Category: Climate change and its impacts

GLACIERS IN SIKKIM MELTING FASTER

Why in News?

  • The Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun have conducted a study recently which has found that glaciers in Sikkim are melting at a higher magnitude as compared to other Himalayan Glaciers.

About the study:

  • Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun is an autonomous research institute for the study of Geology of the Himalaya under the Department of Science and Technology.
  • The study published in Science of the Total Environment assessed the response of 23 glaciers of Sikkim to climate change for the period of 1991-2015.
  • This study studied multiple glacier parameters, namely length, area, debris cover, Snowline Altitude (SLA), glacial lakes, velocity, and down wasting.

Key Findings of the Study:

  • Glaciers in Sikkim have retreated and de-glaciated significantly from 1991 to 2015.
  • Compared to other Himalayan regions, the magnitude of dimensional changes and debris growth are higher in the Sikkim.
  • Contrary to the western and central Himalaya, where glaciers melting is reported to have slowed down in recent decades, the Sikkim glaciers have shown negligible deceleration (reduction in speed) in melting after the year 2000.
  • Summer temperature rise has been a prime driver of glacier changes.
  • The behaviour of glaciers in the region is heterogeneous and found to be primarily determined by glacier size, debris cover, and glacial lakes.
  • The study revealed that Small-sized glaciers in Sikkim are retreating while larger glaciers are thinning due to climate change.

Significance of the study:

  • The study provides ample baseline data on glacier changes and systematically explores the causal relationship between glacier parameters and various influencing factors.
  • A clear understanding of glacier state will help orienting future studies as well as taking necessary measures.
  • Accurate knowledge of magnitude as well as the direction of glacier changes can lead to awareness among common people regarding water supplies and possible glacier hazards, particularly to those communities that are living in close proximity.

FUTURE OF EARTH 2020

Why in News?

  • Five Global Risks that have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that may cascade to create a global systemic crisis have been listed by “The Future of Earth, 2020”, which was released by the South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science.

Highlights:

  • The report was prepared with the aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degree Celsius by 2050.
  • The report, released by K. Kasturirangan, former Chairman, ISRO, lists five global risks:
  • Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
    • Extreme weather events
    • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
    • Food crises
    • Water crises
  • Offering examples of how the interrelation of risk factors play a role, scientists say extreme heat waves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems, and at the same time intensify water crises and/or food scarcity.
  • The loss of biodiversity also weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, increasing our vulnerability to food crises, they point out.

Politics, Biodiversity and Climate Change:

  • It is pointed out that over the last 18 months, major assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the US National Climate Assessment, and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, have all argued that time is running out to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
    • This has inspired declarations of a climate crisis or climate emergency by the leaders of more than 700 cities, States and governments.
    • Yet, during 2019, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached more than 415 ppm.
    • Five years from 2014 to 2018 were the warmest recorded over land and ocean since 1880.
  • Right-wing populism, a breed of politics that exploits people’s fears during times of economic decline and growing inequality, and that which focuses on nationalist tendencies to clamp down on borders and reject immigrants is on the rise around the world.
    • It is argued that this often leads to a denial of climate change facts or impacts.
  • The report highlights that humans have now “significantly altered” 75% of our planet’s land area; about a quarter of species in assessed plant and animal groups are threatened.
  • Strains on food production are expected to increase, as a result of various forces including climate change, biodiversity loss, and a global population on the rise.

INDIA – NORWAY JOINT STATEMENT

Why in News?

  • India and Norway issued a joint statement on climate and environment during the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

Highlights:

  • India and Norway agreed to jointly tackle concerns related to oceans, environment and climate matters.
  • Ministers of both countries expressed interest to continue and strengthen the mutually beneficial cooperation on environment and climate between the two countries, including on ocean affairs.
  • Both sides agreed to take up actions that target climate change and air pollution.
  • The ministers recognized that the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol for phasing down the use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) could prevent up to 0.4 degree C of warming by end of the century.
  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer) is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion.
  • The Kigali Agreement is an amendment to the Montreal Protocol. As per this arrangement, countries that have signed it are supposed to decrease the manufacture and use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by approximately 80-85% from their respective standards, till 2045.
  • This phase down is supposed to capture the global average temperature rise up to 0.5 degree C by 2100.
  • The ministers reiterated the importance of oceans in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They were particularly satisfied that Norway and India will sign a Letter of Intent on integrated ocean management including sustainable Blue Economy initiatives. Know more about the Blue Revolution.
  • They welcomed the cooperation between India and Norway on the implementation of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and on the minimisation of discharge of marine litter.
  • The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment.
  • It was adopted by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in May 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Convention entered into force in May 2004.
  • India ratified this Convention in 2006 and it entered into force for India in 2006.
  • The Ministers emphasized a shared understanding of the global and urgent nature of marine plastic litter and microplastics and underlined that this issue cannot be solved by any one country alone. They are committed to supporting global action to address plastic pollution and exploring the feasibility of establishing a new global agreement on plastic pollution.
  • They also discussed the conservation of migratory species of wild animals.

MELTING ANTARCTICA

Context:

  • The Antarctic region has registered its highest-ever temperature on record as mercury soared over 20 degrees Celsius earlier in the first week of February, 2020. Researchers logged 20.75 degrees Celsius on an island off the coast of the continent in February – a record high temperature never seen before in the region.

Key Facts:

  • The Antarctic has registered a temperature of more than 20oC (68F) for the first time on record, prompting fears of climate instability in the world’s greatest repository of ice.
  • The 20.75 degree Celcius logged by Brazilian scientists at Seymour Island in February,2020 was almost a full degree higher than the previous record of 19.8C, taken on Signy Island in January 1982.
  • Also,this February an Argentinian research station at Esperanza measured 18.3C, which was the highest reading on the continental Antarctic peninsula.
  • These records will need to be confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, but they are consistent with a broader trend on the peninsula and nearby islands, which have warmed by almost 3C since the pre-industrial era – one of the fastest rates on the planet.
  • Scientists, who collect the data from remote monitoring stations every three days, described the new record as “incredible and abnormal”.
  • Although the new temperature reading was not part of a wider study, scientists warn it is enough to indicate how fast Antarctica is warming.
  • The temperature of the peninsula, the South Shetland Islands and the James Ross archipelago, which Seymour is part of, has been erratic over the past 20 years.

Why are Ice Sheets Important?

  • Ice sheets contain enormous quantities of frozen water. If the Greenland Ice Sheet melted, scientists estimate that sea level would rise about 6 meters (20 feet). If the Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, sea level would rise by about 60 meters (200 feet).
  • The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets also influence weather and climate. Large high-altitude plateaus on the ice caps alter storm tracks and create cold downslope winds close to the ice surface.
  • In addition, the layers of ice blanketing Greenland and Antarctica contain a unique record of Earth’s climate history.

What can ice sheets tell us about Earth’s Climate History?

  • Scientists extract ice cores from ice sheets and ice caps, studying them to learn about past changes in Earth’s climate.
  • Ice sheets are made up of layers of snow and ice that collected over millions of years.
  • Those layers contain trapped gases, dust, and water molecules that scientists can use to study past climates and environment.

The Antarctic Melt:

  • The climatic changes in the atmosphere is closely related to changes in permafrost and the ocean.
  • The impacts of climate change vary across Antarctica, which encompasses the land, islands and ocean south of 60 degrees latitude.
  • The Antarctic region stores about 70% of the world’s fresh water in the form of snow and ice. If it were all to melt, sea levels would rise by 50 to 60 metres.
  • UN scientists predict oceans will be between 30cm and 110cm higher by the end of this century, depending on human efforts to reduce emissions and the sensitivity of ice sheets.
  • While temperatures in eastern and central Antarctica are relatively stable, there are growing concerns about west Antarctica, where warming oceans are undermining the huge Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers.
  • Until now, this has led to a relatively low amount of sea-level rise, but this could change rapidly if there is a sustained jump in temperature.
  • The Antarctic peninsula – that stretches towards Argentina – is most dramatically affected.
  • While some degree of melt occurs every summer, scientists argue that it had been more evident in recent years, with temperatures rising more quickly in winter.
  • This rise in temperature has caused an alarming decline of more than 50% in chinstrap penguin colonies, which are dependent on sea ice.
  • The amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017.

SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVE TOWARDS AFFORDABLE TRANSPORTATION (SATAT)

Why in News?

  • SATAT is an initiative aimed at setting up of Compressed Bio-Gas production plants and make it available in the market for use in automotive fuels as a developmental effort that would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.
  • The initiative was launched by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas in association with Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) Oil Marketing Companies (OMC) Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.

Biogas:

  • It is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste / bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste, etc.
  • After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has pure methane content of over 95%.
  • Compressed Bio-Gas is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential.
  • With calorific value and other properties similar to CNG, Compressed Bio-Gas can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel.

Implementation:

  • Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) plants are proposed to be set up mainly through independent entrepreneurs.
  • CBG produced at these plants will be transported through cascades of cylinders to the fuel station networks of OMCs for marketing as a green transport fuel alternative.
  • There are multiple benefits from converting agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste into CBG on a commercial scale:
    • Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution
    • Additional revenue source for Farmers
    • Boost to entrepreneurship, Rural Economy and Employment
    • Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals
    • Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil
    • Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations

URBAN HEAT ISLANDS IN INDIA

Why in News?

  • A recent study from IIT Kharagpur named “Anthropogenic forcing exacerbating the urban heat islands in India” noted that mean daytime temperature of surface urban areas going up by around 2 degrees Celsius in average, when compared to neighboring areas.
  • The same study also said that the relatively warmer temperature in urban areas, compared to suburbs, may contain potential health hazards due to heat waves apart from pollution.

What is Urban Heat Island?

