in this report, is to be achieved by the following ways: restoring impaired and open forests; afforesting wastelands; agro-forestry; through green corridors, plantations along railways, canals, other roads, on railway sidings and rivers; and via urban green spaces.
  • Close to three quarters of the increase (72.3 %) will be by restoring forests and afforestation on wastelands, with a modest rise in total green cover.
  • The FSI study has three scenarios, representing different levels of increase in forest and tree cover. For example, 50%, 60% or 70% of impaired forests could be restored.
  • The total increase in the carbon sink in these scenarios could be 1.63, 2.51 or 3.39 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030, at costs varying from about ₹1.14 to ₹2.46 lakh crore.
  • These figures show that the policy has to be at least at a medium level of increase to attain the stated NDC targets.

Natural forests

  •  Locking up the carbon from the atmosphere in trees, ground vegetation and soils is one of the safest ways with which to remove carbon.
  • If done correctly, the green cover increase will provide many other benefits: it will improve water quality, store water in wetlands, prevent soil erosion, protect biodiversity, and potentially provide new jobs.
  • It is  estimated that allowing land to be converted into forests naturally will sequester 42 times the carbon compared to land converted to plantation, or six times for land converted to agroforestry.

Restoration type is key

  • The most effective way is through natural forest regeneration with appropriate institutions to facilitate the process.
  • Vast monocultures of plantations are being proposed in some countries, including in India, but these hold very little carbon; when they are harvested, carbon is released as the wood is burned.
  • Besides, some of the trees selected for the plantations may rely on aquifers whose water becomes more and more precious with greater warming.
  • Such forms of green cover, therefore, do not mitigate climate change and also do not improve biodiversity or provide related benefits.
  • India, therefore, needs first to ensure that deforestation is curtailed to the maximum extent.
  • Second, the area allocated to the restoration of impaired and open forests and wastelands in the FSI report should be focussed entirely on natural forests and agroforestry.


  • While using a carbon lens to view forests has potential dangers, involving local people and planting indigenous tree varieties would also reduce likely difficulties.
  • Instead of plantations, growing food forests managed by local communities would have additional co-benefits. Once natural forests are established, they need to be protected.
  • Protecting and nurturing public lands while preventing their private enclosure is therefore paramount.
  • Active forest management by local people has a long history in India and needs to expand to meet climate, environment and social justice goals.
Jul, 09, 2019

Explained: Where to plant a trillion trees to save planet Earth?


Forests as CO2 sink

  • Trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, are a natural sink for the gas emitted into the atmosphere.
  • According to a study trees absorb about 25% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, while the oceans absorb another 25%.
  • The half that remains in the atmosphere contributes to global warming.

Reforestation to curb global warming

  • Restoration of forests has long been seen as a potential measure to combat climate change.
  • What has so far been unclear, however, is how much of this tree cover might be actually possible in the existing conditions on the planet.

No more a vague idea

  • The latest special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that an increase of 1 billion hectares of forest will be necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050.
  • Now, researchers have quantified how much land around the world is available for reforestation, as well as the extent of carbon emissions these would prevent from being released into the atmosphere.
  • The new forests planted, once mature, could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon, the researchers calculated.

How much land needs to be reforested?

  • The study, by researchers with the Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich University has been published in the journal Science.
  • On the basis of nearly 80,000 images from around the world, they calculated that around 0.9 billion hectares of land would be suitable for reforestation.
  • If an area of 0.9 billion hectares is indeed reforested, the researchers calculated, it could ultimately capture two-thirds of human-made carbon emissions.
  • The estimated land excludes cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life.

Land available

  • Earth’s continuous tree cover is currently 2.8 billion hectares, and the researchers calculated that the land available could support 4.4 billion hectares, or an additional 1.6 billion hectares.
  • Out of this, 0.9 billion hectares — an area the size of the US — fulfil the criterion of not being used by humans.
  • That is about two-thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the industrial age.

Land available in India

  • In India, there is room for an estimated 9.93 million extra hectares of forest.
  • India’s existing forest cover makes up 7,08,273 sq km (about 70.83 million hectares) and tree cover another 93,815 sq km (9.38 million hectares), according to the MoEFCCs ‘State of Forest Report 2017’.
  • The study found that the six countries with the greatest reforestation potential are Russia (151 million hectares); the US (103 million hectares); Canada (78.4 million hectares); Australia (58 million hectares); Brazil (49.7 million hectares); and China (40.2 million hectares).
Jul, 06, 2019

MOSAiC Mission


  • Scientists from 17 nations will take part in the year-long MOSAIC mission as they anchor the RV Polarstern ship to a large piece of Arctic sea ice to study climate change.

 MOSAiC mission

  • The MOSAiC mission stands for Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate.
  • It is a one-year-long expedition into the Central Arctic, planned to take place from 2019 to 2020.
  • For the first time a modern research icebreaker will operate in the direct vicinity of the North Pole year round, including the nearly half year long polar night during winter.
  • It comes about 125 years after Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen first managed to seal his wooden expedition ship, Fram, into the ice during a three-year expedition to the North Pole.
  • MOSAiC will contribute to a quantum leap in our understanding of the coupled Arctic climate system and its representation in global climate models.
  • The focus of MOSAiC lies on direct in-situ observations of the climate processes that couple the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, bio-geochemistry and ecosystem.

Why study Arctic climate?

  • The Arctic is a key area of global climate change, with warming rates exceeding twice the global average.
  • The observed rate of climate change in the Arctic is not well reproduced in climate models.
  • Many processes in the Arctic climate system are poorly represented in climate models because they are not sufficiently understood.
  • Understanding of Arctic climate processes is limited by a lack of year round observations in the central Arctic.
Jul, 03, 2019

Explained: How global warming could impact jobs in India


ILO report on impact of heat stress on labour productivity and decent work

  • By 2030, India is expected to lose an equivalent of 34 million jobs as a result of global warming, says a report released by the ILO.
  • The report, ‘Working on a warmer planet: The impact of heat stress on labour productivity and decent work’ anticipates an increase in “heat stress” resulting from global warming.
  • It projects global productivity losses equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs in 2030, and the projection of 34 million jobs would make India the worst affected.

How excess heat impact?

  • The report defines heat stress as heat in excess of what the body can tolerate without suffering physiological impairment.
  • It generally occurs at temperatures above 35°C, in high humidity.
  • Excess heat during work is an occupational health risk and restricts workers’ physical functions and capabilities, work capacity and thus, productivity.
  • The report makes its projections based on a global temperature rise of 1.5°C by the end of the century, and also on labour force trends.
  • These projections “suggest that in 2030, 2.2 per cent of total working hours worldwide will be lost because of higher temperatures, a loss equivalent to 80 million full-time jobs.
  • This is equivalent to global economic losses of US$2,400 billion,” says the report.
  • The ILO says this is a conservative estimate, assuming that the global mean temperature does not rise more than 1.5°C.

The India projection

  • The region projected to lose the most working hours is southern Asia, at 5% in 2030, corresponding to around 43 million jobs, respectively.
  • A third of the southern Asian countries have already incurred losses greater than 4%.
  • India, which lost 4.3% of working hours in 1995 because of heat stress, is projected to lose 5.8% of its working hours in 2030, which corresponds to 34 million jobs.
  • The impact of heat stress on labour productivity and decent work’ anticipates an increase in “heat stress” resulting from global warming.

Losses in India

  • The report projects losses in working hours as 9.04% in agriculture (in shade), 5.29% in manufacturing, 9.04% in construction, and 1.48% in services.
  • Although most of the impact in India will be felt in the agricultural sector, more and more working hours are expected to be lost in the construction sector, where heat stress affects both male and female workers,” the report says.
  • There is little data in the country to corroborate trends of climate change and employment.
  • However, that there has been no direct job loss at present, with distressed workers switching from one vulnerable sector to another.

Global Scenario

  • Globally, the two sectors projected to be hit worst are agriculture and construction, with agriculture worse affected.
  • The ILO says 940 million people around the world work in the agricultural sector, which is projected to account for 60% of working hours lost due to heat stress by 2030.
  • In construction, an estimated 19% of global working hours is likely to be lost.
  • In addition to the massive economic costs of heat stress, we can expect to see more inequality between low and high income countries and worsening working conditions for the most vulnerable, as well as displacement of people.
  • To adapt to this new reality appropriate measures by governments, employers and workers, focusing on protecting the most vulnerable, are urgently needed.
Jun, 18, 2019

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)


  • India for the first time will host the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019.

About United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

  • Established in 1994, the UNCCD is the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda.
  • It addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
  • 2006 was declared “International Year of Deserts and Desertification”.

Desertification in India

  • India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation.
  • A 2016 report by the ISRO found that about 29% of India’s land (in 2011-13) was degraded, this being a 0.57% increase from 2003-05.
  • At the previous edition of the COP, India had committed to restore 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2020, and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030.

The Bonn Challenge

  • Ahead of the COP-14, MoEFCC launched a flagship project, part of a larger international initiative called the Bonn Challenge, to enhance India’s capacity for forest landscape restoration (FLR).
  • The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land under restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • It will be implemented during a pilot phase of three-and-a-half years in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka.
  • The project will aim to develop and adapt the best practices and monitoring protocols for the country, and build capacity within the five pilot States.
Jun, 14, 2019

Arctic Kelps: Underwater forests in the Arctic


  • Climate change is altering marine habitats such as kelp forests on a global scale.
  • In Western Australia, eastern Canada, southern Europe, northern California and eastern United States, kelps are disappearing due to warming temperatures.

Arctic Kelp Forests

  • Kelp is a type of large brown seaweed that grows in shallow, nutrient-rich saltwater, near coastal fronts around the world.
  • They occur on rocky coasts throughout the Arctic. The longest kelp recorded in the Arctic in Canada was 15 metres, and the deepest was found at 60-metre depth (Disko Bay, Greenland).
  • Kelps function underwater in the same way trees do on land. They create habitat and modify the physical environment by shading light and softening waves.
  • The underwater forests that kelps create are used by many animals for shelter and food.
  • More than 350 different species – up to 100,000 small invertebrates – can live on a single kelp plant, and many fish, birds and mammals depend on the whole forest.
  • Kelp forests also help protect coastlines by decreasing the power of waves during storms and reducing coastal erosion.

What makes Kelps special?

  • Many find it surprising that marine plants can grow so well in harsh Arctic environments. Kelps have adapted to the severe conditions.
  • These cool water species have special strategies to survive freezing temperatures and long periods of darkness, and even grow under sea ice.
  • In regions with cold, nutrient-rich water, they can attain some of the highest rates of primary production of any natural ecosystem on Earth.

Threats to Kelps

  • Coastal conditions in the Arctic are changing dramatically and the region is warming faster than the rest of the world, but these changes could actually be good for kelp.
  • In Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway and Siberia, permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years are receding by half a metre per year.
  • Thawing permafrost and crumbling Arctic coasts are dumping sediments into coastal waters at alarming rates, which blocks light and could limit plant growth.
  • The run-off from melting glaciers will also lower salinity and increase turbidity, which impacts young kelp.

Importance of Kelps

  • Kelp forests throughout the world play an important role in coastal economies, supporting a broad range of tourism, recreational and commercial activities.
  • Kelp is making its way onto the plates of North Americans, and the kelp aquaculture industry is growing at a rate of seven per cent per year for the last 20 years globally.
  • Kelp is a coveted food source in many countries which is full of potassium, iron, calcium, fibre and iodine.
May, 30, 2019

[op-ed snap] Next, Plasticene


The Holocene is drawing to a close, and the Age of Humans will dawn in 2021. But the Anthropocene lacks a sub-category.


Anthropocene era –

  • Just when the human race seems ready to annihilate itself and enter the fossil record for keeps, the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy is propelling it into the Anthropocene Age — the era in which the imprint of this industrial and agricultural species becomes visible planetwide.
  • Of course, stratigraphers work with geological slowness.
  • The process of defining the Anthropocene was initiated in 2016 and, while the working group has voted overwhelmingly for the motion, it will be formally proposed only two years later to the commission.

Difference in the legacy of Holocene and Anthropocene

  • Humans have also left their mark on the Holocene, the era which began about 11,650 years ago, when the glaciers retreated.
  • Ruined cities like Petra and Ur are stirring tourist attractions. Further back in time are the odds and ends of material culture — Acheulian hand-axes, Jomon pottery — and much further back are fossils like Lucy, and fossilised human footprints on the sands of time.
  • Signs of the Anthropocene are less poetic — traces of pollution in tree rings, layers of soot in the substrata of industrial towns, massive deforestation and erosion, millions of acres of concrete, space junk in orbit.

Subcategory of Anthropocene

  • However, there is time yet, until 2021.
  • Time to define a subsidiary age of the Anthropocene, in recognition of a human stain that is far more pervasive than all these vile signs — plastic. Undegraded plastic is everywhere, from landfills to kitchens and the innards of cows.
  • Rivers of plastic flow down to the sea, where it breaks down into microscopic particles that are now found in maritime life forms.
  • Plastic is the most enduring sign of the human race. It is significant enough to be eponymous, identifying a subsidiary of the Anthropocene. It must be named Plasticene
May, 16, 2019

[op-ed snap] Green is cool


India — as the fastest growing and rapidly urbanising economy — is projected to have the strongest growth in cooling demand worldwide. While India’s soaring demand in this sector is in line with the country’s developmental needs, it does portend significant environmental, social and economic concerns.

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

  • The government’s launch of the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) on March 8 is a bold response to addressing India’s future cooling needs while neutralising its impacts.
  • ICAP most visibly is about enhancing access to cooling amenities, optimising demand and efficient cooling practices and technologies.


Space cooling sector – The space cooling sector, which represents a dominant share of India’s current and future cooling needs, the underlying thrust is to enable thermal comfort and well-being for all citizens by providing affordable and reliable cooling options, maintaining reliable electricity grids, and enhancing climate resilience of buildings and homes.

Focus on Vulnerable Section – The thrust is on ensuring that the vulnerable populations, particularly children and the elderly, are not exposed to undue heat stresses.

Energy efficient approach – To maximise the cooling load reduction and possible benefits for this sector, ICAP proposes an approach that first reduces the cooling energy demand through climate appropriate and energy efficient building design, then serves the demand through energy efficient appliances and finally, controls and optimises the demand through demand-side and user adaptation strategies, such as adaptive thermal comfort.

Climate appropriate designs for affordable housing – The plan lays special emphasis on enabling thermal comfort for the economically-weaker sections through climate-appropriate designs of affordable housing, and low-cost interventions to achieve better thermal insulation (such as cool roofs).

Benefits of ICAP

  1. Enhancing Productivity – The benefits of the proposed actions extend to enhancing nationwide productivity, reducing heat-islands in urban areas, mitigating peak-load impacts and reducing the stress on the power systems — much of this would also free up capital for other developmental priorities.

2. Integrated Cold chain Infrastructure –

  • Within the cold chain sector, ICAP proposes development of an integrated cold chain infrastructure with the appropriate market linkages, supported by adequate training and up-skilling of farmers and professionals.
  • The co-benefits include economic well-being of farmers and reducing food losses thus strengthening food security and alleviating hunger-related issues.

3. Training and certification –

  • Driving skill-building of the services sector through training and certification is an important target identified by the plan.
  • It also presents an opportunity for providing increased employment, better livelihoods, and safer working practices for the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) sector.

4. Building R&D ecosystem –

  • ICAP’s emphasis on an innovative R&D ecosystem aims to drive the nation towards better utilisation of public-funded R&D efforts that solve pressing issues related to the environment — and quality of life.
  • The plan also positions India’s cooling challenge as an opportunity for the nation to demonstrate leadership in areas related to innovation. It also supports the Make in India campaign through indigenous production of cooling equipment and refrigerants.

5. Impact on SDGs –

  • The benefits of ICAP could impact several SDGs — good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities and communities, reduced inequalities, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.
  • The onus is now on the various stakeholders to work collaboratively, with the right policy and market levers, to lead the country towards a cooling transformation that exemplifies sustainable and responsible cooling for all.
May, 15, 2019

[op-ed snap] Facing the climate emergency


A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. shows that global warming during the past half century has contributed to a differential change in income across countries.

Changes due to global warming

  • Already wealthy countries have become wealthier and developing countries have been made poorer in relative terms during this time.
  • India’s GDP growth penalty between 1961 and 2010 is in the order of 31% for the period, whereas Norway gained about 34% on a per capita basis.
  • More recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has reported that, worldwide, the abundance of species has reduced by at least one-fifth, about a million species are under threat of extinction in the next few decades and 85% of wetlands have been lost.

Instances of collusion against climate change warnings

  • What we have, moreover, are numerous instances of elite networks that are taking advantage of the situation to consolidate their control.
  • Collusion among corporations – These networks often involve governments actively or quiescently colluding with fossil fuel companies, agro-industrial elites, financial elites and other big businesses that are ignoring climate change and making a fast buck often even from the growing disasters.
  • Subsidy to fossil fuels – The International Monetary Fund estimates in a recent working paper that fossil fuel subsidies were $4.7 trillion in 2015 and estimated to be $5.2 trillion in 2017.
  • Power Struggle in the Arctic – The Arctic is melting rapidly and the tenor of the recent discussions among Arctic countries suggests that even as increasing glacier melt is responsible for opening up shipping in the area, superpowers are angling to access wealth from the oil, gas, uranium and precious metals in the region.
  • Case study –  Recent example is the draft Indian Forest Act of 2019, which enhances the political and police power of the forest department and curtails the rights of millions of forest dwellers.

Movement to bring changes

  • Luckily  we are witnessing is a large-scale movement for “planet emergency”, climate and ecology.
  • Greta Thunberg has been leading this among school-going children, and Extinction Rebellion has been organising “die-ins” in many parts of Europe and now in Asia.
  • Their non-violent civil disobedience is just what is needed and it is indeed inspiring to see children and grandparents protest together.
  • People’s movements, whether made up of students or adults, cannot be ignored for long and governments will have to pay attention.

Spread of misinformation

  • The atmosphere now has concentrations of over 415 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, compared to 280 ppm in pre-industrial times.
  • But then, fossil fuel companies and politicians have known about climate change for at least 30 years.
  • They have funded misinformation regarding climate directly, taking lessons from tobacco companies that propagated lies for decades about cigarettes being safe.


  • We are now at a stage where we need major overhaul of our lifestyles and patterns of consumption.
  • The U.K. Parliament became the first recently to declare a climate emergency.
  • It remains to be seen if appropriate actions will follow this declaration.
  • When a 16-year-old speaks with far greater clarity and conviction than the thousands of dithering policy wonks who have been debating for over three decades, we know the politics of the climate crisis must undergo a radical transformation.
May, 10, 2019

[op-ed snap] From Idai to Fani


The Indian Ocean has made its mark on the global news cycle this year. In March, tropical cyclone Idai made headlines as one of the most severe storms to have made landfall in Mozambique.

  • After Idai, Eline was the strongest – though not the deadliest – cyclone to have hit the southern east African cost.
  • This ranking as the strongest was soon after challenged by tropical cyclone Kenneth, a category 4 tropical cyclone that made landfall over the border of Mozambique and Tanzania six weeks after Idai.
  • Most cyclones in the region occur from January to March.It was also unusual for the Mozambique Channel to experience two severe tropical cyclones that made landfall within one season.
  • The third major cyclone to emerge out of the Indian Ocean came a few weeks after Kenneth, when cyclone Fani, a tropical cyclone on the border of Category 5 intensity wind speeds, hit the east coast of India.
  • Category 5 tropical cyclones were only first recorded in the North Indian Ocean from 1989 so, again, this storm is unusually severe in the context of the longer historical records.

Reason for high-intensity storms

1.Warm Sea surface –

  • These high intensity storms have been tied to the very warm sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean. Temperatures of 30°C are occurring more often and over longer periods of time.
  • This is a result of gradual warming on a global scale, which has resulted in a net increase in ocean temperatures.

2.Formation of stronger storms and El Nino

  • Warmer ocean temperatures allow stronger storms to form.
  • These conditions are exacerbated by global forcing mechanisms including El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole, which concentrates warm ocean waters in smaller geographic areas.
  • High intensity storms have been a frequent feature along the coast of the US throughout recorded history.
  • Their increased frequency in the Indian Ocean should be raising alarm bells because countries like the US are much better equipped to help people prepare ahead of time and to handle the fallout.

Measuring intensity

  • Tropical cyclone intensity is classified according to the Saffir Simpson scale.
  • Categories are measured on the basis of the sustained wind speed and the storm’s central pressure.
  • Each category is accompanied by estimates of the likely severity of damage and possible storm surge height.
  • Tropical cyclones form and intensify due to a combination of seven primary climatological conditions. Among other things, these include warm sea surface temperatures, high humidity levels and atmospheric instability.
  • For a storm to intensify, these conditions have to be maximised while the storm remains over the ocean.

Optimal Conditions

Warming of South Africa –

  • Tropical cyclones require a sea surface temperature of 26.5°C to form, while the highest intensity storms require much warmer sea surface temperatures of 28°C-29°C.
  • This is important because it’s one of the reasons why southern Africa is experiencing more intense tropical cyclones.

Warming of the South Indian Ocean –

  • Increase in temperature ranges – The regions that previously experienced the temperatures of 26.5°C that facilitated tropical cyclone formation are now experiencing temperatures as warm as 30°C-32°C.
  • More common landfall –  This increases the range in which these storms occur, making storms like tropical cyclone Dineo, which made landfall in February 2017 in southern Mozambique, more common.

  • Lower-lying, relatively flat areas are more prone to flooding than higher elevation regions or those with rugged topography.
  • And when flooding does occur, some regions are better able to warn and evacuate people to prevent or minimise the loss of life.
  • Another factor which determines the devastation resulting from a tropical cyclone is the population density of the area of landfall.
  • The higher the population density, the more people who are at threat of losing their life, their homes and livelihoods.
  • This also means more people who would need to be evacuated in a short period, and more people who need shelter until the storm’s immediate effects have subsided.


This is why Idai and Eline resulted in far greater losses and fatalities than the stronger intensity Kenneth, and why the total damage from Fani is projected to be particularly devastating. We need to start measuring storm destructiveness in addition to climatological metrics.


May, 09, 2019

India re-elected as observer to Arctic Council


  • The 11th Arctic Council ministerial meeting is being held at Rovaniemi, Finland.
  • India has been re-elected as an observer to intergovernmental forum Arctic Council.

India’s interest in Arctic

  • Indian researchers have been studying whether there is a co-relation between Indian monsoon and the Arctic region.
  • India’s National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, an institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, has set up a research station, ‘Himadri’, in Svalbard in Norway.
  • It studies the mass balance of glaciers, the effect of the warming on the marine system, the formation of clouds and precipitation, and the effect on biodiversity.

About Arctic Council

  • It is an advisory body that promotes cooperation among member nations and indigenous groups as per the Ottawa Declaration of 1996.
  • Its focus is on sustainable development and environmental protection of the Arctic.
  • It promotes cooperation, coordination and interaction among Arctic states, the region’s indigenous communities and other inhabitants on common issues, particularly on sustainable development and environmental protection.
  • The Arctic Council consists of the eight Arctic States: Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
  • India and China are one of the observer countries since 2013.
May, 08, 2019

[op-ed snap] One million species face extinction: Why biodiversity report matters


Among the findings that are making global headlines is the assessment that as many as 1 million different species, out of a total of an estimated 8 million plant and animal species, are facing the threat of extinction, more than at any previous time, because of changes brought about in natural environments by human activities.

What is IPBES

  • IPBES is a global scientific body very similar in composition and functioning to the better-known Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that makes periodic reviews of scientific literature to make projections about the earth’s future climate.
  • IPBES is mandated to do a similar job for natural ecosystems and biodiversity. Formed in 2012, this is the first global assessment report by the IPBES .
  • Like IPCC, IPBES does not produce any new science, it only evaluates existing scientific knowledge to make assessments and projections.

Findings of the report

  • Among the findings that are making global headlines is the assessment that as many as 1 million different species, out of a total of an estimated 8 million plant and animal species, are facing the threat of extinction, more than at any previous time, because of changes brought about in natural environments by human activities.
  • The report says that 75% of Earth’s land surface and 66% marine environments have been “significantly altered”, and that “over 85%” of wetland area had been lost.

Implications of findings of the report

  • The two UN Conventions — Convention on Biological Diversity that addresses biodiversity issues, and the Convention on Combating Desertification that deals with sustainable land management — are likely to be guided by this report in future.
  • It is possible that so would be a host of other international agreements and processes, like the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Indian Connection

  • The report does not have country-specific information.
  • But as a major biodiversity hotspot, vast areas, especially the coastline, of which are under tremendous stress due to large population, India can identify with most of the trends pointed out in the report.
  • For example, it says 23% of global land area had shown a reduction in productivity due to degradation, and that between 100 to 300 million people were at an increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
  • It says plastic pollution had increased 10 times from 1980, the number of large dams (those with a height of 15 m or more) had reached almost 50,000, and that human population had more than doubled since 1970s, and the number of urban areas had doubled since 1992.


All these trends have been clearly visible in the case of India, and bring with them the associated risks to natural ecosystems highlighted in the report.


May, 07, 2019

UK has become the first country to declare a ‘climate emergency’


  • UK Parliament has passed an extraordinary measure: a national declaration of an Environment and Climate Emergency.
  • The UK is the first national government to declare such an emergency.

Why such move?

  • The decision marks a renewed sense of urgency in tackling climate change, following a visit to Parliament by teenage activist Greta Thunberg.
  • There are now some 49 million people living under national, city and local declarations of a climate emergency around the world.
  • The UK is legally committed to a 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (relative to their 1990 levels).
  • It was recently recognised as one of just 18 developed economies that have driven down carbon dioxide emissions over the last decade.

The cost of inaction

  • Research in Australia has investigated the cost to the global economy if the Paris Agreement is not met and the world hits 4˚C warmer.
  • The values are eye-watering: an estimated $23 trillion a year over the long-term.
  • This has been likened to the world experiencing four to six global financial crises on the scale of 2008 every year.

What is a climate emergency?

  • There is no precise definition of what constitutes action to meet such an emergency, the move has been likened to putting the country on a “war footing”.
  • This has put the climate and the environment at the very centre of all government policy, rather than being on the fringe of political decisions.

Counting down to 2030

  • The year 2030 is an important target.
  • In spite of what climate contrarians might voice very loudly, five of our planet’s warmest years on record have occurred since 2010, whilst 2018 experienced all manner of climate extremes that broke numerous global records.
  • It’s sobering to realize that, because the oceans are a major sink of heat, the estimated 40-year delay in the release of this energy back into the atmosphere means the conditions of the last decade are in part a consequence of our pollution from the 1970s.

Way Forward

  • At a time when politicians discuss the need to “live within our means” when it comes to national finances, this does not appear to translate to the environment when we’re considering future generations.
  • Instead we seem to be caught in a debate surrounding the costs of action rather than inaction.
  • The welcome announcement from the UK is a major step in the right direction and potentially a watershed moment for a more sustainable global future.
May, 04, 2019

Ross Ice Shelf


  • Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest ice shelf roughly the size of France is melting rapidly.

Ross Ice Shelf

  • An international team of scientists has found out that this ice shelf is melting 10 times faster than the overall average, due to solar heating of the surrounding ocean surface.
  • The melting ice shelf has led to global sea-level rise of around 13.8mm over the last 40 years.
  • Solar heating of the surrounding ocean surface spurred the rate at which the ice is melting.
  • Using instruments deployed through a 260 metre-deep borehole, the team measured temperature, salinity, melt rates and ocean currents in the cavity under the ice.
  • Earlier, scientists believed that heat radiating to the bottom melted the underside of the shelf, while the ocean surface cooled down quickly.
  • However, the latest findings show that heat in the ocean surface plays a crucial role.

Why is it alarming?

  • Antarctica comprises 90 per cent of the world’s ice.
  • The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica (as of 2013 an area of roughly 500,809 square kilometres and about 800 kilometres across: about the size of France)
  • If this situation continues, sea-levels would rise up to 60 metres by 2050 — and the ocean would engulf coastal cities across the globe.
May, 02, 2019

Explained: Cyclone Fani- an unusual storm


Cyclone Fani

  • A powerful cyclonic storm named Fani (pronounced Foni) is headed towards the Odisha coast..
  • It is not just a severe cyclone but an “extremely severe cyclone”.
  • Expected to generate storms with wind speeds as high as 200 km per hour, it has the potential to cause widespread damage in Odisha and neighbouring states.
  • The last time such a powerful cyclonic storm had emerged in the Bay of Bengal at this time of the year, in 2008, it had killed more than 1.25 lakh people in Myanmar.
  • However India has impressively managed disasters caused by cyclones, most remarkably during Cyclone Phailin of 2013, which was even stronger than the approaching Fani.
  • Fani is, thus, unusual, and that is mainly because of the place it originated, very close to the Equator, and the long route it has taken to reach the landmass.

How are they formed?

  • Cyclones are formed over slightly warm ocean waters.
  • The temperature of the top layer of the sea, up to a depth of about 60 metres, 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 a 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.
  • This induces the anticlockwise rotation of air.
  • 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, and adds to its heft.

What strengthens them?

  • A thumb rule for cyclones is that the more time they spend over the seas, the stronger they become.
  • Hurricanes around the US, which originate in the vast open Pacific Ocean, are usually much stronger than the tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal, a relatively narrow and enclosed region.
  • The cyclones originating here, after hitting the landmass, decay rapidly due to friction and absence of moisture.

Cyclone Fani in Odisha: In situ origins

  • A big difference between the strengths of cyclones in April-May and October-December is that the former originate in situ in the Bay of Bengal itself, barely a few hundred kilometres from the landmass.
  • On the other hand, cyclones in October-December are usually remnants of cyclonic systems that emerge in the Pacific Ocean, but manage to come to the Bay of Bengal.
  • They are considerably weakened after crossing the southeast Asian landmass near the South China Sea.
  • These systems already have some energy, and gather momentum as they traverse over the Bay of Bengal.
  • April-May is not the season for typhoons in the west Pacific Ocean. Most of the typhoons in west Pacific in northern hemisphere form between June and November.
  • That is why almost all the cyclones in the Bay of Bengal in April-May period are in situ systems.

What’s unusual with Fani?

  • The in situ cyclonic systems in the Bay of Bengal usually originate around latitude 10°, in line with Chennai or Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Fani, on the other hand, originated quite close to the Equator, around latitude 2°, well below the Sri Lankan landmass.
  • The forecast landfall on the Odisha coast is at a latitude of almost 20°.
  • It has traversed a long way on the sea, thus gaining strength that is unusual for cyclones originating in the Bay of Bengal in this season.
  • It was initially headed northwestwards, towards the Tamil Nadu coast, but changed course midway, and swerved northeast away from the coastline to reach Odisha.
  • If it had remained on its original course, and made a landfall over the Tamil Nadu coastline, Fani would only have been a normal cyclone, not the extremely severe cyclone it has now become.


Tropical Cyclones in India

  • The eastern coast of India is no stranger to cyclones.
  • On an average, five to six significant cyclonic storms emerge in the Bay of Bengal region every year.
  • The months of April and May just before the start of the monsoon, and then October to December immediately after the end of the monsoon, are the prime seasons for tropical cyclones.
  • Cyclones emerging in April-May usually are much weaker than those during October-December.
  • There have been only 14 instances of a “severe cyclone” forming in the Bay of Bengal region in April since 1891, and only one of them, which formed in 1956, touched the Indian mainland.
  • The others all swerved northeast to hit Bangladesh, Myanmar or other countries in the southeast Asian region. Since 1990, there have been only four such cyclones in April.

Grading of Cyclones

  • Tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are graded according to maximum wind speeds at their centre.
  • At the lower end are depressions that generate wind speeds of 30 to 60 km per hour, followed by:
  1. cyclonic storms (61 to 88 kph)
  2. severe cyclonic storms (89 to 117 kph)
  3. very severe cyclonic storms (118 to 166 kph)
  4. extremely severe cyclonic storms (167 to 221 kph) and
  5. super cyclones (222 kph or higher)
Apr, 27, 2019

Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica vanishes


  • The Antarctic’s second-largest colony of emperor penguins collapsed in 2016, with more than 10,000 chicks lost, and the population has not recovered, according to a new study.
  • Still, the population in Halley Bay represents only about 8% of the world’s population of emperor penguins.

Habitat loss leads to breeding failure

  • Emperor penguins — the world’s largest — breed and molt on sea ice, chunks of frozen seawater.
  • Under the influence of the strongest El Niño in 60 years, September 2015 was a particularly stormy month in the area of Halley Bay, with heavy winds and record-low sea ice.
  • The penguins generally stayed there from April until December when their chicks fledged or had grown their feathers, but the storm occurred before the chicks were old enough.
  • Those conditions appeared to have led to the loss of about 14,500 to 25,000 eggs or chicks that first year and the colony has not rebounded.

About Emperor Penguin

  • The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica.
  • Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.
  • Its diet consists primarily of fish, but also includes crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid.
  • The only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter, emperor penguins trek 50–120 km over the ice to breeding colonies which can contain up to several thousand individuals.
  • In 2012 the emperor penguin was uplisted from a species of least concern to near threatened by the IUCN.

Halley Bay

  • Halley Research Station is an internationally important platform for global earth, atmospheric and space weather observation in a climate sensitive zone.
  • Built on a floating ice shelf in the Weddell Sea, Halley VI is the world’s first re-locatable research facility.
  • This award-winning and innovative research station provides scientists with state-of-the-art laboratories and living accommodation, enabling them to study pressing global problems from climate change and sea-level rise to space weather and the ozone hole – first discovered at Halley in 1985.
Apr, 25, 2019

Global Deal for Nature (GDN)


  • Saving the diversity and abundance of life on Earth may cost $100 billion a year, say scientists who have proposed a policy to prevent another mass extinction event on the planet.
  • There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth.

Global Deal for Nature (GDN)

  • Scientists have proposed new science policy to reverse the tide, called A Global Deal for Nature (GDN).
  • It is a time-bound, science-based plan to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth.
  • The GDN campaign is being driven by One Earth, an initiative of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation that aims to gather support from international institutions, governments, and citizens of planet Earth to support ambitious conservation goals.
  • The policy’s mission is to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth — for the price tag of $100 billion a year.

WHat would GDN do?

  • Societal investment in the GDN plan would, for the first time, integrate and implement climate and nature deals on a global scale to avoid human upheaval and biodiversity loss.
  • The study outlines the principles, milestones and targets needed to avoid the disastrous extinction threats of a two degrees Celsius global warming forecast.

Why GDN?

  • Scientists now estimate that society must urgently come to grips this coming decade to stop the very first human-made biodiversity catastrophe.


  • To protect biodiversity by conserving at least 30% of the Earth’s surface by 2030;
  • Mitigate climate change by conserving the Earth’s natural carbon storehouses; and
  • Reduce major threats.
Apr, 20, 2019

Western Disturbances


  • Under the continued influence of a western disturbance, various parts of the country received unprecedented rainfall and hailstorms few days back.

Western Disturbance

  • 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.
  • It is a non-monsoonal precipitation pattern driven by the westerlies.
  • The moisture in these storms usually originates over the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Extratropical storms are a global phenomena with moisture usually carried in the upper atmosphere, unlike their tropical counterparts where the moisture is carried in the lower atmosphere.
  • They are important for the development of the Rabi crop, which includes the locally important staple wheat.

Importance of Western Disturbances

  • The western disturbances affect weather conditions during the winter season up to Patna (Bihar) and give occasional rainfall which is highly beneficial for the standing rabi crops.
  • The arrival of these causes precipitation leading to an abrupt decrease in air temperature over North-West India.
  • Western Disturbances also bring heavy snowfall in the Himalayan Region and a cold wave to north Indian plains.
Apr, 16, 2019

[pib] Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific (RCAP) Congress


  • The 4th Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific (RCAP) Congress 2019 was organized by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).

Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific

  • RCAP is the annual global platform for urban resilience and climate change adaptation.
  • It is convened by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and co-hosted by the World Mayors Council on Climate Change and the City of Bonn.
  • It was launched in 2010 with the goal of forging partnerships and dialogues that matter.
  • The success of the series ‘Resilient Cities – The Annual Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation’ that attracts hundreds of participants to Bonn, Germany, every year since 2010 is a clear indication of how pressing the issue of adaptation and resilience is perceived among local governments worldwide.
  • The RCAP is a response to heightened demand from the Asia Pacific Region, which encouraged ICLEI to expand the congress series to include Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific, bringing the event and the focus to the Asia-Pacific region, catering to the situation, challenges and opportunities of local governments specifically in this region.
  • It aims to provide an Asian platform for urban resilience and climate change adaptation where partnerships are forged and concrete dialogues are happening, with the ultimate goal of identifying solutions and creating lasting impacts for cities in the region.
Apr, 05, 2019

Global Cooling Coalition


  • The first-ever global coalition on clean and efficient cooling was launched at the First Global Conference on Synergies between the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Global Cool Coalition

  • The Global Cool Coalition is a unified front that links action across the Kigali Amendment, Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.
  • It is expected to inspire ambition, identify solutions and mobilise action to accelerate progress towards clean and efficient cooling.
  • Besides the UN, it is supported by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL).
  • It includes government officials from Chile, Rwanda, Denmark as well as leaders from civil society, research and academia.

Need for such coalition

  • Throughout the world, 2018 was the fourth hottest year, preceded by 2017, 2015 and 2016.
  • With increasing incomes and urbanisation, number of air conditioning units across the globe is set to increase from 1.2 billion to 4.5 billion by 2050, and India alone may account for one billion units.
  • In the next 20 years, India’s cooling requirement will increase by eight times, with air conditioners alone consuming more than half of the total energy required for cooling in the country by 2037-38.
  • India has already developed a national cooling action plan that was launched by the Union environment ministry on March 8, 2019.
Apr, 01, 2019

Ocean heat hits record high: UN


Mains Paper 3: Environment| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: State of Climate Report

Mains level: Oceanic warming


  • Ocean heat hit a record high in 2018, the United Nations has said.

State of the Climate Report

  • In its latest State of the Climate overview, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reaffirmed that the last four years had been the hottest on record.
  • 2018 saw new records for ocean heat content in the upper 700 metres.
  • The UN had data for heat content in the upper 700 metres of the ocean dating back to 1955.
  • About 93 percent of excess heat — trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels – accumulates in the world’s oceans.
  • It proves what we have been saying that climate change is moving faster than our efforts to address it.

About World Meteorological Organization

  • The WMO is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 192 Member States and Territories.
  • It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), the roots of which were planted at the 1873 Vienna International Meteorological Congress.
  • Established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950, WMO became the specialised agency of the United Nations for meteorology.
  • The Secretariat, headquartered in Geneva, is headed by the Secretary-General.
Mar, 29, 2019

Arctic warming may lead to prolonged droughts: Study


Mains Paper 3: Environment| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Global warming and its impact on precipitation


Impact of arctic warming

  • Arctic warming weakens the temperature difference between the tropics and the poles, resulting in less precipitation, weaker cyclones and mid-latitude westerly wind flow.
  • This result in prolonged droughts, a study has found.
  • When those opposite temperatures are wider, the result is more precipitation, stronger cyclones and more robust wind flow.
  • However, due to the Arctic ice melting and warming up the poles, those disparate temperatures are becoming closer.

What happens when Arctic is warmer?

  • Analysis shows that, when the Arctic is warmer, the jet stream and other wind patterns tend to be weaker.
  • The temperature difference in the Arctic and the tropics is less steep.
  • The change brings less precipitation to the mid-latitudes.

What is happening right now?

  • The northern high latitudes are warming at rates that are double the global average.
  • This will decrease the equator-to-pole temperature gradient to values comparable with the early to middle Holocene Period that began 12,000 to 11,500 years ago.
Mar, 25, 2019

Rising sea levels to affect water table along Chennai’s shoreline


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Impacts of rising sea level on coastal India


  • The fragile water table in the coastal areas of Chennai is under threat of severe seawater intrusion due to anticipated rise in sea levels in the next few decades.
  • There is a rise in sea level by 2mm every year based on a report by the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) under the MoEFCC.


  • The INCCA is a proposed network of scientists in India to be set up to publish peer-reviewed findings on climate change in India.
  • It was announced on 7 October 2009.
  • It would operate as a sort of Indian ‘IPCC’.

Aquifers to become saline by 2100

  • The study has forecast the impact of sea level rise on the coastal aquifer in the coming years, till 2100.
  • The increasing sea level would also force the water table along the coastline to move upwards.
  • But it would slowly replace the freshwater at the bottom of the aquifer.
  • Given the rate of increase in sea level, the water table would witness an incursion of sea water to the extent of 2-3mm every year.
  • The volume of fresh water would gradually reduce in the coastal areas due to climate change-induced sea level rise.

Why this sudden threat?

  • Rapid urbanisation and indiscriminate drawal have already led to salt water intrusion in areas from the Adyar river to Palavakkam.
  • Residents are heavily dependent on other resources, including private water tankers.
  • The water table along ECR is fragile as it is surrounded by the sea, the Adyar river, the Buckingham canal and the backwaters of Muttukadu.

Way Forward

  • It is imperative to change the land-use pattern along the shoreline to tackle the impact of climate change.
  • Only minimal groundwater extraction through open wells must be allowed and water pumped in localities along the shoreline must be replenished through rainwater harvesting.
  • Large residential complexes must adopt other measures like permeable pavements.
Mar, 25, 2019

Urban areas cooler than non-urban regions during heat waves


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Urbanization, their problems & remedies

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Urban Heat Island Effect

Mains level: Impact of Heat waves


  • A study of 89 urban areas in India has found that though there is an absolute increase in temperature during heat waves in both urban and non-urban areas, the urban areas are relatively cooler than the surrounding non-urban areas.

Urban areas Heat lesser

  • At 1.94°C, the absolute increase in temperature during the day in non-urban areas during a heat wave was significantly higher than in urban areas (0.14°C).
  • According to the analysis, urban areas were found to be relatively cooler than the surrounding non-urban areas during heat waves.
  • At 44.5°C, the non-urban areas were warmer than urban areas (43.7°C).
  • However, during the night, all urban areas were hotter than the surrounding non-urban areas.
  • This result was quite unexpected.