  • Urban Heat Island effect is defined as the presence of significantly higher temperatures in urban areas compared to the temperatures in surrounding rural zones mainly due to human factors
  • Usually urban heat islands have a mean temperature 8 to 10 degrees more than the surrounding rural areas
  • These can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality.

So why are these urban areas Hotter than Surrounding Suburbs?

  • This happens because of the materials used for pavements, roads and roofs, such as concrete, asphalt (tar) and bricks, have higher heat capacity and thermal conductivity than rural areas, which have more open space, trees and grass.
  • Trees and plants are characterized by their ‘evapotranspiration’— a combination of words wherein evaporation involves the movement of water to the surrounding air, and transpiration refers to the movement of water within a plant and the subsequent lot of water through the stomata (pores found on the leaf surface) in its leaves.
    • Grass, plants and trees in the suburbs and rural areas do this. The lack of such evapo-transpiration in the city leads to the city experiencing higher temperature than its surroundings.
  • The higher temperatures of urban heat islands can be attributed to human activity, particularly to changes in land surfaces. Urban development requires the use of significant amounts of cement and asphalt for roofing purposes and to pave sidewalks and roads. These materials have thermal bulk properties that absorb more solar radiation than the surfaces found in rural areas. Additionally, these materials have different surface radiative properties, which means they emit energy as thermal radiation or heat.

ARCTIC ICE MELT CAN DISRUPT OCEAN CURRENTS AND ALTER CLIMATE IN WESTERN EUROPE

Why in News?

  • Researchers have discovered how an ocean water current, which plays a key role in keeping Western Europe warm, could be altered by an influx of large amounts of cold, fresh water from melting ice in the Arctic.

Highlights:

  • The researchers said this fresh water is important in the Arctic since it floats above the warmer, salty water, and helps protect the sea ice from melting – in turn regulating the Earth’s climate.
  • The  seawater current called the Beaufort Gyre keeps the polar environment in balance by storing fresh water near the surface of the Arctic ocean.
  • Wind blows the gyre in a clockwise direction around the western Arctic Ocean, north of Canada, where it naturally collects fresh water from the melting of glaciers, and river runoff.
  • As the fresh water is slowly released by the gyre into the Atlantic Ocean over a period of decades, it allows the Atlantic Ocean currents to carry it away in small amounts.
  • Since the 1990s, the gyre has accumulated a large amount of fresh water – 8,000 cubic kilometres. The cause of this gain in freshwater concentration is the loss of sea ice in summer and autumn.
  • Due to this decades-long decline of the Arctic’s summertime ice cover, the Beaufort Gyre is more exposed to the wind, which has spun the gyre faster, trapping the fresh water in its current.
  • The westerly winds have also persistently dragged the current in one direction for over 20 years, increasing its speed and size, as well as preventing the fresh water from leaving the Arctic Ocean.
  • If the wind changes direction again, it could reverse the current, pulling it counterclockwise and releasing the water it has accumulated all at once.
  • If the Beaufort Gyre were to release the excess fresh water into the Atlantic Ocean, it could potentially slow down its circulation. And that would have hemisphere-wide implications for the climate, especially in Western Europe.
  • While the increased turbulence has helped keep the system balanced, it may also lead to further ice melt since it mixes layers of cold, fresh water with relatively warm, salt water below.

Importance of Beaufort Gyre:

  • Water from the Arctic loses heat and moisture to the atmosphere, and sinks to the bottom of the ocean, where it drives water from the north Atlantic Ocean down to the tropics in a conveyor-belt-like current called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.
  • This current helps regulate the planet’s climate by carrying heat from the tropically-warmed water to northern latitudes like Europe and North America, and if it is slowed down, it could negatively impact all life forms, especially marine creatures.

LOCUST ATTACK

Context:

  • In recent weeks, locust swarms have attacked crops in more than a dozen countries in Asia and Africa. The United Nations have announced that the situation is extremely alarming in three regions – the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea area, and southwest Asia. The Horn of Africa being the worst-affected area.

The Locust Emergency:

  • Locust swarms from Ethiopia and Somalia have reached south to Kenya and 14 other countries in the continent.
  • In the Red Sea area, locusts have struck Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen.
  • In Asia, locust swarms have savaged  Iran, Pakistan and India.
  • Huge swarms of locusts have struck border villages in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab – causing heavy damage to standing crops prompting the state governments to sound high alert against locust attacks.
  • Pakistan and Somalia have declared national emergency to battle locusts

The Locusts Attack:

  • Locusts are the oldest migratory pest in the world. They differ from ordinary grasshoppers in their ability to change behaviour (gregarize) and form swarms that can migrate over large distances.
  • The most devastating of all locust species is the Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria).
  • During plagues, it can easily affect 20 percent of the Earth’s land, more than 65 of the world’s poorest countries, and potentially damage the livelihood of one tenth of the world’s population.During quiet periods, Desert Locusts live in the desert areas between West Africa and India – an area of about 16 million square km where they normally survive in about 30 countries.
  • Locusts have a high capacity to multiply, form groups, migrate over relatively large distances (they can fly up to 150 km per day) and, if good rains fall and ecological conditions become favourable, rapidly reproduce and increase some 20-fold in three months.
  • Locust adults can eat their own weight every day, i.e. about two grams of fresh vegetation per day.

What is the Relationship between locusts and climate change?

  • During quiet periods—known as recessions—desert locusts are usually restricted to the semi-arid and arid deserts of Africa, the Near East and South-West Asia that receive less than 200 mm of rain annually.
  • In normal conditions, locust numbers decrease either by natural mortality or through migration.
  • However, the last five years have been hotter than any other since the industrial revolution and since 2009.
  • Studies have linked a hotter climate to more damaging locust swarms, leaving Africa disproportionately affected—20 of the fastest warming countries globally are in Africa.
  • Wet weather also favours multiplication of locusts. Widespread, above average rain that pounded the Horn of Africa from October to December 2019 were up to 400 per cent above normal rainfall amount.
  • These abnormal rains were caused by the Indian Ocean dipole, a phenomenon accentuated by climate change.

How can Locusts be Controlled?

  • Controlling desert locust swarms primarily uses organophosphate chemicals by vehicle-mounted and aerial sprayers, and to a lesser extent by knapsack and hand-held sprayers.
  • Extensive research is ongoing regarding biological control and other means of non-chemical control with the current focus on pathogens and insect growth regulators.
  • Control by natural predators and parasites so far is limited since locusts can quickly move away from most natural enemies.
  • While people and birds often eat locusts, this is not enough to significantly reduce population levels over large areas.
  • While the traditional form of control considered is use of pesticides, the impact of these chemicals on the environment and other critical ecosystems key to food security—such as bees and other insects, which not only pollinate up to 70 percent of our food but also may have an impact on human health—cannot be overlooked.

What is the role of the United Nations in Locust Control?

  • The United Nations’ response to locust attack control is multi-agency in nature. While the immediate sector at risk is food security, climate change plays an exacerbating role.
  • One of UNEP’s roles is to disseminate the latest science on emerging climate trends to inform cross-sectorial policies and ensure resilience is built in the relevant sectors.
  • The role of the World Meteorological Organization is to forecast the more immediate weather changes that may exacerbate the locusts’ attacks.
  • The World Health Organization’s role is to classify potential risks of different chemical agents to enable governments to invest in the safest one.
  • One of the mandates of the Food and Agricultural Organizations is to provide information on the general locust situation and to give timely warnings and forecasts to those countries in danger of invasion. The organization operates a centralized desert locust information service.

The Case of India:

  • In June 2019, the Indian side of the Thar desert received unexpected rainfall, which again made conditions conducive for locusts to lay their eggs.
  • Usually, the southwest monsoon hits western Rajasthan on July 1.
  • Barmer district in Rajasthan, part of the Thar, broke all records in June. It received a 14-day spell of rainfall.
  • This led to a lot of locust breeding in the Thar region
  • Locusts need moisture in sand to breed. They do breed in dry deserts too but the nymph (immature insect) fails to come out of the egg because of the heat.
  • The rain also led to the sprouting of desert vegetation like grasses. This led to more breeding of locusts, that got a ready food supply.
  • Locusts usually leave India by November. In 2019, however, this did not happen as there were nine days of rainfall in November 2019.
  • Pests are changing their behavior and adapting to changing climate. Locusts that leave India at the onset of winter, are now spending winters.

NEW METHOD TO ESTIMATE MELTING OF DEBRIS COVERED HIMALAYAN GLACIERS

Why in News?

  • A study of the Satopanth glacier in order to model the melting of debris-covered glaciers has been carried out by a group of Indian researchers.
  • Their New Method gives a better estimate of the glacier’s melting than existing ones.

Highlights:

  • Studying debris-laden Himalayan glaciers is Important from the point of view of how climate change affects them.
  • About 20% of Himalayan glaciers are debris-laden, and their dynamics are very different from the ones without debris cover.
  • In glaciers without a debris cover, the rate of melting increases as the elevation decreases. However, in glaciers covered with debris, the thick cover partially insulates the glacier from the warm exterior and thereby slows down the melting.
  • The thickness of the debris cover, by and large, increases as the glacier flows down.
  • This works against the general trend that the lower the elevation, the higher the rate of melting.
  • They computed the sub-debris melting of the glacier by interpolating the collected data as a function of thickness of the debris and averaging over debris thickness distribution over different parts of the glacier.
  • The new method introduced by the group worked better at estimating the dynamics of the glacier than the conventional method.

Satopanth Glacier:

  • Satopanth glacier is located in Garhwal in Central Himalaya, in Uttarakhand. It is the origin of the river Alaknanda, one of the two main tributaries of the Ganga.
  • The other tributary is Bhagirathi, which originates from the Gangotri glacier. These two rivers join at Devprayag, around 70 km upstream of Rishikesh. Downstream of Devprayag, the river is called Ganga.