  • The urban areas witness less temperature increase during heat waves compared with non-urban areas due to significantly higher tree cover and more number of water bodies.
  • In contrast, a majority of non-urban areas are located in agriculture-dominated regions.
  • In non-urban areas, the vegetation cover in the form of crops and soil moisture from cropland irrigation decline sharply after crops are harvested and well before the onset of heat waves during summer.
  • The urban areas, on the other hand, have perennial vegetation in the form of tree cover and lawns, and more number of water bodies, which help in keeping the urban areas relatively cooler than non-urban areas.


Urban Heat Island Effect

An urban heat island (UHI) is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. This effect is known as Urban Heat Island effect.

Causes of UHI Effect

  • Heavy vehicular and industrial pollution in urban areas.
  • Discharge of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in substantial amounts, which trap the outgoing infrared radiations.
  • Tall buildings and other infrastructure which obstruct the flow of wind, consequently obstructing the transfer of heat.
  • Lack of vegetation which can act as both heat and carbon sink.
  • Majority of urban surfaces are composed of metal, glass, concrete or asphalt. These materials have high heat retaining capacity during the day and emit this heat out during the night.
  • The inability of water to penetrate the above materials, makes the urban landscape behave as a desert landscape.
Mar, 16, 2019

Honey as a biomarker for pollution


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Biomarkers

Mains level: Utility of biomarkers in pollution assessment


  • Honey from urban areas can be used as biomarker to identify polluted localities, according to a study conducted by Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical research (PCIGR).

What is a Biomarker?

  • A Biomarker is defined as a change in biological response, ranging from molecular through cellular and physiological responses to behavioral changes, which can be related to exposure to or toxic effects of environmental chemicals.

Honey as bio-marker

  • The honey samples, analysed for the study, were collected from six geographical areas within Vancouver, including urban, industrial, residential and agricultural.
  • From these samples, the scientists tested for three major elements — Lead, Zinc, Copper.
  • The results showed that areas with heavy vehicle movement and industrial activity had increased concentration of lead in honey.
  • On the other hand, samples from agricultural land indicated high levels of manganese, which researchers suspect could be because of pesticide use.
  • Since the honey bee collects nectar from within a range of three to four kilometers, it is easy to point the source for its contamination.

Other biomarkers

  • Similarly, another study of the aquatic plant called water hyacinth, or Eichhornia crassipes, found that these can be used as biomarkers.
  • This plant is commonly found in tropical countries and is known for its ability to absorb nutrients and other elements from water.
  • The stems and leaves, have been successfully used as indicators of heavy metal pollution in tropical countries.
  • The uptake of heavy metals in this plant is stronger in the roots than in the floating shoots, states the study.
Mar, 15, 2019

Climate Vulnerability Index for India on the anvil


Mains Paper 3: Environment| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Index

Mains level: Impact of climate change on Himalayan States


  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be commissioning a study to assess the climate risks faced by States in India.
  • This follows an assessment of the global warming risks faced by 12 Himalayan States.

Climate Vulnerability Index

  • Last year the IIT at Mandi and Guwahati, and the IISc Bengaluru, coordinated with authorities of 12 Himalayan states to evolve a common methodology, and determine how districts there are equipped to deal with the vagaries of climate change.
  • The researchers prepared a ‘vulnerability index’ of each of these States based on district-level data.
  • Vulnerability would be a measure of the inherent risks a district faces, primarily by virtue of its geography and socio-economic situation.
  • The eight key parameters included: percentage of area in districts under forests, yield variability of food grain, population density, female literacy rate, infant mortality rate, percentage of population below poverty line (BPL), average man-days under MGNREGA and the area under slope > 30%.

Ranking of the states

  • On a scale ranging 0-1, 1 indicating the highest possible level of vulnerability, at the top of the scale were Assam with a score of 0.72 and Mizoram at 0.71, whereas Sikkim, with an index score of 0.42 was relatively less vulnerable.
  • This doesn’t mean that States with a lower score are safe in an absolute sense.
  • In fact, some districts in Uttarakhand [at 0.45 and at the lower end of the scale] are more vulnerable than those in Assam.

Different factors

  • Different factors contributed to a State’s vulnerability.
  • In Arunachal Pradesh, the key factors are low female literacy and high percentage of population above BPL whereas in Nagaland the key issues are loss of forest cover, steep slope and high yield variability.
Mar, 14, 2019

[op-ed snap]India could save trillions in healthcare costs if Paris climate goals are met: Global Environmental Outlook


Mains Paper 3: Environment| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Environment Outlook, Lancet Health Report

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues of steps needed to be taken to deal with challenge of Climate Change



India could save at least $3 trillion (₹210 trillion approx.) in healthcare costs if it implemented policy initiatives consistent with ensuring that the globe didn’t heat up beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century, says the sixth edition of the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO), prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme.

India’s Record in Environment programme

  • India’s stated commitment is to lower emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% compared to 2005 levels by 2030; increase total cumulative electricity generation from fossil free energy sources to 40% by 2030, and create additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons through additional forest and tree cover.
  • India is on track to achieve two of these goals — of emissions intensity and electricity generation — according to independent climate-watch site Climate Tracker.

Need for Further steps to be taken

  • However these actions are only enough — and provided other countries too live up to their commitments — to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees.
  • For India to leapfrog onto a 1.5-degree pathway it would have to “abandon plans to build new coal-fired power plants.
  • The landmark Paris Agreement of 2015 aims to keeping a global temperature rise this century well to “…below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
  • However there has been limited progress by countries since then in committing to greenhouse gas emissions cut since then.

Suggestion by Reports

  • The GEO report, made public Wednesday, for its assessment on health benefits to India relied on a modelling study by group of scientists and published by Lancet Planetary Health in March 2018.
  • The report advises adopting less-meat intensive diets, and reducing food waste in both developed and developing countries, would reduce the need to increase food production by 50% to feed the projected 9-10 billion people on the planet in 2050. At present, 33% of global edible food is wasted, and 56% of waste happens in industrialised countries.




Mar, 14, 2019

Global Environmental Outlook Report 2019


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: GEO Report

Mains Level: Read the attached story 


  • Human activities are degrading the global environment at a pace that could endanger the “ecological foundations of society” and human health, according to a landmark United Nations report.

Global Environment Outlook (GEO) 2019

  1. The GEO is often referred to as UN Environment’s flagship environmental assessment.
  2. The first publication was in 1997 and was originally requested by Member States.
  3. It is a flagship report because it fulfills the core functions of the organization, which date back to the UN General Assembly resolution that established the UNEP in 1972.
  4. The report is the sixth and is the UN’s most comprehensive report on the state of the global environment since the fifth edition in 2012.
  5. It is a consultative and participatory process to:
  • prepare an independent assessment of the state of the environment,
  • effectiveness of the policy response to address these environmental challenges and
  • possible pathways to be achieve various internationally agreed environmental goals.

Highlights of the report

Child Mortality

  • Air pollution remains a major public health problem as the main environmental contributor to disease around the globe.
  • It results in 6 million to 7 million premature deaths and losses of $5 trillion each year.

Species Extinction

  • Species extinction rates also continue to increase at a pace that could compromise Earth’s ability to meet human needs, the report says.
  • Among invertebrates, 42% of land dwellers, 34% of freshwater species and 25% of marine species are at risk of extinction.

Health emergencies

  • The GEO compiles a litany of pollution-related health emergencies.
  • It said that poor environmental conditions “cause approximately 25% of global disease and mortality” — around 9 million deaths in 2015 alone.
  • Lacking access to clean drinking supplies, 1.4 million people die each year from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and parasites linked to pathogen-riddled water and poor sanitation.

Food Waste

  • Thirty-three percent of edible food is wasted worldwide, with more than half thrown out in industrialized nations, the report says.
  • Food waste for instance, which accounts for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions, could be slashed.
  • The report depicts a growing chasm between rich and poor countries as rampant overconsumption, pollution and food waste in the developed world leads to hunger, poverty and disease elsewhere.
Feb, 27, 2019

[op-ed snap] Smart farming in a warm world


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Climate change threat to Indian agriculture and moving towards climate resilient agri practices.



Many areas are facing drought in recent years like Bundelkhand. There is a need to introduce alternatives.

Changes in rainfall and weather and it’s impact

  • Bundelkhand was once blessed with over 800-900 mm rainfall annually, but over the last seven years, it has seen this halved, with rainy days reported to be down to just 24 on average in the monsoon period.
  • There is hardly any greenery in many villages, making it difficult for farmers to even maintain cattle.
  • Hailstorm has been destroying crop in recent years, with the arhar crop failing completely in 2015. Farmers are increasingly abandoning their lands and heading to nearby towns to find work as labourers.

Vulnerability due to Monsoon

  • India is fortunate to have the monsoon, but it is also uniquely vulnerable to rising temperatures, with the country ranked 14th on the Global Climate Risk Index 2019.
  • The country has over 120 million hectares suffering from some form of degradation.
  • According to one estimate, they may face a 24-58% decline in household income and 12-33% rise in household poverty through exacerbated droughts.
  • With rain-fed agriculture practised in over 67% of our total crop area, weather variability can lead to heavy costs, especially for coarse grains (which are mostly grown in rain-fed areas).
  • A predicted 70% decline in summer rains by 2050 would devastate Indian agriculture.
  • Within 80 years, our kharif season could face a significant rise in average temperatures (0.7-3.3°C) with rainfall concomitantly impacted, and potentially leading to a 22% decline in wheat yield in the rabi season, while rice yield could decline by 15%.


  • Promotion of conservation farming and dryland agriculture, with each village provided with timely rainfall forecasts, along with weather-based forewarnings regarding crop pests and epidemics in various seasons, is necessary.
  • Our agricultural research programmes need to refocus on dryland research, with adoption of drought-tolerant breeds that could reduce production risks by up to 50%.
  • A mandate to change planting dates, particularly for wheat, should be considered, which could reduce climate change induced damage by 60-75%,
  • There needs to be an increase in insurance coverage and supply of credit. Insurance coverage should be expanded to cover all crops, while interest rates need to be subsidised, through government support and an expanded Rural Insurance Development Fund.

Loss of forest land

  • India is estimated to have lost over 26 million hectares of forest land and 20 million hectares of grasslands/shrublands between 1880 and 2013.
  • , insufficient coordination between the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) has led to institutional apathy towards alarming air pollution levels in the metros.
  • India hosts over 172 globally threatened species, primarily in reserve forests where they have little meaningful protection against wildlife crime and forest protection, given limited budgets for anti-poaching.

Reforming IFS

  • The Indian Forest Service would also benefit from restructuring, in order to make it equivalent to the police and the army, albeit in the environmental domain.
  • State-of-the-art training to its personnel must be provided, and specialisation should be encouraged in wildlife, tourism and protection for new recruits.
  • Deputations from other services will no longer do; this needs to remain a specialised service.
  • heritage towns should be given more attention — cities like Sawai Madhopur, Bharatpur, Chikmagalur and Jabalpur, which are adjacent to national parks and sanctuaries, need to be converted into green smart cities with upgraded waste recycling processes.
  • The Van Dhan Yojana, as adopted by the State government in Rajasthan, can be scaled up towards building a green mission to save our non-protected forests (outside the existing national parks and sanctuaries).

Way forward

  • Prudent investments and policy reform can help make India resilient to climate change.
  • Any adaptation to ongoing climate change will require that climate justice.
  • This is not a blame game — this can be induced by expansion of joint research and development partnerships (like the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center), pairing India’s emerging smart cities with green cities in the West.
  • India needs to decarbonise, there is no doubt about that. But the West needs to pay its bills too.


Feb, 05, 2019

A third of Hindu Kush Himalaya glaciers will melt by 2100


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Changes in critical geographical features including water-bodies & ice-caps

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hindukush Range

Mains level: Impact of global warming on Himalayas


  • Two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers, the world’s “Third Pole”, could melt by 2100 if global emissions are not reduced, scientists warned in a major new study.

Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment

  1. The ‘Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment’ is released by the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
  2. It provides insights into changes affecting one of the greatest mountain systems in the world.
  3. At least a third of the ice in the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush will melt down this century as temperatures rise, disrupting river flows vital for growing crops from China to India.
  4. And even if the “most ambitious” Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5° C is achieved, one-third of the glaciers would go, says the report.

Findings of the report

  1. Even if efforts are made to limit global warming to 1.5̊C by the end of the Century, the Hindu Kush Himalaya will warm by around 1.8 ̊C, the report has found.
  2. The warming will at least be 0.7 ̊C higher in the northwest Himalaya and Karakoram region.
  3. The HKH will warm more than the global mean and more rapidly at higher elevations.
  4. Even the most ambitious goal set by the Paris Agreement to limit global warming would lead to a 2.1 spike in temperature in the HKH region leading to melting of one-third of the region’s glaciers.
  5. It also points out that the Tibetan Plateau, Central Himalayan Range and Karakoram will warm more than the HKH average.

About Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH)

  1. HKH region covers 3500 kms across eight countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.
  2. It is the source of ten major river basins including the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus in India.
  3. Two billion people are dependent on the HKH for their water needs across Asia.
  4. Glaciers in the HKH region are a critical water source for some 250 million people in the mountains as well as to 1.65 billion others in the river valleys below.
Feb, 01, 2019

What’s causing extreme cold in US Midwest


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of World’s Physical Geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Polar Vortex

Mains level: Polar Vortex


  • A record-breaking cold wave has swept through the US Midwest, with 22 states hitting sub-zero temperatures.
  • The extreme cold has been caused by a blast of Arctic air, which in turn is a result of what is known as a “polar vortex” event.

Polar Vortex

  1. It is described as a whirling cone of low pressure over the poles that is strongest in the winter months due to the increased temperature contrast between the polar regions and the mid-latitudes, such as the US and Europe.
  2. The counter-clockwise flow of air helps keep the colder air near the poles.
  3. It spins in the stratosphere, a layer of the atmosphere 10-48 km above the ground and above the troposphere, where most familiar weather patterns develop.
  4. Usually, when the vortex is strongest, cold air is less-likely to plunge deep into North America or Europe.
  5. In other words, it forms a wall that protects the mid-latitudes from cold Arctic air.

When does the polar vortex cause extreme cold?

  1. In winter, the polar vortex sometimes becomes less stable and expands.
  2. Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, the vortex expands, sending cold air southward with the jet stream.
  3. This is called as the “breaking off” of a part of the vortex.
  4. Normally, when the vortex is strong and healthy, it helps keep a current of air known as the jet stream traveling around the globe in a pretty circular path.
  5. This current keeps the cold air up north and the warm air down south.
  6. But without that strong low-pressure system, the jet stream doesn’t have much to keep it in line. It becomes wavy and rambling.

Is all cold weather the result of a polar vortex event?

  1. Though the polar vortex is always hanging out up North, it takes pretty “unusual conditions” for it to “weaken” for it to migrate far south.
  2. Portions of Europe and Asia also experience cold surges connected to the polar vortex.
  3. By itself, the only danger to humans is the magnitude of how cold temperatures will get when the polar vortex expands, sending Arctic air southward into areas that are not typically that cold.
Feb, 01, 2019

How will global warming affect El Niño in the 21st Century?


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of World’s Physical Geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: El Nino, La Nino and ENSO

Mains level: Impact of El-Nino



  1. El Niño is the largest climate phenomenon that occurs frequently, producing droughts, floods, wildfires, dust and snow storms, fish kill, and even elevated risks of civil conflicts.
  2. The theatre of action for El Niño is the tropical Pacific Ocean but its global reach costs the global community tens of billions of dollars each time.

Why study El Nino occurrence?

  1. El Niños occur every two-to-seven years, with very strong El Niño’s occurring about every 15 years.
  2. How the frequency, time and strength between two events will change because of global warming remains a grand challenge for climate models.
  3. This also impacts projections of future climate since El Niños redistribute the heat gathered by the ocean between two El Niño events to cause a mini global warming.

Measuring El Nino

  1. El Niño is measured by an index that averages sea surface temperature anomalies over the central-eastern tropical Pacific.
  2. This has been an issue in finding a consensus among models as far as the El Niño response to global warming is concerned.
  3. But by using a model-specific El Niño index to make room for the inter-model differences, the latest projection shows that strong El Niños and extreme weather events associated.
  4. The results should serve as a warning to countries on all continents that suffer from these extreme weather events during strong El Niño events such as the ones during 1982-83, 1997-98 and 2015-16.

Major Caveats

  1. The first caveat is that the eagerly-awaited winter rain and snow storms over California did not occur over California during the latest extreme El Niño.
  2. It is thus unclear if global warming is already affecting El Niño and its remote impacts.
  3. Secondly, the models used for making future projections have not stood the test of time for their depiction of El Niño during the 20th century.

Lack of consensus

  1. Some models warm the eastern tropical Pacific more than the west while others produce a faster warming in the west.
  2. Whether the east warms faster or the west has serious consequences for global warming itself since the cold eastern Pacific soaks up a lot of heating from the atmosphere.
  3. A slower warming of the east would imply more heat uptake by the ocean and a slower global warming.

Data insufficient

  1. Available data is not sufficient to say with confidence how the tropical Pacific has responded to global warming till now.
  2. All available evidences indicates that El Niño is highly variable and its variability depends on weather noise over the western Pacific, volcanoes, impact of phytoplankton on penetration of solar radiation into the ocean, aerosols and so on.
  3. It is unclear if the impact of global warming on El Niño can easily be extracted.

Way Forward

  1. It is imperative that models be held to very stringent standards on their performance of El Niño behaviour during historic periods for their reliability for future projections.
  2. This would also be necessary for projecting other events such as droughts and floods.
  3. For example, droughts over India are closely tied with El Niño and any projections of how droughts will respond to global warming will depend on how models perform.

Assist this newscard with:

UN sees 70% chance of El Nino event this year

Jan, 15, 2019

[op-ed snap] Where the rich got their way on the climate change convention at Katowice, Poland


Mains Paper 3: Environment| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics aspects of COP24 and Climate Finance.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues of climate change discussed in COP-24 of the UNFCCC, held at Katowice in Poland, in a brief manner.


  • The 24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held at Katowice in Poland, brings little cheer on the climate front for developing countries.
  • With the passage of the “rulebook” for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the developed countries have largely succeeded in establishing a global climate regime that gives them the strategic advantage and assuages some of their core concerns.
  • This signals the making of a new, contradictory situation where the scope and complexity of the regime are fundamentally at odds with the very purpose for which the regime has been constructed.


  • At the heart of this strategic success is the substantial rollback of differentiation between the global North and South in climate action.
  • The first step of this process began with the Paris Agreement, when the developed nations were allowed to make voluntary commitments to climate mitigation, on par with the developing nations, without any benchmark to ensure the relative adequacy of their commitment.


Rulebook: Standards of reporting, monitoring and evaluation

  • At Katowice the process went further, with uniform standards of reporting, monitoring and evaluation for all countries.
  • These reporting requirements, while superficially impressive, appear in their true light when we realise that in their uniformity they are intended as much for Maldives as the U.S.
  • The real targets of this uniformity arenot the poorest nations, who have been provided exemptions, but the larger developing nations.
  • While all developing nations are ostensibly allowed flexibility in these reporting requirements, the concession has been hedged in with a number of conditions, with the intention of forcing them to full compliance in short order.
  • The reporting requirements are also marked by a pseudo-scientific concern for stringency, which is far in excess of the accuracy of climate science itself.
  • Indeed, the recent Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on global warming at 1.5°C estimates substantial uncertainties in the quantum of cumulative global emissions that are still allowed before the global carbon budget of the world is exhausted.
  • In the face of such uncertainty, the requirement of reporting as little as 500 kilo tonnes or 0.05% of national emissions per country has little scientific significance.
  • More pernicious is the uniformity of the stringency in reporting being expressed in percentage terms.
  • Elementary mathematics informs us that a smaller percentage of the emissions of a large emitter will be a larger quantity in absolute terms compared to the larger percentage of emissions of a small emitter.


  • The crux of the problem is the contradiction between the onerous nature of these universal rules and the total lack of initiative by the developed countries in taking the lead in climate mitigation.
  • All developed countries continue to invest in fossil fuels either through direct production or imports.
  • Some do so because of the downgrading of nuclear energy due to domestic political pressures. Others are still trying to wean themselves off coal by shifting to gas.
  • Overall, as the International Energy Agency reports, the use of fossil fuel-based electricity generation continues to rise for OECD countries.

Special Report of the IPCC

  • In the event, the dispute that broke out at COP24 over whether the Special Report of the IPCC should be welcomed or merely noted must be considered a red herring.
  • Despite the vociferous pleas of the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States for the former choice, in the absence of adequate action, such symbolic gestures are clearly of little value.
  • Indeed, the report itself appears to have been used to generate a sense of urgency in stampeding countries into approval of the “rulebook” rather than point the way to more substantial mitigation by the developed nations.
  • The Special Report, for instance, did little to inspire the developed countries to increase the quantum of climate finance as well as speeding up its delivery.

Debate surrounding Climate finance

  • It has been the long-standing argument of the developing world that the bulk of climate finance must be from public sources.
  • In contrast, the developed countries have succeeded in putting other sources of finance, including FDI and equity flows, on par in the accounting of the flow of climate assistance that developing countries need.
  • As the “rulebook” stands today, private sector flows or loans, which will increase the indebtedness of developing countries, are to be considered adequate fulfilment of developed country obligations under the UNFCCC.
  • Much of the pressure exerted by developed countries at COP24 had the active backing and instigation of the U.S.
  • Despite the public posturing by other G-8 heads of state outside the climate summits, the marked synergy between the U.S. and its political and strategic allies in pushing through several critical elements of the “rulebook” was no secret.

India and COP24

  • India, despite its articulation of the need for equity in climate action and climate justice, failed to obtain the operationalisation of these notions in several aspects of the “rulebook”.
  • Even though it pushed for equity, particularly in the benchmarks for the periodic review of the Paris Agreement, it failed to press home its point.
  • Successive dispensations in New Delhi have fallen short of doing the needful in this regard.
  • In contrast, Brazil held its ground on matters relating to carbon trading that it was concerned about and postponed finalisation of the matter to next year’s summit.
  • Regrettably, while India has not been shy to hold out against the global nuclear order it has not extended this attitude to protecting its interests in the emerging global climate regime.
  • It is now evident that New Delhi underestimated what was at stake at Katowice and the outcome portends a serious narrowing of India’s developmental options in the future.
  • A number of environmental and climate think tanks, NGOs and movements have also done their share to disarm the government in the negotiations.
  • Buying uncritically into the climate narrative of the developed nations, they have been continually urging unilateral domestic action on moral grounds, while ignoring the elementary fact that global warming is a global collective action problem.
  • Despite the significant number of Indians at COP24, the broad articulation of India’s needs was at the lowest ebb seen in the last several years.


  • At the final plenary of COP24, the Like-Minded Developing Countries grouping echoed India’s reservations on the neglect of equity and climate justice in the final form of the “rulebook”, while the broader G77 plus China combine expressed its regret at the unbalanced nature of the outcome, with its undue emphasis on mitigation by all.
  • But with the “rulebook” nevertheless having been adopted, COP24 signals a global climate regime that benefits and protects the interests of the global rich, while leaving the climatic fate of the world, and the developmental future of a substantial section of its population, still hanging in the balance.
Jan, 04, 2019

Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: CCPI 2019

Mains Level: Performance of India in CCPI


  • The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019 recently released shows that only few countries have started working towards limiting global warming below 2°C or even at 1.5°C.

About CCPI

  1. The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) is an annual publication by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network Europe.
  2. Its aim is to put political and social pressure on those countries that have, until now, failed to take ambitious action on climate protection, and to highlight those countries with best practice climate policies.
  3. It evaluates the climate protection performance of 60 countries, responsible for over 90% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.

India’s Performance

  1. India ranks 11th in this year’s CCPI, improving its standing by three places compared to the previous edition.
  2. Most notably India improved its performance in the Renewable Energy category, joining the group of medium
  3. However, national experts argue that plans to build new coal-fired power plants may pose a risk of offsetting positive developments in the renewable energy sector.
  4. Comparatively low levels of per capita GHG emissions and a relatively ambitious mitigation target for 2030 give India an overall high rating in the emissions category.

Global Performance

  1. Morocco has been named the second best performing country after Sweden in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).
  2. With the connection of the world’s largest solar plant to the grid, Morocco is on track for achieving its target of 42% installed renewable energy capacities by 2020.
  3. Sweden is in top position, followed by Morocco and Lithuania in the CCPI 2019.
  4. The bottoms five in the list are Saudi Arabia, U.S., Iran, South Korea and Taiwan.
Dec, 26, 2018

NE and Himalayan states stare at climate risk


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Highlights of the report

Mains Level: Sustainable development and conservation of Himalayan region


  • All the 12 Himalayan states in India are extremely vulnerable to global warming with Assam, Mizoram and J&K topping the list says a report.

Climate Vulnerability Assessment

  1. The report titles ‘Climate Vulnerability Assessment for the Indian Himalayan Region Using a Common Framework’.
  2. It is submitted by IIT Mandi and IIT Guwahati in collaboration with IISc Bangalore presents a chilling vulnerability map and assessment for the Indian Himalayan Region.
  3. The study is based on four broad indicators in each state:
  • Economic and sociological status of the people and their health,
  • Possible impact on agriculture production,
  • Forest-dependent livelihoods
  • Access to information services and infrastructure.
  1. States having low per capita income, low area under irrigation and low area under forests per 1,000 households and high area under open forests received a high vulnerability score.
  2. Assam has the least area under irrigation, least forest area available per 1,000 rural households and the second lowest per capita income among the other IHR states, and thus scores the highest vulnerability score.

Prospects of the report

  1. The Himalayan ecosystem is vital to India’s ecological and economic security.
  2. Himalayan communities have a large dependency on climate-sensitive sectors such as rain-fed agriculture and have a fragile mountain ecosystem.
  3. The communities have limited livelihood options and experience higher marginalization because physical infrastructure is limited and there is a high dependence on natural resources.
  4. Under changing and variable climate such constraints are likely to add to the vulnerability of Himalayan communities.

Policy Measures

  1. In response to the serious threats posed by climate change to the development process and the limitations, the Centre has a  National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem.
  2. Recently NITI Aayog has constituted the ‘Himalayan State Regional Council’ to ensure sustainable development of the Indian Himalayan region.
Dec, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] What’s in climate change Rulebook


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rulebook for implementing Paris Agreement

Mains level:  Outcomes of COP-24


The quest for a global Rulebook

  1. During the weekend, the global fight against climate change reached another milestone when negotiators from 196 countries finalised a rulebook for the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  2. The finalization paves the way for implementation of the Paris Agreement, which is supposed to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol in 2020.
  3. The creation of the rulebook has been hailed as an important step that has breathed life into the Paris Agreement.
  4. At the same time, several countries and nongovernmental organisations have said the deal reached in Katowice, though welcome, was not enough.

The Rulebook

  1. The rulebook contains various other processes and guidelines needed for implementing the other provisions of the Paris Agreement.
  2. In short, it holds the operational details of the Paris Agreement.

What is in the Rulebook?

  1. Broadly, the Paris Agreement, which seeks to keep the global average temperatures “well below” 2°C from pre-industrial times, specifies what steps countries need to take in the fight against climate change.
  2. The rulebook prescribes how to do those things, and how each of them would be measured and verified.
  3. For example, the Paris Agreement says every country must have a climate action plan, and that this should be periodically updated and submitted to the UN climate body.
  4. The rulebook now specifies what actions can be included in the action plan, how and when to submit them.
  5. Further, the Paris Agreement asks every member nation to submit information about their greenhouse gas emissions every two years.
  6. The rulebook specifies which gases to measure, what methodologies and standards to apply while measuring them, and the kinds of information to be included in their submissions.

Climate Finance: A crucial element of Rulebook

  1. Again, under the Paris Agreement, developed countries are supposed to provide “climate finance” to developing countries to help them deal with climate change, and submit an account of this.
  2. The rulebook says what kinds of financial flows — loans, concessions, grants — can be classified as climate finance, how they should be accounted for, and the kind of information about them needed to be submitted.

Was Katowice only about the rulebook?

  1. It was primarily about the rulebook.
  2. But a few other discussions had also become important.
  3. The current level of climate actions was insufficient to hold the global average temperature within 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Lack of Ambition & Spat over IPCC report

  1. The special report of the IPCC on the feasibility of attaining a 1.5°C target, which had come out weeks ahead of the Katowice meeting, had added urgency to the discussions.
  2. It was expected that the countries would give some indication of their willingness to do more that what they were currently committed to, and would agree to start a process towards that.
  3. But that did not happen.
  4. Instead, an ugly battle was fought over how to acknowledge the IPCC report, which had been requested by this same conference three years ago, in the final outcome.

Has the rulebook addressed all issues it was meant to look at?

  1. One important element could not be agreed upon and had to be deferred for until next year.
  2. This relates to Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which talks about setting up a market mechanism for trading of carbon emissions.
  3. An emission trading system already exists under the Kyoto Protocol, though it has become ineffective over the last few years and is meant to end with the end of Kyoto Protocol in 2020.
  4. A carbon market allows countries, or industries, to earn carbon credits for the emission reductions they make in excess of what is required of them.
  5. These carbon credits can be traded to the highest bidder in exchange of money. The buyers of carbon credits can show the emission reductions as their own and use them to meet their own reduction targets.

Unused Carbon Credits

  1. In the last few years, as several countries walked out of the Kyoto Protocol, and no country was feeling compelled to meet its 2020 emission reduction targets, there has been virtually no demand for carbon credits.
  2. As a result, developing countries like China, India and Brazil have accumulated huge amounts of unused carbon credits.
  3. Together, China and Brazil are estimated to account for about 70% of global unused carbon credits.
  4. When the rulebook was being discussed in Katowice, these countries argued that their unused carbon credits should be considered valid in the new market mechanism that was being created, something that the developed countries opposed strongly.

Negligence by Developed Countries

  1. The developed countries questioned the authenticity of the unused carbon credits, pointing to weak verification mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol that allowed dubious projects to claim carbon credits.
  2. The developed countries also argued that some of the proposals being put forward by Brazil for the carbon markets would lead to double-counting of emission reductions.

Procrastination: The ultimate Option

  1. With no side willing to concede ground, there was no option but to defer the discussion over carbon markets to next year, while allowing for the rest of the rulebook to be finalised.
  2. The fact that no side was ready for a compromise, and preferred to reengage at some other time, is an indication of the importance that countries are attaching to the new emission trading system, and their high stakes in that market.
  3. The reemergence of the carbon market could be the next big thing to watch out for in the climate space.

Hits & Misses: Takeaways from COP24

Article 4: Pledges
Article 4 of the 2015 Paris Agreement mandates nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by countries.

Article 6: Carbon markets
Article 6 covers voluntary carbon markets.

Article 9: Climate finance
Developed countries are supposed to provide climate finance to developing countries to help deal with climate change, and submit an account of this.

Dec, 17, 2018

[pib] Outcome of 24th Session of Conference of Parties


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: COP 24

Mains level:  India fulfilling its ambitious climate actions


  • The 24th Session of the of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 24) was held in Katowice, Poland on 02nd– 15th December 2018.
  • During the COP, nations overcame divisions to agree global climate pact rules for limiting temperature rise to below 2°Celsius
  • However Indian participants are disappointed with the outcome.

Key issues under focus

  1. Finalization of guidelines/ modalities/ rules for the implementation of Paris Agreement
  2. The conclusion of 2018 Facilitative Talanoa Dialogue
  3. Stocktake of Pre-2020 actions implementation and ambition

Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC)

  1. The guidance on Nationally Determined Contributions preserves the determined nature of NDCs and provides for Parties to submit different types of contributions including adaptation.
  2. The guidance on adaptation recognizes the needs of developing countries and is built on the overarching principle of CBDR-RC.

Enhanced Transparency Framework

  1. India has been in favor of a robust transparency regime, and the finalized Enhanced Transparency Framework builds upon the existing guidelines while providing flexibilities for developing countries.
  2. The guidance on finance provisions operationalize the obligation of developed countries in providing means of implementation to developing countries.
  3. It recognizes the need for climate finance to be new and additional and climate specific.
  4. The framework for technology recognizes the need for enhanced support towards operationalization of the framework and comprehensively covers all stages of technology development and transfer.

Outstanding issues

  1. Key questions on whether developed countries would come good on earlier commitments to make available $100 billion annually by 2020 remained unsolved.
  2. Moreover, a fundamental tenet — that developed countries and developing countries have ‘differentiated’ responsibilities towards addressing global greenhouse gas emissions — appeared to be threatened

Issue over Global Stocktake (GST)

  1. The GST refers to a periodic appraisal by countries on where the world stands vis-à-vis emissions and what more needs to be done.
  2. This would form the basis for countries taking the call on increasing their emission cuts.
  3. The global stocktake will provide countries with the basis for strengthening their actions and submitting new national climate commitments in the two years following each successive global stocktake.
  4. Equity is specifically mentioned in Article 14 of the Paris Agreement. It is the basic principle of the Convention and the Paris Agreement.
  5. The entire GST exercise is lopsided as the process of technical assessment does not fully address equity.

Carbon credits again ignored

  1. There is the outstanding issue of what happens to carbon credits.
  2. These are essentially carbon emissions that would normally have gone into the atmosphere but were prevented, due to alternate, cleaner alternatives adopted by developing countries.
  3. Developed countries are expected to pay for such credits via market-based trading mechanisms but these have been dismantled because of concerns over whether these reductions were real and measurable.
  4. The countries are not willing to find a solution to this as it has been postponed once again.

Agendas under COP-24

[pib] 24th meeting of Conference of Parties (COP-24) to begin

Dec, 15, 2018

[op-ed snap] Farming in a warming world


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Climate change threat to Indian agriculture and moving towards climate resilient agri practices


Climate aberrations

  1. The pervasiveness of climatic aberrations and the associated socio-economic vulnerability are now widely recognised and experienced across the globe
  2. The Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on “Global Warming at 1.5°C” distinctly propagates the need to strengthen and enhance existing coping capacity and to remain committed to the objectives of the Paris Agreement
  3. The report establishes that the world has become 1°C warmer because of human activities, causing a greater frequency of extremes and obstruction to the normal functioning of ecosystems
  4. India, with its diverse agro-climatic settings, is one of the most vulnerable countries

Impact on India’s agriculture & climate

  1. India’s s agriculture ecosystem, distinguished by high monsoon dependence, and with 85% small and marginal landholdings, is highly sensitive to weather abnormalities
  2. There has been less than normal rainfall during the last four years, with 2014 and 2015 declared as drought years
  3. Even the recent monsoon season (June-September) ended with a rainfall deficit of 9%, which was just short of drought conditions
  4. Research is also confirming an escalation in heat waves, in turn affecting crops, aquatic systems and livestock
  5. The Economic Survey 2017-18 has estimated farm income losses between 15% and 18% on average, which could rise to 20%-25% for unirrigated areas without any policy interventions

Moving towards climate resilient agriculture

There is a need to foster the process of climate adaptation in agriculture, which involves reshaping responses across both the micro- and macro-level decision-making culture

  • Micro-level interventions
  1. At the micro-level, traditional wisdom, religious epics and various age-old notions about weather variations still guide farmers’ responses, which could be less effective
  2. Corroborating these with climate assessments and effective extension and promoting climate resilient technologies will enhance their pragmatism
  3. Climate exposure can be reduced through agronomic management practices such as inter and multiple cropping and crop-rotation; shift to non-farm activities; insurance covers; up-scaling techniques such as solar pumps, drip irrigation and sprinklers
  4. There is an urgent need to educate farmers, reorient Krishi Vigyan Kendras and other grass-root organisations with specific and more funds about climate change and risk-coping measures
  • Macro-level interventions
  1. At the macro-level, climate adaptations are to be mainstreamed in the current developmental framework (which is still at a nascent stage, as acknowledged in the Economic Survey 2017-18)
  2. Though programmes of the government document the likely consequences of climate change, they lack systematic adaptation planning and resource conservation practices
  3. Mainstreaming adaptation into the policy apparatus has the potential to improve the resilience of several development outcomes
  4. The approach demands coherence across multiple policy scales as required for developing possible synergy between micro-macro levels and addressing several cross-cutting issues

Major interventions

  1. Expansion of extension facilities, improving irrigation efficiency, promotion of satellite-enabled agriculture risk management, creating micro-level agro-advisories, providing customised real-time data, and capacity building of stakeholders are some initiatives towards building greater resilience in agriculture
  2. Interventions such as the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil Heath Card, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Agriculture Market, or e-NAM, and other rural development programmes are positive interventions that can address the vulnerability of farmers and rural households
  3. There are also exclusive climate and adaptation schemes being operationalised, such as the National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA), the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), the National Adaptation Fund, and the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC)
  4. It is desirable to have a cultural change wherein some of the components under these schemes can be converged with major rural developmental programmes, which will further enhance their effectiveness at the grass-root level

Way forward

  1. A convergence of climate actions with ongoing efforts and several Central schemes with similar mandates is a must
  2. Greater expertise and consultations are required for a systematic prioritisation of actions and fiscal prudence for building climate resilient agriculture
Dec, 13, 2018

[op-ed snap] Energy efficiency and climate change


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need of moving towards energy efficiency


Climate change concerns

  1. The impact of climate change is being felt by everybody and everywhere
  2. Extreme weather conditions, air pollution, crop failure, biodiversity losses, and much more are affecting both human health and natural wealth
  3. More than 70% of India’s population is exposed to outdoor air pollution, which has contributed to one in eight deaths and has reduced the average life expectancy of Indians by nearly two years
  4. The cost of not addressing global warming today would far exceed the expense of addressing it in the future

Role of energy sector & focus on the reduction of fossil fuel usage

  1. Energy production and consumption remains the largest contributor of global carbon emissions and greenhouse gas
  2. Although global investments in renewable energy has increased rapidly in recent years, its share in the global stock of energy is still very small
  3. Carbon pricing has attracted more attention in recent years, as it goes to the source of the problem and puts a price on carbon pollution as a means of bringing down emissions
  4. It shifts energy investments towards cleaner options by making fossil fuels more expensive relative to low-carbon fuels, and renewable energy
  5. Besides carbon-pricing reforms, a package of additional interventions is needed to internalize externalities that are much more significant in developing countries compared to advanced countries and play an import role in increasing energy efficiency

Need for energy efficiency

  1. It is estimated that nearly 70% of the global carbon emissions could be reduced by increasing energy efficiency
  2. Many quick wins on energy efficiency that have been overlooked in the past can be given a bigger seat at the table, including energy efficiency in the kitchen, residential buildings, industries, transport, utilities, and energy labelling
  3. Increasing energy efficiency is also a prerequisite for most developing countries for preparing them to move towards more expensive energy system needed to deal with carbon capture and storage, and other technology solutions

India’s performance in energy efficiency

  1. India’s energy intensity has declined during the last decade
  2. China’s energy intensity is roughly 1.5 times that of India
  3. Cities and urban settings increase energy efficiency and reduce the cost of electricity use per output level because of denser customer bases and more efficient plant sizes for local energy producers
  4. However, large industrial enterprises in India are moving away from cities and opening plants in rural areas to remain competitive
  5. Rising spatial disparities in energy efficiency within India is a worrying trend
  6. Developed states in India have improved energy efficiency. But electricity usage per unit of output is twice the level in lagging states compared to leading states
  7. There remains a huge potential for energy efficiency gains in most industries, ranging from 46-88% in the textile industry to 43-94% in paper and pulp industry, to 51-92% in the iron and steel industry

Measures required

  1. Energy efficiency gain policy will need to go beyond industries and enter our kitchen, buildings and transport
  2. Energy policy will also need to focus much more on rural regions that are the future drivers of growth
  3. Up to half of the global annual emissions could be reduced through more efficient use of energy in kitchens, residential buildings and transport

Way forward

  1. Improved energy efficiency is a win-win for everybody
  2. Energy-efficiency planning is prevalent globally, but the quality of targets and specifications could be improved
  3. There is a big market potential for scaling up energy efficiency through green mortgage, green bonds, tax incentives, credit lines with banks for energy efficiency activities, and public-private partnerships in energy sector investments
Dec, 06, 2018

Accounting methods of climate fund questioned


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level:  Assessing developed countries ambitious climate actions


  • The Finance Ministry has issued a ‘discussion paper’ that has criticized the accounting methods used by developed countries to report how much money they have given, so far, to developing countries to address climate change.

Accounting methods under lens

  1. Accounting procedures, regarding the flow of climate finance, is one of the most controversial issues being debated at COP Katowice, Poland.
  2. Countries have gathered to agree upon a ‘Rule Book’ to implement the Paris Agreement of 2015, that commits countries to ensure the earth doesn’t warm 2C beyond pre-industrial levels.

Not delivering their Pledges

  1. In 2019, developed countries are expected to make available $100 billion annually to developing countries, according to a 2010 agreement in Cancun.
  2. In 2016, developed countries published a road map to $100 billion, which claimed that public climate finance levels had reached $41 billion per year in 2013-14.
  3. In 2015, India had disputed this figure arguing it was only $ 2.2 billion.
  4. The 2017 numbers also tell a similar story. Only around 12% of total pledges to climate funds have actually materialized into disbursements.