SPECIES RICH FORESTS OFFER STABLE CARBON CAPTURE

Why in News?

  • An International Team of Researchers has shown that carbon storage was highest in species-rich evergreen forest.
  • The team Spent over six months conducting surveys inside Anamalai Tiger Reserve and using satellite data from multiple locations in the Western Ghats.

Highlights:

  • The research adds that the rate of carbon capture was more stable across years in forests than in plantations, and carbon capture by forests was more resilient to drought.
  • The study was done in natural evergreen and deciduous forests, and in teak and eucalyptus plantations.
  • The studied eucalyptus plantations had comparatively lower carbon storage, while teak plantations stored nearly as much carbon as deciduous forests.
  • The team identified the trees, measured their girth and height in 250 square plots inside the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, and used the measurements to estimate carbon storage in different forests and plantation types.
  • They then used satellite data from Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Bhadra Tiger Reserve, along with Anamalai to assess the rate of carbon capture and how they varied across years.
  • Annual rainfall and stressors like drought were all taken into consideration for the study. The storage in teak and eucalyptus plantations was 43% and 55% less, respectively.
  • The researchers also found that the rates of carbon capture remained nearly the same year after year in natural forests compared with plantations.
  • The findings suggest that protecting and regenerating natural forests comprising a diverse mix of native tree species is more reliable in the long term than raising monoculture or species-poor plantations as a strategy for mitigating climate change.
  • Species-rich forests are beneficial for biodiversity as they also provide habitat to many other components like insects, birds, etc. Previous studies have shown that species-rich forests are also resistant to diseases.
  • They also added that the ability to regenerate the seeds differ across species and so a multi-species forest would likely show greater resilience in case of a fire.

Anamalai Tiger Reserve:

  • Aanaimalai Tiger Reserve, earlier known as Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park and previously as Aanaimalai Wildlife Sanctuary, is a protected area located in the Anaimalai Hills of Pollachi and Valparai taluks of Coimbatore District and Udumalaipettai taluk in Tiruppur District, Tamil Nadu.
  • Major reservoirs like Parambikulam Reservoir, Aliyar Reservoir, Thirumurthi Reservoir, Upper Aliyar Reservoir, Kadambarai, Sholayar Dam and Amaravathi Dam are fed by the perennial rivers which originate from the Sanctuary.
  • The area has significant anthropological diversity with more than 4600 Adivasi people from six tribes of indigenous people living in 34 settlements.
  • The tribes are the Kadars, Malasars, Malaimalasar s, Pulaiyars, Muduvars and the Eravallan (Eravalar). The diverse topography and rainfall gradient allow a wide variety of vegetation comprising a mix of natural and man-made habitats.
  • The former includes wet evergreen forest and semi-evergreen forest, montane shola-grassland, moist deciduous, dry deciduous, thorn forests and marshes.
  • Tropical montane forests occur at higher elevations and are interspersed with montane grasslands, forming the shola-grassland complex.

2019 WAS 7TH WARMEST SINCE 1901

Why in News?

  • The year 2019 that went by was the 7thwarmest since record-keeping commenced in 1901. However, the rise in Average Temperatures over India in 2019 was the lowest since 2016.

Highlights:

  • During the year, the annual mean surface air temperature, averaged over the country, was +0.36°C above average.
  • The Average is defined as the mean temperature from 1980-2010.
  • The Highest Warming observed over India was during 2016 or 0.71°C above the mean. 2018, which was the 6thwarmest in India, was 0.41°C, and 2017 was 0.55°C warmer, than the average.
  • According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the rise in global mean surface temperature during 2019 (January to October) was +1.10°C.
  • The main contributors to the warming this year were temperatures in the pre-monsoon (March-May) and monsoon seasons (June-September).
  • 2019 was also characterised by unusually high rainfall, which was 9% over what is normal for a year which was due to monsoon rains (June-September) being 10% over its normal, and the northeast monsoon rains being 9% over its normal.
  • During 2019, eight cyclonic storms formed over the Indian seas, with the Arabian Sea contributing five out of these eight cyclones against the normal of one per year. This was a phenomenon not seen in India since 1902.
  • This was, meteorologists said, due to a strong Indian Ocean Dipole, or an IOD, which cyclically heats the West Indian Ocean that stimulated cyclone formation over the Arabian Sea.

CARBON TRADING & CLIMATE CHANGE

  • “Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical responsibilities”
  • Climate Change is the defining issue of our time. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.

What are Greenhouse Gases and How do the affect the Global Climate?

  • Greenhouse gases occur naturally and are essential for the survival of living beings including humans.
  • They help their survival, by keeping some of the Sun’s warmth from reflecting back into space and making the Earth habitable.
  • As populations, economies and standards of living grew – human activities like industrialization, deforestation, and large-scale agriculture have increased the quantities of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • The concentration of GHGs in the earth’s atmosphere is directly linked to the average global temperature on Earth.
  • The concentration has been rising steadily, and mean global temperatures along with it, since the time of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for about two-thirds of GHGs, is largely the product of burning fossil fuels.

What is a Carbon Offsetting and what are offsetting projects? ​

  • A carbon offset broadly refers toreduction in GHG emissions – or an increase in carbon storage (e.g., through land restoration or the planting of trees) – that is used to compensate for emissions that occur elsewhere.
  • A carbon Offset Project, May Involve:
  • Renewable energy development (displacing fossil-fuel emissions from conventional power plants);
  • The capture and destruction of high-potency GHGs like methane, N2O, or HFCs; or
  • Avoided deforestation (which can both avoid the emission of the carbon stored in trees, as well as absorb additional carbon as trees grow).

What are Carbon Credits?

  • A carbon credit (often called a carbon offset) is a tradable certificate or permit.
  • One carbon credit is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide emitted.
  • Carbon credits can be acquired through afforestation, renewable energy, CO2 sequestration, methane capture, buying from an exchange (carbon credits trading) etc.
  • Carbon credits are traded at various exchanges across the world.

What is Carbon Trading?

    • It is a market-based system aimed at reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, particularly carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels.
    • The process involves buying and selling of permits and credits to emit carbon dioxide, it uses the Cap and Trade mechanism to achieve the reduction in Emissions.

What does Cap and Trade Mean?

  • It is also called as Emission Trading.
  • The system works by setting an overall limit or cap on the amount of emissions that are allowed from significant sources of carbon, including the power industry, automotive and air travel.

Kyoto Protocol and Carbon Trading:

  • The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.
  • Kyoto Protocol allows countries that have emission units – to sell this excess capacity to countries that are over their targets.
  • Parties with commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Parties) have accepted targets for limiting or reducing emissions.
  • These targets are expressed as levels of allowed emissions, or assigned amounts, at over the 2008-2012 commitment period.
  • The allowed emissions are divided into assigned amount units (AAUs).
  • A new commodity is created in the form of emission reductions or removals.
  • Since carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas, people speak simply of trading in carbon. Carbon is now tracked and traded like any other commodity. This is known as the “Carbon Market.”

Other trading units under Kyoto Protocol:

  • More than actual emissions units can be traded and sold under the Kyoto Protocols emissions trading scheme. The other units which may be transferred under the scheme, each equal to one tonne of CO2, may be in the form of:
  • A Removal Unit (RMU) on the basis of land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities such as reforestation
  • An Emission Reduction Unit (ERU) generated by a joint implementation project
  • A Certified Emission Reduction (CER) generated from a clean development mechanism project activity
  • Transfers and acquisitions of these units are tracked and recorded through the registry systems under the Kyoto Protocol.

FIRE-BREATHING CLOUDS

Context:

  • Australia’s bushfires are growing so massive and powerful that they create their own weather phenomenon.
  • According to Bureau of Meteorology office, Victoria, it has observed the
  • pyro-cumulonimbus cloudsabove eastern part of state.
  • These fire-induced storms bring little rain, but are packed with lighting that can spark new fires.

Fire making Thunderstorms:

  • The bushfires in the country have reached a point where they are generating their own weather, creating a feedback loop that will make the already dire situation worse.
  • Experts have still not understood the mechanism behind this weather phenomenon, but unlike regular thunderstorms, these are ‘dry’.
  • This means they don’t produce rain, only lighting, which may spark more wildfires.
  • This new weather system produces strong winds that Stoke Existing Wildfires.

Fire storm:

  • The term “firestorm” is a contraction of “fire thunderstorm”. In simple terms, they are thunderstorms generated by the heat from a bushfire. Firestorms also produce dry lightning, potentially sparking new fires, which may then merge or coalesce into a larger flaming zone.
  • The crucial difference here is that this upward movement is caused by the heat from the fire, rather than simply heat radiating from the ground.

Cycle of this weather phenomenon:

1. Pyrocumulonibus Thunderstorms:

  • It is developed to altitudes over 16km.These fire-induced storm can spread fires through lighting, lofting of embers and generation of severe wind outflows.
  • It is much like a normal thunderstorm that forms on a hot summer’s day. Conventional thunderclouds and pyro-cumulonimbus share similar characteristics. Both form an anvil-
  • shaped cloud that extends high into the troposphere (the lower 10-15km of the atmosphere) and may even reach into the stratosphere beyond.
  • The weather underneath these clouds can be fierce. As the cloud forms, the circulating air creates strong winds with dangerous, erratic “downbursts” – vertical blasts of air that hit the ground and scatter in all directions.
  • Similar to typical thunderstorms, both are created through rapidly rising air caused by heating of the air column.

2. Smoke Plume

  • In pyro-cumulonimbus, the fire heats the air so intensely that it fuels rapidly rising motion above the fire, like the updrafts in thunderstorms that can reach speeds over.