Discontent over meager Climate Funds

  1. India has argued that the definition of climate finance in the UNFCCC has remained “imprecise and incomplete.”
  2. There was no clarity on whether the developed countries’ commitment to ‘provide funds’ meant funds committed or those that made it to their intended recipients.
  3. The total pledges to the Green Climate Fund, the largest multilateral fund, were a “meagre” $10.3 billion.
  4. Further, most of the total climate finance has flowed into mitigation (a reference to preventing carbon dioxide from being emitted).
  5. The growth in the reported climate specific finance actually slowed down from 24% between 2014 and 2015 to 14% between 2015 and 2016, the paper notes, quoting a report by the finance committee of the UN that manages climate-affairs.
Dec, 05, 2018

[op-ed snap] Act together and quickly on climate change


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Council of Agricultural Research, COP24, Paris Agreement

Mains level: Various reports highlighting the impact of climate change and need of urgent measures by all nations


India’s vulnerability to climate change

  1. A recent review by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, a wing of the agriculture ministry, predicts that crops, plantations and livestock in 151 districts (one-fifth of India’s districts) are susceptible to the impact of climate change
  2. In a recent report, the United Nations highlighted that people exposed to natural hazards in the poorest nations are seven times more likely to die than a similar person in the richest nations
  3. The “protection gap” between the rich and the poor is evidently wide enough
  4. It is little wonder then that India, and even China, want to set and meet “bold and ambitious targets” under a global agreement, despite the non-participation of the US, which is the world’s second-largest carbon emitter

Challenges in achieving climate change goals

  1. Even as India strives to meet its goals, the bigger challenge remains the lack of consensus on climate action among the developing and developed countries
  2. In November, India held two meetings with like-minded developing countries to collectively make a big issue of technology transfer and climate funding from the developed world
  3. While the issue of climate funding dates back to Cancun in 2010—when rich nations first made a commitment to creating a green corpus in order to help countries like India purchase new technology—there has been little money to show eight years down the line
  4. For India to meet its national targets, and for global human-caused CO2 emissions to reach “net zero” by 2050, advanced technology to capture carbon has to be more widely available
  5. While the Paris Agreement requires that developed countries “shall provide financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation”, there is a continuing lack of clarity on the release of these funds and the modalities regarding its accountability and use

Importance of COP24

  1. The exit of the US from the Paris Agreement; a slew of recent studies which bring the window of irretrievable planetary change much closer (to 2040); and the glacial pace in effecting substantial carbon emission cuts have cast a pall of gloom
  2. COP24 is significant as it is expected to finalize guidelines for implementation of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2016
  3. The rulebook negotiations would be central to the Katowice conference, in the background of differences prevailing between developing and developed countries over its contents

India’s firm commitments

  1. India’s self-declared national target is to achieve 40% electric power generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and reduce the emission intensity of its gross domestic product by 33-35% from the 2005 level
  2. In the inaugural session of COP24 in Katowice, Poland, India reaffirmed that it is on track to meet these targets
  3. The country has also installed 72GW of renewable energy capacity
  4. The massive push towards renewable energy is a result of India’s leading role in promoting the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which pledged to generate 1,000GW of solar power capacity by 2030

Need of fulfilling UNFCCC targets

  1. If the world wants to save the poor and vulnerable who account for more than half of the world’s population, the global temperature rise has to be curtailed at 1.5 °C
  2. The next 15 years are critical for action on climate change and any delay would only render it impossible to limit the level of planetary warming to even 2°C
  3. Absolute economic losses might be concentrated in high-income countries, but the human costs of disasters would fall on low and lower-middle-income countries

Way forward

  1. The need of the hour is to strike a balance between the adaptation and mitigation, but in a manner that it does not put any additional burden on developing economies
  2. COP24 should be able to frame guidelines, which are pragmatic and gives due consideration to the challenges and priorities of developing countries—their vulnerabilities and challenges, including poverty, food security, energy access, and public health
Nov, 30, 2018

Climate Vulnerable Forum


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CVF, Jumemmej Declaration

Mains level: International collaboration against threats posed by Climate Change


  • Leaders at the Climate Vulnerable Forum called on world’s governments to raise the ambition of their climate targets by 2020 in order to save vulnerable nations threatened by warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.

About Climate Vulnerable Forum

  1. The Climate Vulnerable Forum is an international cooperation group of developing countries tackling global climate change.
  2. The CVF was founded by the Maldives government before the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which sought to increase awareness of countries considered vulnerable.
  3. United Nations agencies collaborate in implementing activities linked to the CVF with the UNDP, the lead organization supporting the forum’s work.
  4. The CVF was formed to increase the accountability of industrialized nations for the consequences of global climate change.
  5. Afghanistan, Nepal and Bhutan are its members, whereas India is one of the observer states.

World’s first Virtual Climate Summit

  1. The CVF is being held in Marshall Islands.
  2. Through the summit’s “Jumemmej Declaration”, the forum’s leaders committed to strengthening their national climate efforts by 2020 in order to pressure world governments to act.
  3. “Jumemmej” is a Marshallese word of seafaring origin calling for vigilance to keep a watch against threats.
  4. The carbon-free summit brought together leaders of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which represents many of the countries most threatened by climate change.
  5. More than 40 heads of state, government and delegation also constituted the first global gathering of leaders of nations most threatened by climate change.
Nov, 26, 2018

Scientists mull stratospheric barrier to curb global warming


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI)

Mains level: Artificial mitigations against Global Warming


Fencing Earth against Sunlight

  1. Spraying sun-dimming chemicals high above the earth to slow global warming could be remarkably inexpensive costing about $2.25 billion a year over a 15-year period, according to a study by U.S. scientists.
  2. Some researchers say the geo-engineering technique known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) could limit rising temperatures that are causing climate change.

What are Stratospheric Sulphur Aerosols?

  1. Stratospheric sulfur aerosols are sulfur-rich particles which exist in the stratosphere region of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  2. The layer of the atmosphere in which they exist is known as the Junge layer, or simply the stratospheric aerosol layer.
  3. These particles consist of a mixture of sulfuric acid and water.
  4. They are created naturally, such as by photochemical decomposition of sulfur-containing gases, e.g. carbonyl sulfide.
  5. Sulfur aerosols are common in the troposphere as a result of pollution with sulfur dioxide from burning coal, and from natural processes.
  6. Volcanoes are a major source of particles in the stratosphere as the force of the volcanic eruption propels sulfur-containing gases into the stratosphere.

Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI)

  1. Under SAI delivery of precursor sulfide gases such as sulfuric acid, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or sulfur dioxide (SO2) by artillery, aircraft and balloons has under study.
  2. This proposed method could counter most climatic changes, take effect rapidly, have very low direct implementation costs, and be reversible in its direct climatic effects.
  3. It would involve the use of huge hoses, cannons or specially designed aircraft to spray large quantities of sulphate particles into the upper layer of the atmosphere to act as a reflective barrier against sunlight.
  4. Total costs estimated to launch a hypothetical SAI effort 15 years from now would be $3.5 billion and average annual operating costs would be about $2.25 billion a year over 15 years.
  5. Discounting other methods of deployment because of cost and feasibility, the research assumes a special aircraft can be designed to fly at an altitude of about 20 km and carry a load of 25 tonnes.

Benefits of the SAI

  • Mimics a natural process
  • Technological feasibility
  • Economic and feasible Cost
  • Efficiency

Possible side effects

  • Tropospheric Ozone depletion
  • Whitening of the sky
  • Tropopause warming and the humidification of the stratosphere
  • Health effects
  • Stratospheric temperature and circulation change
Nov, 21, 2018

BASIC nations push for ‘climate finance’


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BASIC Countries

Mains level:  Importance of Finance for Green Initiatives


  • The 27th BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change in was held in New Delhi.

Reminder for Developed Countries NDCs

  1. Ahead of the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) in December, Environment Ministers and top climate change negotiators from Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) convened in Delhi
  2. The countries as a group would continue to push for developed countries on their earlier commitment to providing $100 billion annually from 2020.
  3. So far only a fraction of these monies have actually been provided.

COP-24 ahead

  1. This year’s edition of the COP the 24th such meeting will see representatives from at least 190 countries, think-tanks, and activists in Katowice, Poland.
  2. Members will try to agree on a Rule Book that will specify how countries will agree to take forward commitments taken at the 21st COP in Paris in 2015.
  3. At Paris, countries had agreed to take steps to limit global warming to 2C below pre-industrial levels and “as far as possible” limit it to 1.5C before the end of the century.
  4. A key aspect to make this possible is climate finance, but countries so far aren’t agreed on what constitutes climate finance.

Importance of Finance

  1. Finance is one of the critical enablers of climate actions in developing countries along with technology development and transfer and capacity-building support.
  2. Any regression or slow progress on these will hamper the progress of developing countries towards achieving higher ambition in their actions.
  3. Public finance in the form of grants and concessional finance is required for climate actions.

Importance of Public Finance

  1. Developed countries have not fulfilled their climate finance commitments of mobilizing USD 100 billion per annum by 2020.
  2. BASIC meet encouraged developed countries to scale up their financial support and finalise a new collective finance goal to inform parties for future action through NDCs.
  3. China too said that claims on finances provided so far by the developed countries were disputable.

Way Forward

  1. In the run-up to the climate conference, India has had meetings with several countries to firm up a key plank of the forthcoming negotiations on transparency.
  2. There should be a mechanism in place for countries for reporting their emissions inventory, steps taken and how other countries could be certain that this was being done truthfully.
  3. The BASIC bats for agree-upon norms of quality and transparency.


BASIC countries

  1. The BASIC countries are a bloc of four large newly industrialized countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – formed by an agreement on 28 November 2009.
  2. The four committed to act jointly at the Copenhagen climate summit, including a possible united walk-out if their common minimum position was not met by the developed nations.
  3. This emerging geopolitical alliance, initiated and led by China, then brokered the final Copenhagen Accord with the United States.
  4. The grouping is working to define a common position on emission reductions and climate aid money, and to try to convince other countries to sign up to the Copenhagen Accord.
  5. However, in January 2010, the grouping described the Accord as merely a political agreement and not legally binding, as is argued by the US and Europe.
  6. The four countries also said they will announce their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 31 January 2010 as agreed in Copenhagen.
  7. This move was apparently intended to share richer nations into increasing their funding for climate mitigation in poorer nations.
Nov, 14, 2018

Report sees climate risk from rise in Indian AC units


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Montreal Protocol, Kigali Agreement

Mains level: Prevention of use of Ozone Depleting Substances


  • By 2022, India is expected to have one-fourth of the world’s air conditioning units, and the risks to climate from this could be immense, according to a report.

Refrigerants are the most harmful

  1. The refrigerants (coolants) used for cooling are the major contributors to global warming.
  2. If left unchecked, they could cause global temperatures to rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius.
  3. A technology solution that could help to reduce the impact by one-fifth and ensure that air conditioning units use 75% less electricity is the need of hour.
  4. A technology solution would significantly reduce the burden on electricity grids and also save ₹109 trillion ($ 1.5 trillion).


  1. Hydrofluorocarbons are organic compounds containing hydrogen, Carbon, and fluorine.
  2. They are commonly used as substitutes for Ozone depleting substances like Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and are used in refrigerators and air-conditioners.

Phasing out HFCs

  1. In 2016, India was a signatory to Kigali Agreement with 107 countries to “substantially phase” out hydro fluorocarbons (HFC), by 2045.
  2. This move was aimed to prevent a potential 0.5 C rise in global temperature by 2050.
  3. HFCs are a family of gases that are largely used in refrigerants at home and in car air-conditioners.
  4. India, China, the United States and Europe have committed themselves to reducing the use of HFC by 85% by 2045.


Kigali Agreement

Please navigate to the page:

Kigali agreement: Prospects and Issues

Nov, 05, 2018

Oceans heating faster: study


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Climate Change and changes in critical geographical features

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level:  Oceanic Warming


More Absorption of Heat

  1. The world’s oceans have absorbed 60% more heat than previously thought over the last quarter of a century, leaving Earth more sensitive still to the effects of climate change.
  2. According to a recent assessment, scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that the world’s oceans have absorbed 90% of the temperature rise caused by man-made carbon emissions.

More accurate method to tally

  1. But new research published in the journal Nature used a novel method of measuring ocean temperature.
  2. It found that for each of the last 25 years, oceans had absorbed heat energy equivalent to 150 times the amount of electricity mankind produces annually.
  3. While those studies relied on tallying the excess heat produced by known man-made greenhouse gas emissions, scientists focussed on two gases found naturally in the atmosphere — Oxygen and carbon dioxide.
  4. Both gases are soluble in water, but the rate at which water absorbs them decreases as it warms.

Accurate estimates

  1. By measuring atmospheric oxygen and CO2 for each year, scientists were able to more accurately estimate how much heat oceans had absorbed on a global scale.
  2. IPCC data show that oceans have warmed by 6.5 degrees Celsius every decade since 1991.
  3. The IPCC warns that drastic measures need taking in order to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius by the end of the century but the world produced a record amount of carbon emissions in 2017
Oct, 30, 2018

Odisha launches disaster alert system for its coast


Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EWDS

Mains level: Need for Weather forecasting precision and vulnerability mapping of Coastal States



  • The Odisha government has launched the Early Warning Dissemination System, the first-of-its-kind technology in India, to simultaneously warn coastal communities and fisherfolk about impending cyclone and tsunami through siren towers.

Early Warning Dissemination System (EWDS)

  1. The EWDS, a collaborative effort of the Central and State governments, has been implemented under the assistance of World Bank.
  2. It comprises technologies such as satellite-based mobile data voice terminals, digital mobile radio, mass messaging system and universal communication interface for interoperability.
  3. The innovative warning system would alert people about disasters such as floods and cyclone.
  4. Fishermen fishing in deep sea can also be reached via mass SMS on their mobile phones through EWDS.
  5. It is a part of the last-mile connectivity programme under National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project and aims to inform the last man living near the sea in case of an impending cyclone.
  6. Six coastal districts —Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Puri and Ganjam — have been covered under the EWDS.
  7. Sirens will go off from 122 towers installed along the 480-km-long coast of the State if a button is pressed in the State emergency centre in Bhubaneshwar.
Oct, 24, 2018

GCF approves 43 $ million to boost climate resilience for India’s coastal communities


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GCF

Mains level:  Utility of the GCF in tackling Climate Change


GCF Fund for India

  1. A Green Climate Fund has approved USD 43.4 million for enhancing climate resilience for millions of people living in India’s coastal communities as part of its efforts to combat extreme impacts of climate change.
  2. The new project will be supported through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Importance of the Funding

  1. It is an essential step for India in reaching its goals outlined in the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  2. India’s coastal areas are quite vulnerable to climate change and this project focuses on selected vulnerable areas of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha states.
  3. The new project, with the GCF assistance, will not only help enhance resilience and adaptability, but also lead to emissions reduction while providing support to local communities for their livelihoods.
  4. The project is focused on providing tangible benefits for women, female-headed households, young people and the elderly, and members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes.

Protection against Threats

  1. India’s coastline is expected to be among the regions most affected by climate change globally.
  2. The Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea are both predicted to be subject to extreme climate variability, with the frequency and intensity of cyclones and extreme weather events projected to increase.
  3. According to a report from the World Bank, an increase in global mean surface temperatures of 2ºC will make India’s monsoon highly unpredictable.
  4. It also says that a 4ºC increase would result in an extremely wet monsoon (which currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years) occurring every 10 years by the end of the century.
  5. India has about 6,740 km2 of mangroves, including some of the largest mangrove forests in the world.
  6. Mangrove cover along India’s coastline has decreased by 50 per cent in some areas, largely because of human pressures, is further predicted to be dangered by Sea level rise.

Projects to be undertaken with the Fund

  1. Over 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 will be sequestered through restored ecosystems over the next 30 years.
  2. To protect life on land and below water as outlined in the 2030 Agenda, project activities will focus on the restoration and conservation of over 15,000 hectares of mangroves, coral reefs, sea grasses and salt marshes.
  3. To strengthen climate risk-informed coastal management and infrastructure planning, the project will create an online decision-support tool available via mobile phone for use by government officers, academic institutions, community members and scientists.
  4. Communities, including local youth, will be trained to work with scientists in monitoring ecosystem health and coastal ecology.
  5. The project will also build local knowledge of climate change and the associated risks via training and public education programmes.


Green Climate Fund

  1. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a fund established within the framework of the UNFCCC as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.
  2. The GCF is based in the Incheon, South Korea.
  3. The objective of the Green Climate Fund is to “support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties using thematic funding windows”.
  4. The Copenhagen Accord established during the 2009 COP-15 in Copenhagen mentioned the “Copenhagen Green Climate Fund”.
  5. The fund was formally established during the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun as a fund within the UNFCCC framework.
Oct, 23, 2018

China’s melting glacier draws tourists amid climate worries


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Third pole, Rivers originating/connected to it

Mains level: Impact of global warming on Third pole and how it could affect Asia/India


Third pole under threat

  1. Third Pole is a region in Central Asia with the world’s third-largest store of ice
  2. The region encompasses the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain ranges and the Tibetan Plateau
  3. Scientists conducting research in the area have warned of disturbing global warming trends
  4. Temperatures there have increased by 1.5 degrees – more than double the global average
  5. The glacier has lost 60% of its mass and shrunk 250 m since 1982, according to a 2018 report in the Journal of Geophysical Research
  6. Since 2005, the rate at which the Third Pole’s glaciers are melting has almost doubled
  7. Research has also found that more than 500 small glaciers have disappeared altogether and the biggest ones are shrinking rapidly

Importance of the third pole

  1. If the present trends continue, they could affect the lives of 1.3 billion people
  2. 10 of Asia’s largest rivers begin here, including the Yellow River and Yangtze river in China, the Irrawaddy river in Myanmar, the Ganges, which flows through India and Bangladesh, and the trans-boundary Mekong river
  3. It is estimated that the water that flows from the Third Pole supports 120 million people directly through irrigation systems, and a total of 1.3 billion indirectly through river basins in China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan
  4. The continuous glacier melting will be catastrophic for the 1.3 billion people who depend on its water
  5. While initially more water is expected to pour into river basins, causing flooding, eventually that will dry up, resulting in drought and desertification

Global warming is not the only cause

  1. Dust and pollution from car exhausts and coal burners is settling on the ice, causing it to absorb the rays of the sun, rather than reflect them away

With inputs from World Economic Forum article: There is a third pole on earth, and it’s melting quickly

Oct, 11, 2018

India’s first ever National Environment Survey to start in Jan 2019


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Environment Survey

Mains level:  Utility of the survey in decision-making related to environmental concerns.



  • India’s first ever National Environment Survey (NES) will be kicked off from 55 districts across 24 states and three Union Territories in January, 2019.

National Environment Survey (NES)

  1. The Environmental Information System (ENVIS) will conduct the survey through its hubs and resource partners across the country.
  2. The NES will rank all the districts on their environmental performance and document their best green practices.
  3. The earliest the first set of complete green data from the survey will be available is 2020, providing an important tool in the hands of policy-makers for decision making at all levels – district, state and national.
  4. The survey will be done through a grid-based approach, using grids measuring 9×9 km.
  5. It will collect comprehensive data on various environmental parameters such as air, water, soil quality; emission inventory; solid, hazardous and e-waste; forest & wildlife; flora & fauna; wetlands, lakes, rivers and other water bodies.
  6. It will also assess carbon sequestration potential of all the districts across the country.

Utility of the Survey

  1. At present, the country has secondary data on most of these parameters.
  2. The NES for the first time will provide primary data on all the green heads in the same way that the National Sample Survey (NSS) periodically collects various socio-economic data.
  3. The first set of complete green data from the survey will be available is 2020 providing an important tool in the hands of policy-makers for decision making at all levels – district, state and national.