3.Plume Cools

  • This propels smoke and ash several kilometres into the atmosphere, where the air cools and the available water vapour condenses into visible clouds.

4.Clouds

  • The ash then helps condense the water vapour into droplets by acting as condensation nuclei- dust for the moisture to cling onto.

5. Downpour

  • But the difference is that unlike real thunderstorms, the rain that falls is evaporated by the heat and dryness of the fire before it can reach the ground.

6. Thunderstor & Lighting

  • The faster the process takes place the more likely the clouds are to spark lighting, just like real thunderstorms.

EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL

Why in News?

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

European Green Deal:

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

Climate Neutrality:

  • The EU has promised to bring a law, binding on all member countries, to ensureit
  • becomes“climate neutral” by 20
  • Climate neutrality, sometimes also expressed as a state of net-zero emissions is achieved when a country’s emissions are balanced by absorptions and removal of greenhouse gases from the
  • Absorption can be increased by creating more carbon sinks like forests, while removal involves technologies like carbon capture and
  • The EU is now the first major emitter to agree to the 2050 climate neutrality target. It has said it would bring a proposal by March next year on a European law to enshrine this target.

Emission Reduction:

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

Significance:

  • The 28EU member countries are together the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after China and the United States,
  • The EU also happens to be only one among major emitters to retain the 1990 baseline for emission cuts originally mandated under the Kyoto Protocol for all developed
  • The European Union, as a whole, has been doing better than other developed countries on reducing
  • In 2010, the EU had pledged to reduce its emissions by at least 25per cent by 2020 from 1990
  • By 2018, it claimed to have achieved 23per cent reduction in
  • In terms of emission reductions, it probably is on track to meet the 2020target, unlike any developed country outside the

Lacunae:

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

CLIMATE TALKS ENDS WITHOUT ANY DEALS

Why in News?

  • The last longer international climate talks ended with major polluters resisting calls to ramp up efforts to keep global warming in control.

About the News:

  • The major polluters resisted calls to ramp up efforts to keep global warming at bay and negotiators postponed the regulation of global carbon markets until next year.
  • In the end, delegates from almost 200 nations endorsed a declaration to help poor countries that are suffering the effects of climate change, although they didn’t allocate any new funds to do so.
  • The final declaration called on the “urgent need” to cut planet-heating greenhouse gases in line with the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris climate change accord.
  • This has fallen far short of promising to enhance countries’ pledges to cut planet-heating greenhouse gases next year, which developing countries and environmentalists had lobbied the delegates to achieve.
  • The Paris accord established the common goal of avoiding a temperature increase of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
  • So far, the world is on course for a 3- to 4-degree Celsius rise, with potentially dramatic consequences for many countries, including rising sea levels and fiercer storms.
  • Negotiators in Madrid left some of the thorniest issues for the next climate summit in Glasgow in a year, including the liability for damages caused by rising temperatures that developing countries were insisting on which was resisted mainly by the United States.

Effects due to Climate Change:

  • The High-Income Countriesare also affected due to changes in global climate, where their damage is Predominantly Economical.
  • Countries like Germany and Japan, the face of industrialized nations, face heat wave and droughts.
  • The Low-Income and Middle-Income Countriesface both economic and human loss.
  • These countries are more vulnerable as they do not have finance to adapt or infrastructure to mitigate the damages caused by the climate extremities.
  • The Climate Risk Indexhas another set of ranking for the period 1999-2018 — which is based on average values over a twenty-year period.
  • In the 1999 to 2018 period Puerto Rico is the most vulnerable followed by Myanmar, Haiti, Philippines and Pakistan.

What are the concerns for India?

  • 10% of India’s wildlife is threatened with extinction.
  • Agricultural bio-diversity has seen significant decline, in some regions the loss is severe, with loss of around 90% of the bio-diversity.
  • Around half of the available water bodies are heavily polluted and they are neither potable nor can be used for agricultural purposes.
  • More than 2/3rd of the land has been degraded to the level of sub-optimal productivity.
  • The air pollution is growing, with more cities facing higher levels of pollution.
  • Electronic and chemical wastes that are produced are far against our capacity to recycle or even manage.

NEW U.N. CLIMATE REPORT OFFERS ‘BLEAK’ EMISSIONS FORECAST

Why in News?

  • The 10th Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that there’s “no sign” greenhouse gases will hit their zenith anytime soon.
  • India-is-the-fourth-largest-emitter-of-greenhouse-gases.

Emissions Gap:

  • The Emissions Gap, also called Commitment Gap, measures the gap between what is need to be done and what is actually been done to tackle climate change.
  • The gap is the difference between the low level of emissions that the world needs to drop to, compared with the projected level of emissions based on countries’ current commitments to decarbonization.
  • Emissions-Gap-Report-by-UNEP-2019:
  • The world’s emissions have been increasing by about 5% per year for the past decade. That would lead to temperature increases of nearly 4°C by 2100.
  • Emissions levels reached 55 GtCO2 in 2018. By 2030, it will rise to double the volumes consistent with limiting temperature increases to 1.5°C.
  • To stop temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C, the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32 GtCO2e by 2030.
  • Efforts to reduce CO2 emissions would have to increase five-fold to reach the 1.5 degrees C target.
  • China’s per capita emissions are rising to levels experienced by developed economies. China is still the world’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, with annual emissions now almost double of US, the second greatest source.
  • The rankings would change if land-use change emissions were included, with Brazil likely to be the largest emitter.

Suggestions:

  • The report names five key areas for closing emission gap:
    • At least $1.59 billion annual investment in renewables and more efficient energy use
    • Coal phaseout
    • Decarbonization of transport
    • Decarbonization of industry
    • Increased access to electricity for 3.5 billion people
  • Some environmental economists have called for a tax on CO2 emissions to incentivize companies to produce energy more sustainably. However, it was unsuccessful.
  • One strategy for closing the emissions gap would see renewable sources make up 85% of the world’s electricity mix by 2050.
  • The number of countries and cities setting goals to go carbon-neutral has risen since September 2018 from just a handful to about 65. The European Union, for example, aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. Individual countries including Germany, the UK and France have also set zero-emissions goals.

Suggestions for India:

  • Plan the transition from coal-fired power plants
  • Develop an economy-wide green industrialization strategy towards zero-emission technologiesExpand mass public transit systems
  • Develop domestic electric vehicle targets working towards 100 per cent new sales of zero-emission cars

Emissions Gap Report:

  • It is annually published by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It examines the progress of countries to close the gap via their commitments to Emissions Reduction.

The Report Measures Three Key Trend Lines:

  • The amount of greenhouse gas emissions every year up to 2030
  • The commitments countries are making to reduce their emissions and the impact these commitments are likely to have on overall emission reduction
  • The pace at which emissions must be reduced to reach an emission low that would limit temperature increase to 1.5 C, affordably
  • The top four emitters (China, USA, EU and India) contribute to over 55% of the total emissions over the last decade.India’s global emissions was 5.5% in 2018.
  • G20 nations collectively account for 78 % of all emissions. Emissions per capita of India is one of the lowest within the G20.

COMMON BUT DIFFERENTIATED RESPONSIBILITIES AND RESPECTIVE CAPABILITY (CBDR-RC)

Why in News?

  • India will insist upon the principle of ‘equity and common but differentiated responsibilities’ at next week’s COP-25 in Madrid, Spain.

CBDR-RC:

  • It is a principle within the UNFCCC that acknowledges the different capabilities and differing responsibilities of individual countries in addressing climate change.
  • In simpler terms, it means that while all countries should do their best to fight global warming, developed countries – with deeper pockets, which were primarily responsible for the climate mess – should take a bigger share of the burden than the developing and under-developed countries.

India’s agenda at COP-25:

  • India will stress upon the need for fulfilling pre-2020 commitments by developed countries.
  • The ‘pre-2020 period commitments’ refers to the promises made by the developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol — developing countries faced no binding commitments under the protocol.

Paris Agreement (COP-21):

  • The Paris Agreement that was signed by all countries (and since ratified by the required number of countries) was hammered out in the 21st COP, in 2015.
  • In that agreement, all countries agreed upon a common target of “2 degrees Celsius” – they resolved not to allow the world to warm more than 2 degrees over the average temperatures that existed in the pre-industrialisation period of the mid-19th
  • To limit global warming to not more than 2 degrees, all countries brought in their own action plans — NDCs — and pledged to walk the talk.
  • They also agreed that the developed countries should mobilise funds for the developing countries to undertake climate-action projects — but neither any quantum of funds nor the nature of such funds was specified.
  • In general, it was agreed that the developed countries would provide technology and that all countries would sit for a review of the status once in five years – called ‘global stocktake’ – and would “raise ambition”.

UNFCCC COP25: CLIMATE CHANGE & INDIA

  • The 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Spain from 2nd December,2019, holds a lot of significance.
  • The countries are preparing to get a transition from the Pre-2020 (Kyoto protocol) period to the Post 2020 (Paris Agreement) period.

Issues Ahead:

  • Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. Climate change affects every country and can have devastating effects on communities and individuals.
  • According to the World Health Organization, as of the year 2030, climate change is expected to contribute to approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

Developed Countries vs Developing Countries:

  • Developing countries are the most impacted by climate change and the least able to afford its consequences.
  • Their vulnerability is due to multiple factors that can limit their ability to prevent and respond to the impacts of climate change.
  • Historically, the majority of greenhouse gas emissions have come from developed countries.
  • UNFCCC has recognised that all countries should protect the climate system on the basis of equity and in accordance with ‘common but differentiated responsibilities.’
  • Accordingly, the developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change and its adverse effects.
  • In this context, India is all set to stress upon the need for fulfilling Pre-2020 commitments by developed countries and that Pre-2020 implementation gaps should not present an additional burden to developing countries in the Post-2020 period.