Other details

  1. The first set of data will be compiled in one year because it needs to cover seasonal cycles in terms of air pollution and flora & fauna.
  2. Presently the survey is planned for 55 districts across the country.
  3. All 716 districts in the country are expected to be surveyed in a period of three to four years.
Oct, 10, 2018

[op-ed snap] Another warning on warming


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IPCC, Paris conference, NDCs

Mains level: Key recommendations of IPCC report on climate change


IPCC report on global warming

  1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released a special report on global warming of 1.5°C over pre-industrial temperatures
  2. Produced speedily, it provides details on how the global response to climate change needs to be strengthened within the broader context of sustainable development and continuing efforts to eradicate poverty
  3. The impacts of 1.5°C of warming and the possible development pathways by which the world could get there are its main focus

Rising temperatures

  1. If nations do not mount a strenuous response against climate change, average global temperatures, which have already crossed 1°C, are likely to cross the 1.5°C mark around 2040
  2. It was in 2015, at the Paris climate conference, that the global community made a pact to pursue efforts to limit warming to within 1.5°C — half a degree below the previous target of 2°C
  3. For most people, the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C may seem trivial when daily temperatures fluctuate much more widely but the reference here is to global average temperatures

Effects of 0.5-degree increase in temperature

  1. Half a degree of warming makes a world of difference to many species whose chance of survival is significantly reduced at the higher temperature
  2. At 1.5°C warming, ocean acidification will be reduced (compared to 2°C warming), with better prospects for marine ecosystems
  3. There will likely be less intense and frequent hurricanes, not as intense droughts and heat waves with smaller effects on crops, and the reduced likelihood of an ice-free Arctic in summers
  4. Studies conservatively estimate sea levels to rise on average by about 50 cm by 2100 in a 2°C warmer world, 10 cm more than for 1.5°C warming
  5. The risks to food security, health, fresh water, human security, livelihoods and economic growth are already on the rise and will be worse in a 2°C world
  6. The number of people exposed to the complex and compounded risks from warming will also increase and the poorest — mostly in Asia and Africa — will suffer the worst impacts
  7. Adaptation, or the changes required to withstand the temperature rise, will also be lower at the lower temperature limit

Strategies to limit temperature rise

  • Limited overshoot
  1. To limit warming to around 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot, global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions need to decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero around mid-century
  2. In comparison, to limit warming to just below 2°C, the reductions needed are about 20% by 2030 and reach net zero around 2075
  • Permit temperatures to exceed 1.5°C temporarily before coming back down
  1. Emissions need to peak early within the next decade or so, and then drop
  2. To stay below 1.5°C, the transitions required by energy systems and human societies, in land use, transport, and infrastructure, would have to be rapid and on an unprecedented scale with deep emission reductions

Role of NDCs

  1. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are commitments that each country made prior to the Paris conference
  2. Even if all the NDCs are implemented, the world is expected to warm by over 3°C
  3. Contributions from the U.S. and other rich countries to the Green Climate Fund and other funding mechanisms for the purpose of mitigation and adaptation are vital to reach the goals of the NDCs

Way forward

  1. Disputes over the implementation of the Paris Agreement at numerous meetings depict the deep divides among rich countries, emerging economies and least developed countries
  2. This special report poses options for the global community of nations
  3. Each will have to decide whether to play politics on a global scale for one’s own interests or to collaborate to protect the world and its ecosystems as a whole
Oct, 09, 2018

[op-ed snap] A local approach to climate change


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, IPCC

Mains level: Threats posed by climate change and what can be done to reduce these threats


Recent IPCC report on climate change

  1. In the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change has reported that the world could hit the 1.5°C mark as early as 2030, with any further rise having far-reaching consequences
  2. The consequences of climate change—ranging from a rise in mean temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns to a rise in drought frequency, flood hazards and coastal risk—will hit the global south particularly hard
  3. Another recent study in Nature Climate Change quantified the domestic social costs of carbon emissions. At approximately $90/tonne, the cost to India is the highest in the world

Role of local governments

  1. The UN report notes that the different pathways to limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems
  2. Much of that falls in the domain of state or urban policy
  3. National goals and policies are necessary, but the stark difference in pollution levels between industrialized states and forested states, for instance, demands a complementary localized approach
  4. Cities contribute a disproportionate share of greenhouse gas emissions
  5. Especially in India, they are also the most susceptible to climate change consequences, given that large segments of the urban population are concentrated along coastlines, rivers and floodplains

Other factors 

  1. The main culprits when it comes to emissions are the power and transport sectors
  2. Looking at the transport sector through the prisms of land-use planning and transit-oriented development would be useful here
  3. The water and sanitation sectors are other pressure points, responsible for vast amounts of methane emissions
  4. Methane has been observed to be 25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas but is still dismissed as a temporary pollutant

Gaps in city planning

  1. Shoddy planning, tardy implementation and a paucity of qualified town planners have created cities with no mixed-use planning, lengthy daily commutes, energy-inefficient buildings, and unsustainable mobility and spatial development plans
  2. An increase in the stock of municipal corporation personnel specializing in environmental engineering, disaster management etc and their integration into policy-making and administrative processes is essential

Gaps in fiscal and administrative devolution

  1. Empowered city mayors and local councils around the world are playing influential roles in combating climate change
  2. Beijing and London are prime examples
  3. A number of US cities and states pledged to remain committed to the accord following Trump’s decision of pulling the country out of the Paris Accord

Way Forward

  1. Climate change is the tragedy of the commons
  2. This is particularly so in emerging economies like India where development imperatives can be overwhelming
  3. In the face of developed economies’ reluctance to respect it, the sort of intensive efforts outlined in the UN report will be difficult to pull off
  4. New Delhi is doing well to try and find the right mix for sustainable growth
Oct, 08, 2018

Explained: How to reach a 1.5-degree world


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the Report

Mains level:  Impacts of Global Warming


IPCC Report on Climate Change

  1. Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet.
  2. The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its gloomy report at a meeting in Incheon, South Korea.
  3. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate, the report states.

Quick recap of IPCC

  1. IPCC  is a scientific government body under the UN established in 1988 by two UN organizations, the WMO and the UNEP and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.
  2. The IPCC produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is the main international treaty on climate change.
  3. IPCC reports cover the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
  4. Membership of the IPCC is open to all members of the WMO and the UNEP.

Findings of the Report

  1. Half as many people would suffer from lack of water.
  2. There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases.
  3. Seas would rise nearly 4 inches (0.1 meters) less.
  4. Half as many animals with back bones and plants would lose the majority of their habitats.
  5. There would be substantially fewer heat waves, downpours and droughts.
  6. The West Antarctic ice sheet might not kick into irreversible melting.
  7. And it just may be enough to save most of the world’s coral reefs from dying.

The 1.5℃ Goal

  1. In 2010, international negotiators adopted a goal of limiting warming to 2°C since pre-industrial times. It’s called the 2° goal.
  2. In 2015, when the nations of the world agreed to the Paris climate agreement, they set dual goals — 2°C and a more demanding target of 1.5°C from pre-industrial times.
  3. The 1.5° was at the urging of vulnerable countries that called 2°C a death sentence.
  4. The world has already warmed 1°C since pre-industrial times, so the talk is really about the difference of another half-degree C from now.
  5. There is no definitive way to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 above pre-industrial levels.

Advantages of warming below 2

  1. The IPCC studies have looked at the physical impact on the land and ocean, as well as at the socio-economic impact, like health, malnutrition, food security and employment.
  2. Some examples:
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could prevent around 3.3 million cases of dengue every year in Latin America and the Caribbean alone.
  • A World Bank report on Climate Change and Health, 2015 said that an additional 150 million people could be at risk from malaria if the temperature was allowed to increase beyond 2°C.
  • A study in the journal Climate Change in 2016 claimed that the world could have 25 million fewer undernourished people by the end of the century, if the 1.5°C goal was achieved.
  • A study published in PNAS in March 2017 said about 350 million additional people could be exposed to deadly heat waves if the warming increased to 2°C as compared to 1.5°C.
  • A study in Nature Climate Change in March 2018 said the 1.5°C could prevent 153 million premature deaths due to air pollution by 2100, as compared to the 2°C scenario.
  • A UNDP report in 2016 claimed that a 1.5°C strategy could create double the number of jobs in the energy sector by 2050.
  • Also, compared to the 1.5°C scenario, extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and heat waves are likely to become more severe and frequent, and freshwater supply could fall sharply, in a 2°C world.

How to reach the 0.5 ℃ target?

  1. As of now, the world is striving to prevent the temperature rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius, in accordance with the stated objective of the Paris Agreement of 2015.
  2. To meet that target, the aim is to reduce greenhouse gases by only 20 per cent, from 2010 levels, by the year 2030 and achieve a net-zero emission level by the year 2075.
  3. Net-zero is achieved when the total emissions is balanced by the amount of absorption or removal of carbon dioxide through natural sinks or technological interventions.

Is the 1.5°C target attainable?

  1. The IPCC report suggests possible pathways to attain the 1.5°C objective.
  2. Any such path would involve much sharper and quicker emission cuts by big emitters like China, the US, the European Union and India, than what these countries currently plan to do.
  3. However, their publicly declared planned actions currently are not big enough to achieve even the 2°C target.
  4. In Paris in 2015, the countries had acknowledged that if they failed to do more, annual emissions of carbon dioxide could touch 55 billion tonnes in 2030.

Problem of CO2

  1. Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, stays in the atmosphere for 100-150 years.
  2. That means even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to somehow miraculously stop all of a sudden, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would remain at the current levels for many years to come.
  3. That is why there is a significant interest these days in technologies that can physically remove the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and store it somewhere, either temporarily or permanently.
  4. Caron Dioxide Removal (CDR) would be used to compensate for residual emissions.
  5. CDR is a reference to physical removal of the stock of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce its concentrations.
  6. But the technologies for CDR are still undeveloped and untested.

Way Forward: Nothing is Impossible

  1. Limiting warming to the lower goal is not impossible but will require unprecedented changes
  2. To limit warming to the lower temperature goal, the world needs “rapid and far-reaching” changes in energy systems, land use, city and industrial design, transportation and building use, the report said.
  3. Meeting the more ambitious goal would require immediate, draconian cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases and dramatic changes in the energy field.
  4. It is up to governments to decide whether those unprecedented changes are acted upon.
Sep, 27, 2018

PM Modi gets UN's 'Champions of the Earth' award


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ISA

Mains level: Achievements of ISA



‘Champions of the Earth’ Award

  1. Our PM Narendra Modi has been awarded with the UN’s highest environmental honour for his leadership of the International Solar Alliance and pledge to eliminate single use plastic in India by 2022.
  2. Six of the world’s most outstanding environmental changemakers have been recognised with the UN’s highest environmental honour.
  3. The laureates are recognised for a combination of bold, innovative, and tireless efforts to tackle some of the most urgent environmental issues of our times.

Pioneering Work

  1. French President Mr. Macron and PM Modi have been jointly recognised in the Policy Leadership category for their pioneering work in championing the International Solar Alliance.
  2. They have been promoting new areas of cooperation on environmental action, including Macron’s work on the Global Pact for the Environment and Modi’s unprecedented pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in India by 2022.

Other details

  • Cochin International Airport has also been honoured this year with the award for Entrepreneurial Vision, for its leadership in the use of sustainable energy.


Champions of the Earth

  1. The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) established Champions of the Earth in 2005 as an annual awards programme to recognize outstanding environmental leaders from the public and private sectors, and from civil society.
  2. Typically, five to seven laureates are selected annually.
  3. Each laureate is invited to an award ceremony to receive a trophy, give an acceptance speech and take part in a press conference.
  4. No financial awards are conferred.
  5. This awards programme is a successor to UNEP’s Global 500 Roll of Honour.
Sep, 18, 2018

[pib] India first country in the world to develop Cooling Action Plan


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ICAP and its provisions

Mains level: India’s efforts in phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances



On the eve of the World Ozone Day (17th Sept.), MoEFCC underlined the need to work consistently under the aegis of the Montreal Protocol to phase out Ozone Depleting Substances.

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

  1. MoEFCC released the draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) and a booklet on ‘Montreal Protocol – India’s Success Story’.
  2. India is the first country in world to develop such a document (ICAP), which addresses cooling requirement across sectors and lists out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand.
  3. The overarching goal is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society.
  4. The goals emerging from the suggested interventions stated in ICAP are:
  • Reduction of cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25 % by year 2037-38,
  • Reduction of refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by year 2037-38,
  • Reduction of cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by year 2037-38, and
  • Training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by the year 2022-23, in synergy with Skill India Mission.

Long -term objectives of ICAP

  1. The broad objectives of the India Cooling Action Plan include –
  • Assessment of cooling requirements across sectors in next 20 years and the associated refrigerant demand and energy use,
  • Map the technologies available to cater the cooling requirement including passive interventions, refrigerant-based technologies and alternative technologies such as not-in-kind technologies,
  • Suggest interventions in each sector to provide for sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all,
  • Focus on skilling of RAC service technicians, and
  • Develop an R&D innovation ecosystem for indigenous development of alternative technologies.

Montreal Protocol

  1. It is the only environmental treaty which enjoys universal ratification of 197 UN numbers countries.
  2. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has been recognized as the most successful international environment treaty in history.
  3. Its implementation has not only led to the phase-out of around 98% of ozone depleting chemicals, but also averted more than 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
  4. Nearly 2 million cases of skin cancer per year have been averted globally.
Sep, 12, 2018

Greenhouse gas emissions from Indian paddy fields Very High: NY based Study


Mains Paper 1: Environment | Climate Change

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the Study, CO2 Equivalents, GHGs

Mains level: The article comprehensively shows how agriculture impacts climate change.



  1. Rice farming across the world could be responsible for up to twice the level of climate impact relative to what was previously estimated, according to a study conducted in India.
  2. The study, published in PNAS, found that intermittently flooded rice farms can emit 45 times more nitrous oxide as compared to the maximum from continuously flooded farms that predominantly emit methane.

Highlights of the Study

  1. According to a global analysis by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in the US, methane and nitrous oxide emissions from rice farms could have the same long-term warming impact as about 600 coal plants.
  2. The full climate impact of rice farming has been underestimated because nitrous dioxide emissions from intermittently flooded farms have not been included.
  3. The researchers investigated GHGs emission from rice farms across southern India.
  4. They found that nitrous oxide emissions from rice can contribute up to 99 % of the total climate impact of rice cultivation at a variety of intermittently flooded farms.
  5. These contribute to global warming far more than the estimate of 10% previously suggested by multiple global rice research organizations.

Methane emissions

  1. The researchers found an inverse correlation between methane and nitrous oxide emissions from rice farming.
  2. Water and organic matter management techniques that reduce methane emissions can increase nitrous oxide emissions.
  3. This is crucial because nitrous oxide is a long-lived greenhouse gas that traps several times more heat in the atmosphere than methane over both 20 and 100-year time frames.

Impact of Rice Cultivation

  1. Rice is a critical source of nutrition for the world’s rapidly growing population, providing more calories to humans than any other food.
  2. However, growing rice is also resource-intensive: rice cultivation covers 11 % of the Earth’s arable land, consumes one-third of irrigation water.
  3. The researchers found that carefully chosen farming techniques can reduce net GHG emissions by as much as 90% by integrating shallow (mild-intermittent) flooding with co-management of nitrogen and organic matter.
  4. If all irrigated rice farmers only used the proposed shallow flooding instead of intense forms of intermittent flooding, estimates shows that the rice farms with irrigation have the potential to reduce their global climate impact by 60%.


CO2 equivalents

  1. Each greenhouse gas (GHG) has a different global warming potential (GWP) and persists for a different length of time in the atmosphere.
  2. 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)
  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Many of these compounds also have a depleting effect on ozone in the upper atmosphere.
Sep, 12, 2018

UN sees 70% chance of El Nino event this year

Image Source


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Salient features of World’s Physical Geography

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: El Nino, La Nino and ENSO

Mains level: Impact of El-Nino



  1. The UN said an El Nino event that could disrupt global weather is likely by the end of this year.
  2. The World Meteorological Organisation forecast a 70% chance of an El Nino developing by the end of this year.


  1. ENSO is nothing but El Nino Southern Oscillation.
  2. It is an irregular periodic variation of wind and sea surface temperature that occurs over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean.
  3. ENSO affects the tropics (the regions surrounding the equator) and the subtropics (the regions adjacent to or bordering the tropics).
  4. This warming phase of ENSO is called El Nino, while the cooling phase is known as La Nina.
  5. An El Nino or La Nina episode lasts nine to 12 months. Some may prolong for years.
  6. Its average frequency is every 2 to 7 years. El Nino is more frequent than La Nina.

What characterizes El-Nino?

  1. El Nino is a climatic cycle characterized by high air pressure in the Western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern.
  2. In normal conditions, strong trade winds travel from east to west across the tropical Pacific, pushing the warm surface waters towards the western Pacific.
  3. The surface temperature could witness an increase of 8 degrees Celsius in Asian waters.
  4. At the same time, cooler waters rise up towards the surface in the eastern Pacific on the coasts of Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. This process called upwelling aids in the development of a rich ecosystem.

What are its causes?

  1. El Nino sets in when there is anomaly in the pattern.
  2. The westward-blowing trade winds weaken along the Equator and due to changes in air pressure, the surface water moves eastwards to the coast of northern South America.
  3. The central and eastern Pacific regions warm up for over six months and result in an El Nino condition and the temperature of the water could rise up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
  4. Warmer surface waters increase precipitation and bring above-normal rainfall in South America, and droughts to Indonesia and Australia.

Effects of El-Nino

  1. El Nino favors eastern Pacific hurricanes and tropical storms. Record and unusual rainfall in Peru, Chile and Ecuador are linked to the climate pattern.
  2. El Nino reduces upwelling of cold water, decreasing the uplift of nutrients from the bottom of the ocean. This affects marine life and sea birds. The fishing industry is also affected.
  3. Drought and warming caused by El Nino can be widespread, affecting southern Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.
  4. A recent WHO report on the health consequences of El Nino forecasts a rise in vector-borne diseases, including those spread by mosquitoes, in Central and South America.
  5. Cycles of malaria in India are also linked to El Nino.

Why is it a concern?

  1. From the current study, we learn that El Nino can exacerbate global warming and hence the process could become a vicious circle.
  2. A recent study that analysed data collected by NASA’s satellite, found that the massive event resulted in the release of over 3 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
  3. This in turn pushed the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to record levels.

La Nina

  1. La Nina is a climate pattern that describes the cooling of surface ocean waters along the tropical west coast of South America. It is considered to have the opposite effect of El Nino.
  2. It brings greater than normal rainfall in Southeast Asia and Australia, and causes drier-than-normal conditions in South America and the Gulf Coast of the United States.
  3. La Nina events sometimes follow El Nino events.
Sep, 10, 2018

[op-ed snap] Saving the world by capturing emissions


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: New methodologies available for carbon capture and their usefulness in India


Reducing carbon emissions

  1. Despite the growth of carbon emissions in 2017, we can limit the increase in global temperature
  2. To do so, we must not only reduce carbon emissions but also find a way of capturing existing emissions

Need for reducing carbon emissions

  1. Even if we miraculously stop emitting any carbon today, the planet will still undergo an average temperature increase of 0.6 degree Celsius because of the sheer amount of carbon already present in the atmosphere and oceans
  2. The hottest year on record without an El Nino event was 2017, with the average global temperature being one degree Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels
  3. The aim of the Paris agreement to limit the increase in average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius in the short term and 1.5 degrees Celsius, in the long run, is now under serious threat

Renewable energy a ray of hope

  1. Global renewables-based electricity generation increased by 6.3% in 2017, now meeting a quarter of the world’s energy demand growth
  2. At the same time, the cost of such resources is falling rapidly
  3. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates suggest that the global average cost of electricity generated from new onshore wind and solar photovoltaic sources already matches the cost of fossil fuel-fired electricity
  4. Continuous technology improvements and competitive procurement practices mean that the cost of these renewables will become significantly cheaper than fossil fuel sources by 2020

Shifting from oil-based to electricity based logistics

  1. Steady progress is also being made to shift the oil-dependent transport sector towards renewable options
  2. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that the number of electric vehicles rose from 1.98 million in 2016 to 3.11 million in 2017, an increase of more than 54%
  3. If battery costs continue to fall and countries implement policies that spur investment and help manufacturers achieve economies of scale this figures may keep rising

Using carbon capture technologies

  1. The capturing and storage of CO2 from coal plants can capture emissions quickly and safely
  2. It has floundered in the past, despite the technology being available because there is no market for stored CO2
  3. It can be promoted by:
  • Actively promoting innovations and technologies that facilitate the safe re-utilization, rather than just the storage, of CO2, thereby creating incentives for private investment
  • Appropriately valuing the social benefit of decarbonization and reducing the costs borne by CO2 storage companies accordingly
  • Adopting best practices from successful global CO2 capture programmes to develop the expertise needed

Seweed farming also a good prospect

  1. Farmed seaweed, with its exceptional ability to capture CO2 from the oceans and produce bio-digested methane which can be substituted for natural gas, can play a substantive role in reducing carbon emissions
  2. The relatively low production cost, the speed at which seaweed grows, the vast potential of the Indian coastline and the subsidies and grants offered by the government, are strong incentives for private sector expansion into seaweed farming

Way Forward

  1. With our future hanging in the balance, 2018–2020 is a critical time for countries to peak and then flatten their emissions trajectory, while simultaneously implementing ambitious solutions for reducing them at a pace
  2. Setting ambitious goals, scaling up infant technologies and fostering markets for capturing emissions will be key to mitigate climate change
Sep, 01, 2018

[pib] Environment Minister Releases India’s National REDD+ Strategy


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: REDD+

Mains level: The newscard discusses India’s initiative to fulfill its commitment towards Paris Agreement.


REDD+ Strategy

  1. In simple terms, REDD+ means “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.
  2. REDD+ aims to achieve climate change mitigation by incentivizing forest conservation.
  3. The strategy seeks to address drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and also developing a roadmap for enhancement of forest carbon stocks and achieving sustainable management of forests through REDD+ actions.
  4. The National REDD+ Strategy will soon be communicated to the UNFCCC.

Involving Tribal Cooperation

  1. MoEFCC has emphasized that the cooperation and involvement of the tribals, other forest dwelling people and the society as a whole, is crucial for the implementation of the REDD+ strategy.
  2. India’s National REDD+ strategy is one of the tools to achieve   India’s commitment to Paris Agreement.
  3. The REDD+ strategy will help the country to fulfill its NDC commitments and will also contribute to the livelihood of the forest dependent population.

Governing under REDD+

  1. A National Governing Council of REDD+ chaired by the Union Environment Minister at  the national level and two technical committees are being established for supporting the REDD+ implementation in the country.
  2. The REDD+ actions at the State level will be coordinated by the committee headed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) & Head of Forest Force (HOFF) of the States.
  3. Paris agreement on climate change also recognizes role of forests in climate change mitigation and calls upon country Parties to take action to implement and support REDD+.