Carbon Reduction vs Carbon Elimination:

  • The cost of renewable energy is in decline over the years, and in near future the green energy can compete on cost, with oil, coal and gas-fired power plants. This has become possible as a result of consistent fall in the cost of new plants.
  • India’s renewable energy cost is the lowest in the Asia Pacific. India’s target to have 175 GW of renewable-based installed power capacity by 2022, has been pushed forward through various national strategies and plans. India ventured into International Solar Alliance to promote Solar energy around the world. The alliance has a major objective to increase the global deployment of solar energy by 2030.
  • Through CoP25, India and other developing countries would express their readiness to improve their progress towards renewable energy and would also stress the developed countries to do the same.

Making the 1.5oC Possible:

  • The Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
  • But as per the IPCC Report, at present, the world is 1.2°C warmer compared to pre-industrial levels and at current rate of emissions, the world is set to breach the global warming limit of 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.

Raging Forest Fires:

  • The forest fires around the world are reducing the available carbon sinks as well as releases the trapped carbon that has been stored.
  • The released carbon would further add to the global warming as Carbon-dioxide.
  • The long spell of hot and dry weather that has increased the risk of bushfires. The recent forest fires in Australia, Europe and California are to be taken as warning alarm, to raise awareness on conserving the precious resources.

Drowning Venice:

  • The recent increase in flooding in Venice which is due to the combined effects of land subsidence causing the city to sink, and climate change causing the global sea level to rise, is a cause for concern.

What is the Need of The Hour?

  • Make Coal as an unviable source of energy, in order to promote the renewables.
  • Create more Carbon Sinks, to sustainably reduce the effects of global warming.
  • Countries should focus more on storage technologies, like Lithium-ion batteries to make renewable energy a viable alternative.

GREENHOUSE GAS IN ATMOSPHERE

Why in News?

  • According to the World Meteorological Organization, levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached new record high.

About:

  • The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017.
  • CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the oceans for even longer.
  • Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also surged by higher amounts than during the past decade, according to observations from the Global Atmosphere Watch network which includes stations in the remote Arctic, mountain areas and tropical islands.
  • From 1990, there has been a 43% increase in total radiative forcing – the warming effect on the climate – by long-lived greenhouse gases. CO2 accounts for about 80% of this, according to figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Paris Agreement:

  • The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.
  • The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
  • To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a New Technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives.
  • The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework.

World Meteorological Organization:

  • WMO is the specialized agency of the UN for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences, established in 1950.
  • India is a member of WMO
  • Its mandate covers weather, climate and water resources.

Emission Gap:

  • The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Emission Gap represent what goes into the atmosphere.
  • Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere and the oceans.
  • Gap Report 2019 indicate that greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in 2018, according to an advanced chapter of the Emissions Gap Report released as part of a United in Science synthesis for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September.

UN Environment | Emissions Gap Report:

  • The flagship report from UN Environment is the definitive assessment of the ’emissions gap’ – the gap between anticipated emission levels in 2030, compared to levels consistent with a 2°C / 1.5°C target.
  • It found that global emissions are on the rise as national commitments to combat climate change come up short.
  • The Emissions Gap report assesses the latest scientific studies on current and estimated future greenhouse gas emissions; they compare these with the emission levels permissible for the world to progress on a least-cost pathway to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

WMO | Greenhouse Gas Bulletin:

  • The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere.
  • There is no sign of a reversal in this trend, which is driving long-term climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and more extreme weather.
  • The bulletin includes a focus on how isotopes confirm the dominant role of fossil fuel combustion in the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  • Fossil fuels were formed from plant material millions of years ago and do not contain radiocarbon.Burning it will add to the atmosphere radiocarbon-free CO2, increasing CO2 levels and decreasing its radiocarbon content. And this is exactly what is demonstrated by the measurements.
  • Fifty-four countries contributed data for the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. Measurement data are reported by participating countries and archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG) at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Carbon Dioxide:

  • Carbon dioxide is the main long-lived greenhouse gas in the atmosphere related to human activities.
  • Its concentration reached new highs in 2018 of 407.8 ppm, or 147% of pre-industrial level in 1750.The increase in CO2 from 2017 to 2018 was above the average growth rate over the last decade.
  • The growth rate of CO2 averaged over three consecutive decades (1985–1995, 1995–2005 and 2005–2015) increased from 1.42 ppm/yr to 1.86 ppm/yr and to 2.06 ppm/yr with the highest annual growth rates observed during El Niño events

Methane:

  • Methane (CH4) is the second most important long-lived greenhouse gas and contributes about 17% of radiative forcing.
  • Approximately 40% of methane is emitted into the atmosphere by natural sources (e.g., wetlands and termites), and about 60% comes from human activities like cattle breeding, rice agriculture, fossil fuel exploitation, landfills and biomass burning.
  • It reached a new high of about 1869 parts per billion (ppb) in 2018 and is now 259% of the pre-industrial level.
  • The increase of CH4 from 2017 to 2018 was higher than both that observed from 2016 to 2017 and the average over the last decade.

Nitrous Oxide:

  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) is emitted into the atmosphere from both natural (about 60%) and anthropogenic sources (approximately 40%), including oceans, soil, biomass burning, fertilizer use, and various industrial processes.
  • Its atmospheric concentration in 2018 was 331.1 parts per billion. This is 123% of pre-industrial levels. The increase from 2017 to 2018 was also higher than that observed from 2016 to 2017 and the average growth rate over the past 10 years.
  • It also plays an important role in the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer which protects us from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. It accounts for about 6% of radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases.

WMO | Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Program:

  • It provides information and services related to
  • The steadily increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are impacting the climate
  • The depletion of the protective stratospheric ozone layer has increased ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to more incidences of skin cancer and other diseases
  • The urban air pollution, especially fine particles, which is affecting Human Health.
  • It provides data to all bulletin like,
  • Arctic and Antarctic ozone bulletins
  • Greenhouse gas bulletins
  • Aerosol bulletins

U.S.A EXITS PARIS AGREEMENT

Why in News?

  • Recently U.S.A has notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the landmark climate deal by initiating the process of leaving the Paris Agreement.

About Paris Agreement:

  • The Paris Agreement of 2016 is an international accord that brings almost 200 countries together in setting a common target to reduce global greenhouse emissions in an effort to fight climate change.
  • Parties to UNFCCC agreed to strive to limit the rise in global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius and to try and limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius, over pre-industrial levels by 2100, under Paris Agreement.
  • Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) were conceived at Paris summit which require each Party to prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve.
  • Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.
  • Paris Agreement replaced earlier agreement to deal with climate change, Kyoto Protocol.

Procedure to leave the Pact:

  • A country can leave the pact through Article 28 of the Paris Agreement which allows countries to leave the Paris Agreement. It also lays down the process for leaving the agreement.
  • A country can only give a notice for leaving at least three years after the Paris Agreement came into force.
  • The agreement has come into force on November 4, 2016. Therefore, the US was eligible to move a notice for leaving on November 4 this year, which it did.
  • The withdrawal is not immediate, however. It takes effect one year after the submission of the notice. It means the United States will be out of Paris Agreement only on November 4 next year.
  • After it leaves, the US will be the only country left out of the global protocol. Syria and Nicaragua, the last remaining countries who were earlier holding out, also became signatories in 2017.

Implications of the above move:

  • The biggest impact of the exit of the United States from the Agreement might be on the financial flows to enable climate actions. The United States plays a preeminent role in mobilising financial resources globally, and its absence from the scene could seriously hamper that effort.
  • The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. If it does not reduce its emissions befitting its status as the second largest emitter, it could seriously jeopardise the world’s objective of keeping the global temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.
  • Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries are under obligation to mobilise at least $100 billion every year from the year 2020 in climate finance meant for the developing world. The exit of USA might hamper these efforts too.
  • While exiting the Paris Agreement does not automatically mean the abandonment of this target or of any future action by the United States on climate change, it would no longer be committed to the targets recommended by Paris Agreement.

Can U.S.A re-join the pact at a Later Date?

  • It can re-join the agreement whenever it wishes to do so. There is no bar on a country re-joining the Paris Agreement.
  • It is also possible that the United States does a rethink and actually never leaves the Paris Agreement. It has one full year to reconsider its decision.

MOST MOUNT EVEREST GLACIERS WILL DISAPPEAR WITH CLIMATE CHANGE, WARNS STUDY

Why in News?

  • A recent study has painted a bleak future for most glaciers in the Mount Everest region, warning that they will either disappear or retreat as a result of temperature rise over the next
  • There are over 5,000 glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region, which is the site of Mount Everest and other tall peaks.
  • The study has been published in The Cryosphere, the journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU), a non-profit international association.

Highlights of the Study:

  • According to the study, the volume of several glaciers may reduce by 70 per cent to 99 per cent by 2100, which will have dire consequences on farming and hydroelectricity generation.
  • Researchers resorted to glacier mass balance and ice redistribution model to examine the “sensitivity of glaciers in the Everest region of Nepal to climate change”.
  • According to the study, high-elevation snow and ice cover play pivotal roles in the Himalayan hydrologic system.
  • In those Himalayan regions affected by monsoon, melt water from glaciers provides an important source of stream flow during pre-and post-monsoon seasons.
  • In view of this, changes in glacier area and volume are expected to affect water availability during dry seasons, the study warns.
  • This, in turn, will affect agriculture, hydropower generation and local water availability.
  • The study was conducted in Dudh Koshi basin in central Nepal which has a total glacierised area of over 400 sq km.
  • The region contains some of the world’s highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest, Cho Oyu, Makalu, Lhotse and Nuptse.
  • The Dudh Koshi river is a major contributor to the Koshi river, which contains nearly one-quarter of Nepal’s exploitable hydroelectric potential.

The current status of glaciers varies across the HKH region. Most areas have seen glacier retreat and down wasting in recent years, though areas such as the Karakoram and Pamir ranges have experienced equilibrium or even slight mass gain, the paper says.

  • The study concludes that lower level glaciers will melt faster because the freezing level—the elevation where mean monthly temperatures are 0°C—will rise higher with rise in air temperature.
  • Available studies indicate that the mean annual temperatures have increased in the region, and particularly at high elevations.

Effects of Glacial Melt:

  • One serious consequence of glacier retreat in the Himalayas will be the formation of lakes, which may pose a risk to communities living downstream.
  • Also, farming and hydropower generation downstream is likely to be greatly affected. Over a billion people in Asia depend on rivers fed by glaciers for their food and livelihood.
  • While increased glacier melt initially increases the water flow, retreat leads to reduced melt water from glaciers during the summer months.
  • In the mountains of Asia, changes in glacier volumes will affect the timing and magnitude of stream flows, particularly in the pre-monsoon period, the study says.

MOSAIC MISSION

Why in News?

  • A native of Kerala, the 32-year-old polar researcher will be the only Indian among 300 scientists from across the world aboard the multidisciplinary drifting observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition.

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.

GREEN ENERGY TARGET LACKS DEADLINE

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Climate Action Summit in New York announced India’s ambitious aim to increase its renewable energy target to 450 GW (gigawatts). A senior official in the Union Environment Ministry has pointed out that there is not yet a deadline for when this target would be achieved.

Highlights:

  • India had previously set a target for increasing the non-fossil fuels to 175 GW in 2022.
  • India’s plan for installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 was first announced in 2015.
  • It included 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power.
  • Recent announcements highlight India’s aim to achieve 450 GW target, with no particular deadline.

Concerns:

  • Given that the country right now has an installed renewable energy capacity of 80.47 GW, of which 29.55 GW is solar, 36.37 GW is wind, 9.81 GW is biomass and 4.6GW is small hydropower, achieving the 450 GW target, which is a more than 460 per cent jump from the current level, in 3-5 years is an extremely tough task. For the record, India’s renewable power capacity had jumped nearly 150 per cent in the past five years.
  • The announcement comes at a time when commissioning of projects has slowed and states are raising red flags.Slow project allocation and financial stress have halted wind power projects.Solar projects have been facing land crunch and grid connectivity issues.
  • As India expands it renewables portfolio, wind power seem to be losing steam. Leading domestic wind turbine manufacturers, with more than 80 per cent market share, are staring at a weak order pipeline, financial losses and regulatory niggles. Foreign companies, including some Chinese ones, are increasing footprint in India.
  • Commissioning from wind power projects has slowed to historic lows.
  • In solar, the challenge is the low capacity of domestic solar panels and increased influx of imports from China.

Way Forward:

  • The renewable energy ministry is planning to introduce a standard power-purchase agreement (PPA) for projects.
  • The terms of the PPA will ensure any default from the procuring state would lead to stringent penalty. A letter of credit-type system of payment would be made mandatory.
  • To sort out land-acquisition issues, the ministry plans to change the project-award system.
  • The government will acquire the land.
  • Special-purpose vehicles (SPVs) will be formed by state-owned companies.
  • The land will then be allotted to private companies bidding for projects
  • The government should implement anti-dumping duty on a priority to deal with cut-throat competition from international players.
  • In order to boost Make in India, the renewable power ministry has asked the Ministry of Finance to impose

WEEK-LONG IPCC MEET ON CLIMATE CHANGE BEGINS IN NEW DELHI

Why in News?

  • India is hosting the Second Lead Author Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III Sixth Assessment Report at New Delhi from 30th September to 4th October 2019.

Highlights:

  • More than 200 experts/authors including 12 from India and others from around 65 countries are expected to participate in this week-long meeting.
  • The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) will examine topics such as the link between consumption and behaviour and greenhouse gas emissions, and the role of innovation and technology.
  • The report will assess the connection between short to medium-term actions and their compatibility with the long-term temperature goal in the Paris Agreement.
  • It will assess mitigation options in sectors such as energy, agriculture, forestry and land use, buildings, transport and industry.

IPCC:

  • The IPCC is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change.
  • It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide political leaders with periodic scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.
  • It has 195 member states.
  • For the assessment reports, IPCC scientists volunteer their time to assess the thousands of scientific papers published each year to provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks.
  • The IPCC has three working groups. They are:
    • Working Group I: Dealing with the physical science basis of climate change
    • Working Group II: Dealing with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability
    • Working Group III: Dealing with the mitigation of climate change
  • It also has a Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories that develops methodologies for measuring emissions and removals.

SPECIAL REPORT ON THE OCEAN AND CRYOSPHERE IN A CHANGING CLIMATE

Why in News?

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) was released in Monaco on 25th
  • The report highlights the destructive and irreversible changes on Earth’s ice sheets, glaciers, and oceans, and warns that the hazards posed by unprecedented warming will only worsen if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate.

About IPCC:

  • IPCC was founded in November 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) jointly as a place to study global warming problems at a governmental level.
  • It reviews the science related to climate change and its impacts on the future to help policymakers and world leaders prepare to act on climate change and its spinoff effects.
  • It is the mechanism that accumulates scientific knowledge on global warming while debates on the international countermeasures have been made in the COPs (Conference of the Parties) of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • The IPCC doesn’t conduct research of its own.

Background:

  • The report is the third in the series of three Special Reports in the current Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) cycle which began in 2015 and will be completed in 2022.
  • The first was Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C and the second was the Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL), also known as the “Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems” which was released on August 7, 2019.

Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC):

  • SROCC is an analysis of sound research over recent years about the Earth’s diverse water cycle and it’s many dependants.
  • It is the first report that discusses the effects of climate change on oceans and parts of the Earth frozen in ice, collectively known as the cryosphere.
  • The three-year-long survey summarized in the report looks at the adverse impacts of climate change on the oceans, coastal regions, polar ice caps, and mountain ecosystems as well as the impacts on human communities.
  • Possible solutions for the mitigation and adaptation to climate-related change has also been suggested by the report’s authors.
  • The report was the work of 104 scientists from 36 countries world over, who have referred to more than 7,000 scientific publications to compile their findings.
  • The Oceans and Cryosphere report addresses these ecosystems in five different chapters, as follows:
    • High mountain areas
    • Polar regions
    • Rising sea levels and their impacts on islands and coasts
    • Changing ocean and marine ecosystems and their effects on the communities that depend on them
    • Managing the risks of extreme climate changes
  • According to the report, the world’s oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the warming that has occurred on Earth over the last 50 years, with the rate of ocean warming more than doubling since 1993.
  • As a result of increasing rates of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, ocean levels rose around 15 centimeters during the 20th century and are currently rising at a rate of 3.6 millimeters per year — and accelerating.

Impact of Warming Ocean:

  • Warming oceans will lead to more frequent tropical cyclones, the report said that extreme sea-level events that have historically occurred once each century will occur every year by 2050, increasing flooding risks for low-lying coastal cities and island communities.
  • As a result, some small islands, which are home to 65 million people globally, are at risk of becoming uninhabitable.
  • Glacial melt, reductions in snow cover, and thawing of permafrost are also projected to increase the risk of landslides, avalanches, rockfalls, and floods in mountain regions.
  • According to the report the Arctic region, where 4 million people live,especially indigenous peoples, have already had to adjust their travel and hunting patterns in response to changes in seasonal ice and snow conditions, some communities have also planned for relocation.
  • Warming of the world’s oceans has also disrupted the abundance of fish and shellfish stocks in some regions, leaving communities that depend on seafood at risk of decreased food security.

Way Forward:

  • The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people, but we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways — for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.
  • Significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting and restoring ecosystems, and carefully managing the use of natural resources, the report said, would limit the impact of climate change on oceans and ice-covered regions around the world.

INDIA COOLING ACTION PLAN

Why in News?

  • The Union Minister of State (MoS) for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Mr. Babul Supriyo was speaking at an event in New Delhi to mark World Ozone Day.

India Cooling Action Plan:

  • The minister highlighted the fact that India became one of the first countries in the world to launch a comprehensive Cooling Action plan in March, 2019, which has a long-term vision to address the cooling requirement across sectors such as residential and commercial buildings, cold-chain, refrigeration, transport and industries.
  • The India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) lists out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand, which will also help in reducing both direct and indirect emissions.
  • The India Cooling Action seeks to:
    • Reduce cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25% by 2037-38
    • Reduce refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by 2037-38
    • Reduce cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by 2037-38
    • Recognize “cooling and related areas” as a thrust area of research under national S&T Programme.
    • Training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by 2022-23, synergizing with Skill India Mission.

World Ozone Day:

  • Every year September 16 is marked as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer or World Ozone Day.
  • This day was designated by the UN in 2009.
  • This date was chosen because it was the day in 1987 when nations signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
  • Theme for this year: 32 Years and Healing

NEW DELHI DECLARATION

Context:

  • After 12 days of talks, the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) ended with 196 countries and the European Union adopting the “New Delhi Declaration”.

Highlights:

  • The participating countries agreed that land degradation is a major economic, social and environmental problem, and welcomed strengthening of the adoption of voluntary “land degradation neutrality” targets that include restoration of degraded land by 2030.
  • It has challenge of droughts which are set to become more frequent and more intense in coming years,
  • While the New Delhi Declaration is a statement of consensus, the 35 decisions are legally binding on each the 197 signatories.
  • Declaration asserts that there is clear links between land restoration, biodiversity and climate change.
  • The document laid special emphasis on Community-Driven Transformative Projects that are gender-sensitive at local, national and regional levels to drive implementation.