India’s NDC

  1. India has communicated in its Nationally Determined Contribution under Paris Agreement, that it will capture 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of Carbon dioxide through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  2. India’s first biennial update report to UNFCCC has revealed that forests in India capture about 12% of India’s total GHG emissions.
  3. Thus, forestry sector in India is making a positive cost effective contribution for climate change mitigation.
  4. Complying with the UNFCCC decisions on REDD+, India has prepared its National REDD+ Strategy.
  5. The strategy includes India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, Green India Mission and India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to UNFCCC.
Aug, 29, 2018

As carbon dioxide levels rise, India faces big crop nutrition deficiency: study


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Varying effects of climate change


Impact of CO2 levels rise on crops

  1. According to a study led by the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, India could be the country worst hit by the falling crop quality the world over due to rising carbon dioxide levels
  2. The study estimates that 50 million more people in India — the largest number anywhere in the world — could face zinc, iron and protein deficiency due to dipping crop quality

Findings from the study

  1. The study estimated that the world over, 175 million people could become zinc-deficient and 122 million protein-deficient by 2050 due to rising levels of carbon dioxide from human activity, which is making staple crops such as rice and wheat less nutritious
  2. It also found that more than 1 billion women and children could lose a large amount of their dietary iron intake, putting them at increased risk of anemia and other diseases

Why these changes?

  1. Humans tend to get a majority of key nutrients from plants: 63 per cent of dietary protein comes from vegetable sources, as well as 81 per cent of iron and 68 per cent zinc
  2. It has been shown that higher atmospheric levels of CO2 result in less nutritious crop yields
  3. Concentrations of protein, iron, and zinc are 3 percent to 17 percent lower when crops are grown in environments where CO2 concentrations are 550 parts per million (ppm), compared with crops grown under current atmospheric conditions, in which CO2 levels are just above 400 ppm

Malnutrition in children still a challenge

  1. According to National Family Health Survey-4, 38.4 per cent Indian children are stunted (low height for age), 21 per cent are wasted (low weight for height), 7.5 percent are severely wasted, and 35.7 per cent underweight
  2. Despite significant progress in reducing the rate of underweight children since 1990, Indian children still have the fourth worst global weight-for-age scores (the standard measure for underweight)
  3. Nearly 35% of Indian children continue to meet the criteria for being underweight, far above the developing country average of 20%
Aug, 23, 2018

[op-ed snap] Pulling back from the brink


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Hothouse earth theory and its findings


Hothouse earth report

  1. A group of scientists have published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences deliberating on how the planet might move into a high temperature “hothouse earth” pathway from where there would be no return
  2. The paper identifies a threshold beyond which the earth’s systems are no longer able to stabilise at intermediate rises in temperature
  3. The authors point out that technology trends and decisions taken in the next decade or two will determine the path of the earth system over the next hundreds of thousands of years

Delicately balanced system of earth

  1.  The earth and its systems have shifted between alternative states through long-term processes over its geological history
  2. We are living in a precariously equilibrated earth where the temperature is just right for ecosystems to flourish
  3. The Holocene, which began about 12,000 years ago, is the stable epoch during which Homo sapiens settled and developed agriculture and other technological innovations
  4. These led to social and economic transformations, which have brought the world to this juncture
  5. The delicate equilibrium of the biosphere/earth system has to do with processes that amplify or dampen warming

Positive & negative feedback in the atmosphere

  1. The melting of Greenland ice increases open waters that absorb more sunlight and then increase warming and cause further melting. This is a positive feedback
  2. With the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2), chemical-weathering increases and removes CO2 from the atmosphere over geological time — an example of a negative feedback
  3. When positive feedbacks become stronger than the negative ones, the system may change abruptly and get pushed out of equilibrium

Crossing thresholds

  1. A geophysical tipping point is a threshold beyond which a system moves from one stable state to another
  2. This study indicates that crossing a threshold (roughly determined to be about 2º Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times) would lead to the tumbling of a series of tipping points, like a set of dominoes
  3. The destruction of the Amazon forest due to wildfires, the loss of permafrost with warming, the weakening of CO2 absorption by the oceans or the melting of polar ice caps, among many other slow-moving catastrophes, are examples
  4. If many tipping points tumble beyond 2ºC, it would irrevocably disrupt ecosystems and societies and there would be runaway climate change, taking us to a hothouse earth

What can be done?

  1. Technological solutions alone are insufficient. Fundamental shifts in social values and economic mores are essential
  2. The hothouse path could still be avoided and the earth could stabilise at a rise below 2º C through infrastructural, societal and institutional transformations
  3. Incremental changes along with increasing contributions from renewables and improvements in energy efficiencies would not be sufficient
  4. There should instead be major changes in technological innovation, behaviour, values and governance
Jun, 30, 2018

Rising temperature to cut living standards of 600 million Indians


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Actual impact of climate change on India in coming years


One-third Indians at risk

  1. Six hundred million Indians could see a dip in living standards by 2050 if temperatures continue to rise at their current pace
  2. India’s average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1°C to 2°C by 2050, even if preventive measures are taken along the lines of those recommended by the Paris climate change agreement of 2015
  3. If no measures are taken, average temperatures in India are predicted to increase by 1.5°C to 3°C

Impact on states

  1. Seven of the 10 severest or most vulnerable ‘hotspots’ in India would be located in Maharashtra
  2. The rest would be in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh
  3. In the absence of major climate mitigation, nearly 148 million Indians will be living in these severe hotspots in 2050

Basis for study

  1. Economists at the World Bank correlated these climate projections with household consumption data (a proxy for living standards) in Nepal, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and extrapolated it to 2050
  2. Using publicly available climate models that project how rising temperatures will affect rainfall and seasons, the researchers conclude that if emissions continued at the current pace, India could see a 1.5% decline in its GDP by 2030
Jun, 08, 2018

[op-ed snap] Sustaining earth for the future


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Anthropocene era, Half Earth project, India’s forest policy

Mains level: Changing biodiversity patterns in light of climate change and India’s efforts to deal with them


India’s rich fabric of biodiversity

  1. India is blessed with an extraordinary richness of life
  2. A myriad of unusual and exquisite species occur in the countless ecosystems spread across our vast lands, rivers, and oceans

Change in structure

  1. This unique bio-cultural tapestry has been resilient to change for centuries, but with the unleashing of unprecedented economic and environmental forces, it is now subject to increased wear and tear
  2. These forces could even destroy our tapestry of life, cultures and traditions — and in the process, ourselves
  3. Modern extinction rates are more than a thousand times greater than the rates of the geological past
  4. In recent decades, populations of more than 40% of large mammals have declined and insect biomass has decreased by more than 75%
  5. Natural habitats all over the world have shrunk

Start of Anthropocene era

  1. We have entered what scientists are calling the Anthropocene era
  2. It is a new period in earth’s history when humans have begun to impact our environment at the global scale

Half Earth project

  1. To protect life on earth, the famous American biologist E.O. Wilson has described an ambitious project he calls “Half-Earth”
  2. He calls for formally protecting 50% of the earth’s land surface in order to conserve our rapidly disappearing natural heritage

India’s efforts & policy interventions required

  1. India’s forest policy calls for forests to cover almost a third of the country, and if we include other natural systems such as grasslands and wetlands, the area to be protected could amount to almost 40%
  2. We need a massive new effort to catalog, map, and monitor life, using fundamentally different approaches
  3. This mapping effort would include not only all life, including cultures, ethnicities, and dialects but also the use of biodiversity and its vulnerability to changes in land use and climate
  4. Our institutions need to place far more emphasis on the scientific study of life at higher levels
  5. We also need a comprehensive inquiry into how our society is shaping as well as responding to changes in biodiversity

Way forward

  1. The India Biodiversity Portal has the ambitious goal of mapping India’s biodiversity with the engagement of civil society
  2. The government and private philanthropy need to bring together multiple stakeholders to develop a programme to document, map and monitor all life
  3. There is also a need to develop a new knowledge enterprise to fully explore various dimensions of biodiversity and ecosystem services and their critical link to our future
Jun, 04, 2018

Arctic sea route not possible even if it is ice free


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Arctic Council

Mains level: Untapped resources in arctic and their importance for India


Navigation in the Arctic not possible

  1. The Arctic would still not be an easily navigable route even after the fast melting ice
  2. It will not be practical for container traffic, it may be ok for bulk carriers carrying gas
  3. Despite no ice, the waters would be tough to navigate due to sub-zero temperatures and would pose serious challenges to ships

Why such talks?

  1. The Arctic region which has permanently frozen ice is melting at an increasing rate due to global warming and is expected to be ice free by 2060
  2. Already several countries have sent their ships and icebreakers in the summer months to demonstrate the navigability
  3. It is seen as an alternate shipping route to cut time and costs and also circumvent the global choke points

Impact on India

  1. China and Japan are investing in infrastructure development in the Arctic
  2. There is an increasing concern in India as China makes inroads in the strategically important Arctic region which has a large amount of untapped minerals and fossil fuels

Arctic Council meeting

  1. Finland is holding the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2017-19
  2. It has called for a greater Indian role in the region as an observer in the Arctic Council


Arctic Council

  1. The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum which addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and people living in the Arctic region
  2. The first step towards the formation of the Council occurred in 1991 when eight Arctic countries signed the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS)
  3. The Ottawa Declaration of 1996 formally established the Arctic Council
  4. The Ottawa Declaration named eight members of the Arctic Council: Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the United States, Sweden, and Finland
  5. Observer states consist of the following (2017): Germany, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, France, Spain, China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland
May, 16, 2018

[op-ed snap] Is it possible to slow global warming?


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNFCCC, SBI, SBSTA, etc.

Mains level: The roadblocks infront of the Paris Agreement.


UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting

  1. A two-week-long meeting was recently concluded in Bonn (April 30-May 10) where the operational guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement were to be discussed and agreed upon by all parties
  2. This meeting was the 48th session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), referred to as SB48
  3. With insufficient progress towards goals, another interim meeting has been proposed in Bangkok ahead of COP-24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018

 Roadblocks at the Bonn meeting

  1. On the issue of the NDCs, the question was the scope of the rulebook
  2. Developing countries want them to cover mitigation targets, adaptation and the means of implementation for the NDCs
  3. Developed or rich countries would like the rulebook to be limited to mitigation, the reduction of greenhouse gases
  4. But since most countries require adaptation programmes in a warming world and need support to implement their national targets, it is essential that these be included too

The issues related to loss and damage (L&D): Another roadblock

  1. L&D is a means to provide assistance to poor countries that experience severe impacts from climate change but have contributed very little to the greenhouse gases responsible for the warming and its effects
  2. This is a very important issue for the least developed countries and for small islands, which are already experiencing the brunt of sea level rise
  3. But there was little progress on the funds that could be used to support L&D

Participants could not come to an agreement(at the Bonn meeting) on any significant issue and thus have not produced a draft document to guide full implementation of the PA

The way forward

  1.  Even if the current NDCs were implemented, the world would be on track to be warmer by about 3°Celsius
  2. The UN is also expected to release the report on the impacts from a 1.5°C warming around the same time
    Responsibilities on the shoulders of the youth
  3. Unless the youth remind governments and the public of the responsibilities of their countries towards mitigation, adaptation and support for means of implementation, keeping global warming under reasonably safe levels for humankind could be impossible
Apr, 17, 2018

[op-ed snap] At home and in exile: Internal Migration and Climate Change


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the report given in the newscard

Mains level: The newscard discusses a special type of migration i.e. the internal migration. As Migration is an important issue these days, it is important from the UPSC perspective.


The issue of internal migration

  1. Most of the world’s migration is internal, i.e. within the same country
  2. Among the tens of millions displaced in 2015, 21.3 million were refugees, but 40.8 million were internally displaced
  3. The implications of internal migrations will be significant for development in the areas and for the lives of the people

Climate change is forcing people to migrate

  1. With climate change consequences like droughts, effects from sea level rise and water shortages will cause many more to leave their homes and move to safer places
  2. Such migration may be a choice in the initial stages; for instance, a young member may travel to a city close by during a drought to increase his or her family’s income
  3. But as the stress becomes more severe, the decision to move may be forced
  4. The gradual rise in sea levels wherein people are compelled to leave their island nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and become climate exiles is one such ongoing process that will likely increase out-migration over time

“Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration”: The World Bank report

  1. According to the report, it is estimated that in Latin America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa over 143 million people would be forced to move within borders by 2050 as a result of slow onset climate events alone
  2. In the worst-case scenario, about 40 million of these migrants would be in South Asia, which is the most populous of the regions studied, with a number of climate change effects anticipated

Migration for better farming conditions

  1. South Asia is characterised by rain-fed farmland in large parts of the region
  2. With variability in the monsoons and warmer temperatures, crop failures will lead to migration from the Gangetic plains and from the rice-growing northeast of Bangladesh and the inundated coasts
  3. In the pessimistic scenario, the numbers forced to move internally in South Asia are expected to increase six-fold between 2020 and 2050

What have we learned so far?

  1. The implications of these internal migrations will be significant for development in the areas and for the lives of these people
  2. Therefore, understanding migration patterns, getting better socioeconomic data on migration and preparing in advance through appropriate planning become critical
  3. The scenarios used in the Bank report could be extended to cover other time periods and could also be more localised
  4. Current climate modelling methods are not accurate at high resolutions for local decision-making, but these are expected to improve over time

What should be done?

  1. First, reducing GHG emissions is of utmost urgency
  2. Second, integrating internal migration with ongoing development planning is vital
  3. The peri-urban areas, which are expected to be hot spots, already show problems of water shortage, waste management, nutritional deficiency, limited services such as health and education, and poor infrastructure
  4. Skill building, job training and other opportunities for education and jobs for locals and migrants would also have to become a focal point
Apr, 14, 2018

NASA to study how tiny sea creatures affect Earth’s climate

Image source


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NAAMES mission, CALIPSO satellite

Mains level: Various factors involved in climate change process and findings related to them


Study of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom

  1. In a first, NASA is conducting a study of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic to see how the tiny sea critters influence the climate in every season

NAAMES mission

  1. The North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) mission began its fourth and final deployment
  2. It is the first research mission to conduct an integrated study of all four distinct phases of the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom
  3. It will study how phytoplanktons give rise to small organic particles that leave the ocean and end up in the atmosphere, ultimately influencing clouds and climate

Seasonal study

  1. Satellites such as CALIPSO, a joint NASA and CNES mission, also help to study the ocean and the atmosphere
  2. Rates of phytoplankton accumulation are critical for understanding the ocean conditions that lead to phytoplankton growth and its timing, a key to unlocking the environmental drivers and controls of biological dynamics
Apr, 11, 2018

Scientists study ways to dim sunshine, slow global warming

Image source


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Solar geoengineering, Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI)

Mains level: Various initiatives to tackle climate change


Research into dimming sunshine

  1. Scientists in developing nations plan to step up research into dimming sunshine to curb climate change
  2. Research into “solar geoengineering”, which would mimic big volcanic eruptions that can cool the Earth by masking the sun with a veil of ash, is now dominated by rich nations

Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI)

  1. The solar geoengineering studies may be helped by a new $400,000 research project, the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative (SRMGI)
  2. The fund could help scientists in developing nations study regional impacts of solar geoengineering such as on droughts, floods or monsoons
  3. Among proposed ideas, planes might spray clouds of reflective sulfur particles high in the Earth’s atmosphere
  4. The SRMGI is financed by the Open Philanthropy Project

Risks involved

  1. It might disrupt weather patterns
  2. The action could be hard to stop once started
  3. It might discourage countries from making a promised switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energies


Solar geoengineering

  1. Solar radiation management (SRM or solar geoengineering) is a theoretical approach to reducing some of the impacts of climate change by reflecting a small amount of inbound sunlight back out into space
  2. It is in the early stages of research
  3. SRM would not directly reduce concentrations greenhouse gases
  4. Different SRM techniques have been proposed such as- Stratospheric aerosol injection, Marine cloud brightening
  5. Stratospheric aerosols might delay the regeneration of the ozone layer
Apr, 07, 2018

India2022 to combat environmental issues


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India2022

Mains level: Indian efforts in combating climate change


Global private sector-led coalition

  1. Sanjiv Mehta, CEO and MD at Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), and Osvald Bjelland, founder, chairman, and CEO at Xynteo AS, a Norway-based environmental advisory and think tank, are spearheading India2022
  2. It is a global private sector-led coalition to combat environmental issues, in addition to improving societal and economic conditions

About India2022

  1. It is a group of like-minded companies that have come together to find solutions to seemingly impractical problems
  2. The philosophy is that new business models should reduce the environmental impact and increase the societal impact
  3. Group has picked up four areas to start with—Energise (a project to promote the generation of clean energy), healthcare, waste and sanitation, and sustainable mining
Apr, 07, 2018

32 Indians to contribute in report on Climate Change


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IPCC, Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)

Mains level: India’s contribution in climate change research and mitigation


Indians in IPCC report preparation team

  1. Thirty-two Indians, including seven affiliated with foreign institutions, are among the more than 700 experts selected to contribute to the next assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  2. Five similar reports of IPCC in the past have formed the basis for the global strategy to fight climate change

Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)

  1. The Sixth Assessment Report, or AR6, will be completed in 2021 and is likely to be published in 2022
  2. The IPCC does not produce its own scientific work
  3. The experts selected by it survey all the climate change-related scientific research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals across the world and predict the possible future scenarios from them


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

  1. IPCC is a scientific and intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations set up at the request of member governments
  2. It is dedicated to the task of providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts
  3. It was first established in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly
  4. Membership of the IPCC is open to all members of the WMO and UNEP
  5. The IPCC produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the main international treaty on climate change
  6. IPCC reports cover the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation
Mar, 20, 2018

Speeding up plans to cut emissions may save 153 million lives, says study


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Finding of the study


Findings of the study

  1. The study by US-based Duke University was published in the journal, Nature Climate Change
  2. According to the study, at least 153 million premature deaths linked to air pollution could be avoided across major urban areas worldwide this century
  3. if governments across the world speed up their plans to cut fossil fuel emissions
  4. The report stressed that premature deaths would decline in cities on every inhabited continent with the greatest gains in saved lives occurring in Asia and Africa

Positive impact on India

  1. Kolkata and Delhi lead the list of cities that would benefit the most from accelerated emission cuts, with 8.8 million projected lives saved
  2. In India, according to the study, a total of 25.72 million premature deaths can be avoided across 18 cities, which includes Patna, Mumbai, Lucknow, Agra, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Bengaluru, Chennai and others
Mar, 07, 2018

Arctic permafrost may unleash carbon within decades: NASA

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Permafrost, Arctic, Global warming

Mains level: Effects of climate change


Permafrost thawing

  1. Permafrost in the coldest northern Arctic will thaw enough to become a permanent source of carbon to the atmosphere this century
  2. The peak transition could be occurring in 40 to 60 years
  3. The region was formerly thought to be at least temporarily shielded from global warming by its extreme environment


  1. Permafrost is soil that has remained frozen for years or centuries under the topsoil
  2. It contains carbon-rich organic material, such as leaves, that froze without decaying

How does the carbon release from permafrost?

  1. Rising Arctic air temperatures cause permafrost to thaw
  2. The organic material decomposes and releases its carbon to the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane

How growing more plants help in reducing global warming?

  1. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air during photosynthesis, so increased plant growth means less carbon in the atmosphere
  2. Increased photosynthesis will balance increased permafrost emissions until the late 2100s
Mar, 06, 2018

[op-ed snap] High noon: dealing with above-normal temperatures


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India Meteorological Department, heat waves, La Niña, WHO

Mains level: Effects of climate change across India and world


High-temperature forecast

  1. India Meteorological Department has forecasted above-normal maximum and minimum temperatures across the country during the pre-monsoon March-May period

Public health challenge

  1. The summer of 2018 may pose a public health challenge
  2. There are distinct groups at particular risk for health-related problems during a heat wave
  3. These include  senior citizens and people with a pre-existing disease, mental illness or disability, which prevents them from being able to care for themselves
  4. A half-degree rise in average temperature in recent decades has resulted in a higher probability of extreme heat waves and caused a lot of deaths

Governments should be ready

  1. A heat event has serious implications for public health: it can lead to fatal heat stroke in a small percentage of people, while many more could encounter exhaustion, cramps, and fainting
  2. It is vital for governments to ensure that all stakeholders, including the health-care system, are prepared to deal with the heat event phenomenon
  3. The World Health Organisation recommends that countries adopt heat-health warning systems, including daily alerts to ensure that people are in a position to deal with adverse weather, starting with the reduction of exposure
  4. Water stress is a common and often chronic feature in many States and arrangements should be made to meet scarcity

Hope of a good monsoon

  1. There is some hope that the southwest monsoon this year will benefit from an expected moderate La Niña condition in the equatorial Pacific
  2. It is marked by cooler-than-average sea surface temperature
Mar, 03, 2018

UN spotlight on Kerala’s energy-positive campus


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNEP Global Status Report 2017, Global Environment Fund

Mains level: India’s efforts in dealing with climate change


Recognition for energy efficiency

  1. The Energy Management Centre (EMC), an autonomous institution under the Kerala government, has grabbed the global spotlight for its energy-positive campus
  2. Energy Management Centre is the only Indian project to get recognition for energy efficiency in a UNEP report

Global Status Report 2017

  1. The ‘Global Status Report 2017: Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector,’ is published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  2. It has listed the EMC campus as one of the recent achievements in the deployment of key technologies for energy-efficiency in buildings
  3. The EMC campus is the only LEED Gold certified building in the government sector in Kerala and is built with assistance from the Global Environment Fund


Global Environment Fund

  1. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems
  2. GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues
  3. The GEF is a unique partnership of 18 agencies — including United Nations agencies, multilateral development banks, national entities and international NGOs
  4. It is the financial mechanism for for 5 major international environmental conventions: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Minamata Convention on Mercury
Feb, 22, 2018

India gives $1 million for rehabilitation work in cyclone-hit Tonga


Mains Paper 1: Geography | Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India-UN Development Partnership Fund, Sustainable Development Goals, cyclones, hurricanes

Mains level: Impact of climate change on small island nations


South-South cooperation

  1. India has contributed USD one million for the rehabilitation efforts in Tonga after the Tropical Cyclone Gita caused massive destruction in the Pacific island nation
  2. India has allocated USD 500,000 in the India-UN Development Partnership Fund for the rehabilitation efforts while USD 500,000 will be provided for immediate relief assistance
  3. This has been done by India in the spirit of South-South cooperation

Previous assistance

  1. Last year, following devastation caused by the hurricanes Irma and Maria, India provided a sum of USD 2 million for rehabilitation projects in Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica through the India-UN Development Partnership Fund

Comabting climate change

  1. The first project under the fund focuses on climate early warning systems in Pacific Island countries
  2. The project aims to increase resilience from natural disasters of these seven Pacific island countries and contribute toward the Sustainable Development Goal of Climate Action


India-UN Development Partnership Fund

  1. The India-UN Development Partnership Fund is supported and led by the Government of India and managed by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation
  2. The Fund supports Southern-owned and led, demand-driven, transformational sustainable development projects across the developing world, with a focus on least developed countries and small island developing states
  3. The USD 100 million fund was established on June 8, 2017
  4. United Nations agencies implement the Funds projects in close collaboration with partnering governments
Feb, 13, 2018

[op-ed snap] Adapting better to climate change


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Adaptation Fund, Climate change targets

Mains level: Constraints in implementing climate change related policies


Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

  1. There are ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restrict global warming to below 2°C or even below 1.5°C
  2. These projects on adaptation have been funded or implemented in a number of countries, either by individual governments or with the help of external donor funds

Failures of adaptation projects

  1. A 2010 survey of over 1,700 projects concluded that adaptation projects were not helping the most vulnerable communities
  2. Many projects on adaptation begin by studying what climate impacts are expected, what kinds of vulnerabilities exist locally and how these can be addressed in a given local context
  3. When several projects from the Global Adaptation Fund, an international fund managed by the United Nations climate secretariat to help developing countries with climate change adaptation projects, were analyzed, they too were found not to take into account unequal power structures

New framework to assess failure in adaptation

It involves four main themes to show that failures in adaptation

  1. The first is enclosure, which is when private agents acquire public assets or expand their authority over them
  2. Exclusion is the second mode of failure, which is associated with some stakeholders getting excluded or marginalised, thus limiting their access to decision-making processes
  3. The third is encroachment, in which the adaptation actions undertaken during the project end up intervening in areas that are rich in biodiversity
  • These interfere with ecosystem services and often result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions

4. The last is entrenchment, where the condition of those who are already disempowered or marginalised in the local social context, such as the poor, women or other minorities, worsens from the intervention

There are various examples of projects from both developing and advanced industrial countries that fail under these themes

What can be done to reduce such incidences?

  1. Politics and power struggles to control resources need to be acknowledged as being part and parcel of adaptation projects
  2. Mechanisms to anticipate and deal with them correctly should be incorporated well in advance
  3. Elite networks will capture prized outcomes of projects, such as land, water or other resources and privileges, should be accepted
  4. Measures to prevent or mitigate their actions need to be identified

Way forward

  1. Forces of political economy and ecology that are an integral part of our societies cannot be wished away when considering adaptation projects
  2. While considering and designing climate change adaptation projects, in addition to vulnerabilities and costs, issues around equity, justice, and social hierarchies must be equally considered
Jan, 24, 2018

Nasa says earth’s global surface temperature in 2017 second warmest since 1880


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Impact of global warming on India and world


Latest report by the NASA

  1. The report has said that Earth’s global surface temperature in 2017 ranked as the second warmest since 1880 when global estimates became feasible
  2. It also stressed that if the effects of the recent El Niño and La Niña patterns were statistically removed from the record, 2017 would have been the warmest year on record

Findings of the research

  1. As per the analysis, Earth’s average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (a little more than 1 degree Celsius) during the last century or so
  2. It is a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere

Impact on India due to rising sea levels

  1. For a country like India which has a vast coastline of about 7500 km inhabited by millions, the rising sea level means trouble
  2. India’s major cities like Mumbai, which is called country’s financial capital, and Kolkata are among the top 10 megacities across the world that face a serious threat due to rising sea levels

Impact on South Asian monsoon

  1. A warming trend could also have a significant impact on the monsoon
  2. According to a study done at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, rainfall has been decreasing over central South Asia — from south of Pakistan through central India to Bangladesh
  3. The decrease is highly significant over central India where agriculture is still mostly rain-fed, with reduction of up to 10-20% in the mean rainfall
Jan, 17, 2018

[op-ed snap] Can we still avoid the climate tipping point?


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Carbon profile, Paris agreement, World Meteorological Organization, etc.

Mains level: The article discusses serious upcoming challenges on climate front. It also discusses some possible solutions to minimize the effects of climate change.


The risks of climate change are greater than currently feared

  1. According to a British journal ‘Nature’, the rise in average global temperature by the end of the century is likely to be about 5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
  2. This is off by a huge margin from 2 degrees Celsius scenario which has been considered by the global scientific community as the upper threshold that the Earth’s environment can withstand
  3. Beyond which irreversible changes in the global climate are likely to occur
  4. The World Meteorological Organization says that global emissions reached a record high of 403.3 parts per million (ppm) in 2016
  5. This level of pollution is highest in 800,000 years, and presents a scary picture of irreversible changes already happening in the global climate system

What can be done?

  1. While the 2 degrees Celsius threshold looks unlikely now, we, however, can still minimize its impact while simultaneously developing infrastructure to face the worst scenario
  2. Suggestions by the writer:

First: Model of development

  1. We need to fundamentally change our northern model of development which is based on the excessive resource consumption
  2. If the same model of development were to continue, it is going to be ecologically unsustainable for the planet

Second: Natural environment as a fundamental right

  1. We ought to treat the natural environment as a fundamental right and ask politicians to ensure it
  2. Political will flows from the people—when citizens care, politicians too act
  3. We as citizens have not demanded a measured action from our public representatives

Third: Regional, national and local strategies

  1. As the US has pulled out of the Paris agreement, it seems unlikely that there will be a global agreement now or in the near future
  2. Hence rather than a grand national or global strategy, we need to focus on regional, national and local strategies, e.g., cities
  3. The global urban population is likely to go up from 54% (3.9 billion) in 2014 to 66% (6.4 billion) in 2050
  4. Investing in energy-efficient appliances, powering homes with renewable energy, reducing water waste, using public transport and other measures can help in lowering the national, and ultimately the global, carbon profile

Fourth: Fossil-free energy future 

  1. The sharp fall in renewable energy cost had led to a record renewable capacity addition of 161 gigawatt (GW) in 2016, a 10% rise over 2015
  2. The falling price of renewable energy has made its cost comparable to fossil fuel in many parts of the world
  3. This is likely to accelerate the transition towards a fossil-free future

Finally: Developing countries need to focus more on adaptation than mitigation

  1. As the impact of climate change becomes increasingly visible, developing countries like India, need to focus more on adaptation than mitigation
  2. They need to develop infrastructure to rehabilitate people in their coastal areas, meet food demand with changing rain patterns and manage immigration caused by climate change


Carbon profiling

  1. Carbon profiling is a mathematical process that calculates how much carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere per m2 of space in a building over one year
  2. The analysis is in two parts which are then added together to produce an overall figure which is termed the ‘Carbon Profile’: operational carbon emissions and embodied carbon emissions
  3. Embodied carbon emissions relate to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from creating and maintaining the materials that form the building e.g. the carbon dioxide released from the baking of bricks or smelting or iron
  4. In the Carbon Profiling Model these emissions are measured as Embodied Carbon Efficiency (ECE), measured as kg of CO2/m2/year
  5. Occupational Carbon Emissions relate to the amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from the direct use of energy to run the building e.g. the heating or electricity used by the building over the year
  6. In the Carbon Profiling Model these emissions are measured in BER’s (Building Emission Rate) in kg of CO2/m2/year
  7. The BER is a United Kingdom government accepted unit of measurement that comes from an approved calculation process called sBEM (Simplified Building Emission Model)
  8. The purpose of Carbon Profiling is to provide a method of analyzing and comparing both operational and embodied carbon emissions at the same time
  9. With this information it is then possible to allocate a projects resources in such a way to minimize the total amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted into the atmosphere through the use of a given piece of space
  10. A secondary benefit is that having quantified the Carbon Profiling of different buildings it is then possible to make comparisons and rank buildings in term of their performance
  11. This allows investors and occupiers to identify which building are good and bad carbon investments
  12. Simon Sturgis and Gareth Roberts of Sturgis Associates in the United Kingdom originally developed ‘Carbon Profiling’ in December 2007
Jan, 08, 2018

Chemical ban helping ozone hole recover: Nasa


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics of Ozone Depletion

Mains level: One of the few positive outcomes of the efforts done against environmental pollution and degradation


NASA’s report on ozone depletion

  1. An international ban on chlorine-containing man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), has resulted in about 20% less ozone depletion
  2. Chlorine from CFCs is going down in the ozone hole, and that less ozone depletion is occurring because of it

What are CFCs?

  1. CFCs are long-lived chemical compounds that eventually rise into the stratosphere, where they are broken apart by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, releasing chlorine atoms that go on to destroy ozone molecules
  2. CFCs have lifetimes from 50 to 100 years, so they linger in the atmosphere for a very long time
  3. Stratospheric ozone protects life on the planet by absorbing potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and damage plant life

Antarctic ozone hole

  1. The Antarctic ozone hole forms during September in the southern hemisphere’s winter as the returning sun’s rays catalyse ozone destruction cycles involving chlorine and bromine that come primarily from CFCs


Ozone Depeletion

  1. Ozone depletion describes two related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline of about four percent in the total amount of ozone in Earth’s stratosphere (the ozone layer), and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone around Earth’s polar regions
  2. The latter phenomenon is referred to as the ozone hole. There are also springtime polar tropospheric ozone depletion events in addition to these stratospheric phenomena
  3. The main cause of ozone depletion and the ozone hole is man-made chemicals, especially man-made halocarbon refrigerants, solvents, propellants, and foam-blowing agents (chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), HCFCs, halons), referred to as ozone-depleting substances (ODS)
  4. These compounds are transported into the stratosphere by the winds after being emitted at the surface
  5. Once in the stratosphere, they release halogen atoms through photodissociation, which catalyze the breakdown of ozone (O3) into oxygen (O2). Both types of ozone depletion were observed to increase as emissions of halocarbons increased
  6. Ozone depletion and the ozone hole generated worldwide concern over increased cancer risks and other negative effects
  7. The ozone layer prevents most harmful UVB wavelengths of ultraviolet light (UV light) from passing through the Earth’s atmosphere
  8. These wavelengths cause skin cancer, sunburn, and cataracts, which were projected to increase dramatically as a result of thinning ozone, as well as harming plants and animals
  9. These concerns led to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which bans the production of CFCs, halons, and other ozone-depleting chemicals
Jan, 06, 2018

Oceans losing oxygen, can damage marine life: study


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the study and importance of oxygen in the sea

Mains level: Ocean is an important part of earth’s ecosystems. Any damage to it will directly affect human beings.


A latest study published in journal ‘Science’

  1. The study said that in the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold and in coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas
  2. And low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950
  3. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms up

It can directly affect humans

  1. According to the study, the situation can cause serious damage to marine life, affect livelihoods of millions of people and trigger the release of dangerous greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide
  2. The danger due to low oxygen in oceans is manifold
  3. As per the study, even small oxygen declines can stunt growth in animals, hinder reproduction and lead to disease or even death

What should be done?

  1. To keep low oxygen in check, the scientists said the world needs to take on the issue from three angles—address the causes, nutrient pollution and climate change
Jan, 02, 2018

Ancient jumping genes may control coral bleaching in warming oceans


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Coral Bleaching, Symbiodinium, etc.

Mains level: Importance of the newly found gene


Why is the research in news?

  1. Scientists have identified a gene that improves the heat tolerance of the algae that live symbiotically with coral species, and could potentially help the corals adapt to some warming
  2. Name of the special gene: Retrotransposons

Importance of the Algae for Corals

  1. Algae: Symbiodinium is a unicellular alga that provides its coral host with photosynthetic products in return for nutrients and shelter
  2. However, high sea temperatures can cause the breakdown of this symbiotic relationship and lead to the widespread expulsion of Symbiodinium from host tissues, an event known as coral bleaching
  3. If bleached corals do not recover, they starve to death, leaving only their white, calcium-carbonate exoskeleton


It’s all about corals

Dec, 21, 2017

‘2017 may be among top 3 hottest years’


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Meteorological Organization, El Nino

Mains level: Global warming and its impacts

First 11 months of 2017 third warmest on record

  1. The year 2017 will likely be among the three warmest years on global record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
  2. The first 11 months of 2017 were the third warmest on record, behind 2016 and 2015
  3. Much-warmer-than-average conditions engulfed much of the world’s land and ocean surfaces

Geographical impacts

  1. Arctic and Antarctic sea ice coverage remain at near record lows
  2. 2017 may also be the warmest year without an El Nino — a climate phenomenon that causes global temperatures to shoot up
  3. There is an overall, long-term trend of warming since the late 1970s, and especially this century


World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

  1. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 191 Member States and Territories
  2. It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873
  3. Established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950, WMO became the specialised agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences
  4. Its supreme body is the World Meteorological Congress

El Nino

  1. El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe
  2. El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the International Date Line and 120°W), including off the Pacific coast of South America
  3. El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific
  4. The cool phase of ENSO is called “La Niña” with SST in the eastern Pacific below average and air pressures high in the eastern and low in western Pacific
Dec, 15, 2017

No lake formation near Gaumukh or along the course of river Bhagirathi: reports


Mains Paper 1: Geography | changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies & ice-caps) & in flora & fauna & the effects of such changes

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gangotri glacier, Gaumukh, Bhagirathi river, landslide

Mains level: Early detection of disasters and prevention


No lake formation at Gaumukh

  1. A team of scientists and government officials who did an aerial survey of the Gangotri glacier dismissed claims of any lake formation at Gaumukh which could hinder the course of the Bhagirathi river
  2. This was done day after the Uttarakhand high court ordered the state government to clear the lake that had formed near Gaumukh
  3. The high court had instructed the state government to clear the lake near Gaumukh to prevent any future disasters like the one at Kedarnath in June 2013
  4. Gaumukh is the snout of the Gangotri glacier from where the Bhagirathi river originates

Reason behind “lake” formation

  1. The satellite data available with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from November 2011 to October 2017 was analyzed by the expert agencies
  2. It was observed that in July 2017 a landslide had occurred due to which debris had been deposited “slightly away” from Gaumukh
  3. It showed “minor pondage” near the snout of the Gangotri glacier, but “no blockage” was observed in the Bhagirathi river

Is this anything to worry about?

  1. There was no imminent danger from the landslide that had occurred during the rainy season of 2017
  2. At present, there exists no lake along the course of the river and there isn’t any obstruction in the path of the river
Dec, 01, 2017

Winter may be warmer than 40-year normal


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global warming, cold waves

Mains level: Effects of climate change in India as well as across the globe


Forecast by the India Meteorological Department

  1. Winter temperatures across the country are, are on the whole, expected to be cooler than last year
  2. In keeping with the trend in recent years, they are likely to be warmer than the 40-year ‘normal’ winter temperatures
  3. In general, maximum and minimum temperatures across most States are likely to elevated

Global warming showing effect

  1. The warming trends are part of a larger pattern stoked by global warming
  2. Last winter was, on an average, about a degree warmer than the historical normal
  3. Between March and May this year, mean temperature was also warmer than normal with an anomaly of +0.77C,
  4. This along with 2010 was the sixth warmest ever spring season since 1901

Cold waves

  1. Cold waves — a characteristic mark of winters in north India — too may see a dip
  2. There is a 40% chance that minimum temperatures will be above normal in the so-called “core cold wave zone” of North and middle India

Other reasons behind variability in cold waves

  1. Other than global warming, ocean conditions over the equatorial Indian and Pacific oceans also contribute to the year-to-year variability of cold waves over the country
Nov, 15, 2016

World likely to cross 1.2°C global warming level this year

  1. Source: A preliminary assessment provided by the World Meteorological Organisation in its Status of the Global Climate in 2016 report
  2. Finding: The world is likely to cross 1.2° C of global warming above pre-industrial levels in 2016
  3. This is dangerously close to breaching the 1.5° C warming levels advised as an ambitious target to stay safe from the worst impacts of climate change
  4. Impact of warming: There were a number of major heat waves and droughts experienced during 2015-2016
  5. The year started with an extreme heat wave in southern Africa, exacerbated by the ongoing drought
  6. The report also mentions Phalodi in Rajasthan, India which set a new record for heat in India recording 51.0°C on May 19
  7. The Paris Agreement last year had adopted 2°C as the absolute threshold for staying within safe global warming levels
  8. However, 1.5°C was advised as an ambitious target, especially bearing in mind the fate of small island countries such as Haiti or Maldives
  9. These islands are threatened with submergence due to sea-level rise and extreme weather events
  10. In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures were 6°C to 7°C above the long-term average
Sep, 15, 2016

Greenland sets record temperatures, ice melts early

  1. News: Temperature records are broken in Greenland this year after parts of the territory’s vast ice sheet began melting unusually early
  2. These new results give the new and robust evidence of the tendency of warmer temperatures in the Arctic continuing
  3. Record temperatures: The average summer temperature was 8.2 degrees Celsius (46.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tasiilaq on Greenland’s southeast coast
  4. This is the highest since records began in 1895 and 2.3 degrees Celsius above the average between 1981 and 2010
Jun, 08, 2016

Gangotri glacier retreated by 3 km in two centuries

  1. Retreat: The rate of retreating Gangotri glacier has increased sharply since 1971
  2. It is 22 metres per year
  3. Reasons: Lesser ice formation each year than its current rate of melting of ice
  4. Climate change and global warming are the main reasons
  5. Dwindling snowfall affects volume of water fed to the Bhagirathi, the main source of the Ganga
  6. Concern: Due to melting of ice, small lakes are forming on the top of glacier
  7. Earlier: The blast of one such glacial lake in Chorabari that led to the June 2013 flood disaster in Kedarnath
  8. Also the shape of the Gangotri glacier is changing from convex to concave
Jun, 07, 2016

Arctic regions getting greener due to climate change: NASA

  1. Context: A new NASA study on Arctic region
  2. Finding: Due to changing climate, Arctic regions of North America are getting greener, with almost a third of the land cover looking more like landscapes found in warmer ecosystems
  3. Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than elsewhere, which has led to longer seasons for plants to grow in and changes to the soils
  4. Observation: Grassy tundras changing to shrublands, and shrubs growing bigger and denser — changes that could have impacts on regional water, energy and carbon cycles
  5. The study was done using Landsat
Dec, 21, 2015

Role of tropical forests in reducing global warming

Tropical forests can achieve a below 2 C rise in global warming by 2050.

  1. As the transition from total reliance on fossil fuels to that on renewable sources of energy is expected to take place over the next 35 years.
  2. Enhancing carbon uptake and reducing emissions could account for as much as 50 per cent of total carbon emissions.
  3. To achieve a 75 per cent likelihood of avoiding warming in excess of 2 degrees C through changes in fossil fuel emissions alone.
  4. The landscape with shifting cultivation has 10 per cent of the land in crops, say, and 90 per cent of the land in fallows.
Nov, 26, 2015

2015 set to be 'hottest year on record', says UN

This is due to a combination of a strong El Niũo and human-induced global warming.

  1. This year is set to be the hottest on record and 2016 could be even hotter due to the current El Niũo weather pattern.
  2. The global average surface temperatures in 2015 were likely to reach what it called the “symbolic and significant milestone” of 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial era.
  3. The El Nino weather pattern, marked by warming sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, causes extremes such as scorching weather and flooding.
May, 04, 2015

1 in 6 species can face extinction by end of century due to global warming

  1. 16 % of species in the world would face the risk of extinction because of climatic factors.
  2. The endemic plants and animals of Australia, South America and New Zealand are at risk as for they would not be able to go to other place when their only homeland becomes uninhabitable.
  3. While, the species in North American and European regions have the lowest extinction risk due to climate change.
Feb, 02, 2015

Mangroves extending polewards

Mangroves are tropical forests and cannot tolerate extreme cold events but due to the global warming, there has been a reduction in the frequency of frosts in Florida and hence they are extending polewards.

  • Subscribe

    Do not miss important study material

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
0 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
0 Comment authors
Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of