Concern:

  • The mention of international financial institutions like Green Climate Fund (GCF), Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Adaptation Fund has been deleted from the finalised New Delhi Declaration: Investing in Land and Unlocking Opportunities, released.
  • The Declaration has also removed the mention of ‘legal recognition’ of Tenurial Rights. Tenurial rights was one of the contentious issues that was being discussed at the convention.
  • The Declaration also dilutes the importance of land tenure and user rights of Indigenous Communities, youth and women.
  • The final Delhi Declaration downplays the connections with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • In the draft, the linkages of UNCCD with UNFCCC as well as with CBD were being considered, but the New Delhi Declaration is completely silent on these.
  • Mention of Sharm El Sheikh Declaration, is also absent
  • What is Sharm El Sheikh Declaration.
    • Sharm El Sheikh Declaration, launched recognized by the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the its Fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, called for synergies in addressing environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change.
  • Overall the Declaration has downplayed the role of global financial institutions, tenurial rights of people, and delinks UNCCD from other Rio mandated scientific bodies like IPCC and IPBES.

International Funding Bodies:

Green Climate Fund:

  • The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a new global fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change.
  • GCF helps developing countries limit or reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change.
  • It seeks to promote a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development, taking into account the needs of nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Global Environment Facility (GEF):

  • The Global Environment Facility was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.
  • GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.
  • GEF funds are available to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to meet the objectives of the international environmental conventions and agreements.
  • GEF support is provided to government agencies, civil society organizations, private sector companies, research institutions, among the broad diversity of potential partners, to implement projects and programs in recipient countries.

Adaptation Fund:

  • The Adaptation Fund (AF) was established in 2001 to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
  • The Adaptation Fund is financed with a share of proceeds from the clean development mechanism (CDM) project activities and other sources of funding. The share of proceeds amounts to 2 per cent of certified emission reductions (CERs) issued for a CDM project activity.
  • The Adaptation Fund is supervised and managed by the Adaptation Fund Board (AFB).  The AFB is composed of 16 members and 16 alternates and meets at least twice a year (Membership of the AFB).

What is United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD):

  • The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.
  • It is the global agreement that will make or break our present and future.

DESERTIFICATION OF LAND AROUND THE WORLD

Why in News?

  • According to a report tabled at the ongoing 14the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) every year around 12 million hectares fall to desertification. The cost to combat these has been estimated at $450 billion annually.
  • At the end of talks on 13th September, the conference is expected to come out with a declaration on the decisions taken here to deal with desertification.

What is Desertification?

  • According to UNCCD: Desertification is not the natural expansion of existing deserts but the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas.
  • It is a gradual process of soil productivity loss and the thinning out of the vegetative cover because of human activities and climatic variations such as prolonged droughts and floods.
  • What is alarming is that though the land’s topsoil, if mistreated, can be blown and washed away in a few seasons, it takes centuries to build up.
  • Among human causal factors are overcultivation, overgrazing, deforestation, and poor irrigation practices. Such overexploitation is generally caused by economic and social pressure, ignorance, war, and drought. Combating desertification refers to activities that prevent or reduce land degradation, and restore partially or fully degraded land.

Concerns:

  • A variety of factors, both natural and human-induced, are known to be affecting the productivity of land, and making them desert-like.
  • Increasing populations and the resultant rise in demand for food and water, feed for cattle, and a wide variety of ecosystem services these offer, have prompted human beings to clear forests, use chemicals, cultivate multiple crops, and over-exploit groundwater.
  • This has affected both the health and productivity of land. Natural processes such as rising global temperatures increase the frequency and intensity of droughts, and changing weather patterns have put further pressure on the land.
  • Desertification has implications for food and water security, livelihoods, migration, conflicts and even international security.

Magnitude of The Problem:

  • A recent report by the International Resources Panel, a scientific body hosted by the UN Environment Programme, said that about 25 per cent of world’s land area has been degraded.
  • Another report, by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, said that nearly 40 per cent of world’s population was being impacted negatively because of land degradation.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the rate of soil erosion in many areas of the world was up to 100 times faster than the rate of soil formation.
  • It also said the annual area of drylands in drought had been increasing at more than 1 per cent every year in the last 50 years, and that nearly 500 million people lived in areas that have experienced desertification after the 1980s.

UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD):

  • The UNCCD is one of three Conventions that have come out of the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
  • The Convention 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.
  • As the dynamics of land, climate and biodiversity are intimately connected, the UNCCD collaborates closely with the other two Rio Conventions; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to meet these complex challenges with an integrated approach and the best possible use of natural resources.

Need for Such a Convention:

  • At the time the UNCCD was born in Rio, degradation of land was mostly viewed as a localised problem, one that was mainly affecting countries in Africa. In fact, it was on the demand of the African countries that CCD came into being. The Convention repeatedly makes a mention of the special needs of Africa in fighting desertification.
  • Over the years, it has become increasingly clear that land degradation was impacting the global network of food and commodity supply chains and was getting impacted in return.
  • The crops being grown and the quantities in which they were being grown were dictated not by local needs but by global demands. Changes in food habits and international trade have altered cropping patterns in many areas.
  • Large-scale migration to urban centres and industrial hubs has seen a heavy concentration of populations in small areas, putting unsustainable pressure on land and water resources.
  • As an issue, therefore, land degradation of land is, therefore, much more complex than it appears.

Climate Change & Land Degradation:

  • Land has always been an important conversation in the climate change debate. That is because land affects, and is affected by, climate change.
  • Forests, trees and vegetation cover are important sinks of carbon dioxide. Land degradation, therefore, reduces the amount of carbon dioxide that is absorbed, and consequently leads to a rise in emissions.
  • At the same time, agriculture and activities such as cattle rearing contribute to emissions and are a major source of methane which is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Restoration of degraded land can, therefore, have major co-benefits for climate change objectives.
  • According to the report by the International Resources Panel referred to earlier, restoring 350 million hectares of degraded landscape by 2030 would take out between 13 to 26 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. This would more than offset the emissions from activities like agriculture and cattle-rearing.
  • The IPCC report mentioned earlier had estimated that such activities contribute about 25 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, or about 12 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

COP14 OF UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION (UNCCD)

Why in News?

  • The 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is being held in New Delhi, India between 2nd and 13th September 2019.

Highlights:

  • Over 3,000 participants from all over the world are expected to participate in COP14.
  • The Parties to the Convention will agree on the actions each will take over the next two years and beyond to take planet earth on to a sustainable development path.
  • Ministers from 196 countries, scientists and representatives of national and local governments, non-governmental organizations, city leaders, the private sector, industry experts, women, youth, journalists, faith and community groups will talk at the conference.
  • UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement that links environment and development to sustainable land management.
  • It addresses specifically arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as drylands, home to some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples.
  • It was established in 1994 and entered into force in 1996.
  • It is one of the three Rio Conventions along with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • India became a signatory to UNCCD on 14th October 1994 and ratified it on 17th December 1996.
  • The chief agendas for COP14 are reversing land degradation and its outcomes while accelerating positive achievements for people and for ecosystems with a view to delivering on the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals.

IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON INDIA’S BANANA CROP

Why in News?

  • A new study has found that climate change has benefited bananas over the last several decades but predicted that the trend will reverse, with climate change eventually causing a Negative Impact.

Highlights of the Study:

  • The study, led by researchers from the University of Exeter has been published in Nature Climate Change.
  • The study includes both the recent and future impact of climate change on the world’s leading banana producers and exporters.
  • They found that 27 countries — accounting for 86 per cent of the world’s dessert banana production — have on average seen increased crop yield since 1961 — by 1.37 tonnes/hectare every year — due to the changing climate resulting in more favourable growing conditions.
  • In India, data from the National Horticulture Board show broadly consistent yields in six years leading up to 2016-17, when the provisional yield was 34 tonnes/hectare.
  • The study says the gains in these 27 countries could be significantly reduced by 2050 — to 1.19-0.59 tonnes/hectare — or disappear completely, if climate change continues at its expected rate. The study predicts that 10 countries — including India and the fourth largest producer, Brazil — could see a significant decline in crop yields.

Concerns:

  • Bananas has the impact on millions of people in both rural and urban areas across the globe.
  • In Britain, for example, more than five billion bananas are purchased each year, and the United Kingdom accounts for seven per cent of the global export market.
  • Such international trade can play a pivotal role to local and national economies in producing countries. For example, bananas and their derived products constitute the second largest agricultural export commodity of Ecuador and Costa Rica.

About Banana Crop:

  • Bananas Thrive in warmer climates, and India is the world’s largest producer and Consumer of the fruit crop.
  • Bananas are recognised as the most important fruit crop, providing food, nutrition, and income for millions in both rural and urban areas across the globe.

Way Forward:

  • Banana growers are very concerned about the impact of diseases like Fusarium Wilt on bananas, but the impacts of climate change have been largely ignored.
  • In coming years, the study may stimulate vulnerable countries to prepare through investment in technologies like irrigation.
  • An open exchange of ideas is going to be critical going forward. It is believed that practical solutions already exist, but these are scattered across banana producing countries. This knowledge exchange needs to start now to counteract predicted yield losses due to climate change.

CENTRAL BANKS ARE WAKING UP TO CLIMATE CHANGE DANGERS.

Context:

  • The impact of climate change on the stability of individual financial institutions and the financial system in general is growing. It influences the types of activities that financial institutions will fund and the cost of finance.

Reasons:

  • Premiums.
    • The increased frequency and intensity of floods, storms and droughts is complicating the insurance industry’s ability to assess insurable risks. It is also driving up insurance premiums.
  • Pension Funds
    • It is affecting the ability of pension funds to plan their investment strategies. Banks are facing increased reputational and financial risks from financing activities that contribute to climate change. These activities include coal mining and cattle farming.
  • Risk of litigation
    • Globally, financial institutions and their clients are facing an increased risk of litigation for their failure to manage risks associated with climate change. For example, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was sued for misleading investors by failing to disclose climate related risks in its 2016 annual report.

How did Central Banks respond to this?

  • The central bank of Brazil requires banks to explain how they treat environmental risks when determining their capital requirements.
  • The central bank of China Incorporates Environmental Factors into its monetary policy framework and financial stability assessments.
  • New international standards encourage financial institutions to be more transparent about their exposure to climate related risks.
  • Recent decision by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to join the Network on Greening the Financial System must be viewed.

Network on Greening the Financial System:

  • The Network consists of 42 central banks and banking supervisory authorities, including central banks from China, England, France, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands and the European Central Bank.
  • The Network’s aim is to promote effective environment and climate risk management in the financial sector. It also aims to mobilise mainstream finance to support the transition toward a sustainable economy. Its members recently warned that if banks don’t adjust to climate change “they will fail to exist”.
  • The creation of the Network is an implicit acknowledgement that central banks and other financial sector regulators have not always paid adequate attention to the environmental impacts of the financial sector.
  • The Network’s existence is also an acknowledgement that the financial sector has a responsibility to become more environmentally responsible.

Concerns:

  • This is a challenge for central banks. Their independence requires them to act without fear or favour. But addressing climate change requires them to encourage financial institutions to favour certain types of activities over others.
    • For example, the Lebanese central bank changes the amount of reserves it requires banks to hold against their deposits according to how much they lend for renewable energy projects.
  • If central banks do not discriminate, financial institutions may continue financing activities that increase greenhouse gas emissions.
  • This can raise the risk of droughts, floods, and more extreme temperature variability. This in turn can affect the quality and quantity of available land and water for producing food, and constructing new housing, education and health facilities.
  • These factors can affect migration patterns, agricultural and other commodity prices. They can also affect aggregate demand, employment levels, public health and confidence in an economy. These are among the factors that often impact on financial stability and inflation.

Climate also poses a Legal Challenge:

  • The South African Reserve Bank’s mandate is set out in the country’s Constitution.
    • Article 224 states that the SARB must “protect the value of the currency in the interest of balanced and sustainable economic growth”. This is an unusual but not unprecedented mandate.
  • Central banks with similar mandates include those of the Philippines, Russia, Malaysia and Tanzania.
  • Balanced and Sustainable Growth:
    • The term “balanced and sustainable growth” has no precise and universally accepted economic meaning.
    • It is also not clear what the Constitution means when it says that the SARB’s mandate is to protect the value of the currency “in the interest” of “balanced and sustainable” growth.
  • As the SARB’s Governor recently noted, the Constitution “tells us what to do, but it is not explicit about how we do it”.
  • This is true. The Constitution gives the SARB wide discretion in interpreting its mandate.
  • The SARB currently interprets its mandate narrowly as requiring it to prioritise protecting the value of the currency.
  • This certainly falls within the scope of its constitutional authority. However, it is not the only interpretation that would satisfy this requirement.
  • For example, the mandate also could be interpreted more broadly as imposing a dual responsibility on the SARB:
    • To protect the value of the currency and to promote environmentally sustainable growth.
    • Sustainable Growth could mean growth that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
  • In this case, the SARB would be failing to meet its Constitutional responsibilities if its policies and actions protected the value of the currency but were implemented in a way that resulted in increased funding for large carbon emitters.

Way Forward:

  • A more environmentally responsible approach to its mandate may not lead the SARB to adopt different policy decisions. However, it would lead it to pay more attention to their implementation.
  • For example, Article 10 of the South African Reserve Bank Act gives the SARB broad authority to trade in different types of financial instruments. These include those issued by government as well as those issued for commercial, industrial and agricultural purposes.
  • The environmental impact of its decision to raise or lower interest rates could vary depending on which financial instruments it decided to buy or sell in implementing its interest rate decision.
  • The SARB’s decision to join the Network is prudent and responsible.
  • Climate change is a reality and it is adversely affecting the financial sector. However, the SARB now needs to take the next step.
  • This would be to reconsider whether it is interpreting its mandate in a way that is both constitutionally defensible and environmentally and socially responsible.

INTENDED NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTIONS

Why in News?

  • Countries across the globe committed to create a new international climate agreement by the conclusion of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015.
  • In preparation, countries have agreed to publicly outline what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take under a new international agreement, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

Highlights:

  • The INDCs will largely determine whether the world achieves an ambitious 2015 agreement and is put on a path toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.
  • India has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Salient Features of India’s INDC:

  • To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation.
  • To adopt a climate-friendly and a cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at corresponding level of economic development.
  • To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • To achieve about 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030, with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance, including from Green Climate Fund.
  • To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • To better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region, coastal regions, health and disaster management.
  • To mobilize domestic and new and additional funds from developed countries to implement the above mitigation and adaptation actions in view of the resource required and the resource gap.
  • To build capacities, create domestic framework and international architecture for quick diffusion of cutting-edge climate technology in India and for joint collaborative R&D for such future technologies.

MAHARASHTRA TO SET UP TASK FORCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE

  • Context: In the wake an unprecedented flood like situation and record rainfall this season, the State government will constitute a task force of local and global experts to study impact of climate change on Mumbai.

What the Task Force Will Do?

  • The task force will study measures taken against flood and unplanned reclamation in cities such as Venice, Geneva and London, and coordinate with the European Climate Change Programme of the European Union to prepare a blueprint.
  • The task force will be set up by the Environment Department in coordination with Mumbai First, a not-for-profit policy­ influencing think tank.

What is Urban Flooding?

  • Flooding is an accumulation of water in an area either by direct rainfall irresistible to the volume of drainage systems or a spill of huge amount of water from water bodies beyond normal limits.
  • It could be localized, impacting a small area or could be vast or massive, impacting very large area. Urban flooding is caused by heavy rainfall overwhelming drainage capacity.
  • Urban flooding is one of the types of flood.
  • Urban flooding is the inundation of property in more densely populated areas caused by rainfall and sometimes triggered by events such as flash flooding or snowmelt.

Impacts of Flood:

  • It already has large economic and social impacts.
  • These are very likely to increase if no changes are made to the unplanned development of buildings and infrastructure and poor management of urban drainage.
  • Urban floods are a great disturbance of daily life in the city.
  • Urban flooding is a condition that has repetitive impacts on communities. Urban areas are densely populated and people living in vulnerable areas suffer due to flooding. It is not only the event of flooding but the secondary effect of exposure to infection also has its toll in terms of human suffering.
  • Damage to vital infrastructure, loss of life and property.
  • Disruption in transport and power and incidence of epidemics, loss of livelihood.
  • Urban flooding cause localized incidents to major incidents, resulting in cities being inundated from hours to several days.
  • Deterioration of water quality and risk of epidemics.
  • Temporary relocation of people, damage to civic amenities.

Natural causes:

  • Meteorological Phenomenon: Cyclone like Ockhi, Roanu, Vardah making landfalls in coastal areas induce heavy rainfall finally leading to flooding.
  • Excessive rainfall in some cases.
  • Change in course of river: Eg: Kosi in Bihar

Man-Made Causes are as Follows:

  • More migration causes reduced availability of land and it finally leads to more encroachment of water bodies.
  • Disposal of waste results in waste clogging the natural channels and stormwater drains.
  • Encroachment:
    • More migration -reduced availability of land – higher economic value of land – more encroachment of water bodies – reduced economical services from water bodies.
    • Eg-Charkop Lake in Maharashtra, Ousteri Lake in Puducherry, Deeporbeel in Guwahati are well known examples of encroachment.
  • Illegal mining activities and Illegal construction have an extremely damaging impact on the water body.
  • Sudden release or failure to release water from dams can also have a severe impact.
  • The badly planned construction of bridges, roads, railway tracts causes drainage congestion.
  • Unplanned release of water from dams and unplanned tourism activities
  • Absence of drainage and stormwater network in many places.
  • Rapid urbanization causes permeable soil surfaces being replaced by impermeable concrete floors leads to urban flooding.
  • Increase in urban rainfall extremes and temperature.

Action That Needs To Be Taken:

  • Create flood plains and overflow areas for rivers and separating rainwater from the sewer system.
  • Install water infiltration and attenuation systems, Sustainable drainage: permeable pavement, sidewalks, and gardens.
  • Strong laws should be in place to protect urban lakes the water bodies.
  • The catchment and feeder channels need to be protected.
  • There is a need to set up an umbrella authority to protect and conserve the water bodies.
  • Funds should be provided for water supply to only those cities that have brought their own water sources under protection.

Conclusion:

  • Floods in India are an outcome of both natural and man-made changes.
  • However, the latter has been more responsible for floods in the current age of Anthropocene.
  • Thus, a comprehensive urban planning which reconciles both environment and economic needs is required.

NATURAL SIGNS OF FLOODS FOR URBAN AREAS

Why in News?

  • A study in the Journal of the British Academy has found that indigenous knowledge on how nature warns of flooding is relevant in urban areas as well.

Highlights:

  • Climate change and population growth put millions of people at risk of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
  • More than 3 million urban dwellers could be at risk of flooding from extreme rainfall by 2050 as climate change brings more unpredictable weather hazards, the study said.
  • According to a 2018 report for the C40 cities, extreme heat and power blackouts, alongside food and water shortages, are other threats if climate changing emissions are not curbed.
  • The study interviewed 1,050 people in 21 rural and urban communities in Ghana, including the capital city Accra and the main city of Tamale in its Northern Region.

Indigenous Knowledge:

  • Indigenous knowledge about how to spot flood risks ahead of time could save lives in cities. Indigenous people in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Ethiopia, for example, use their knowledge to observe and mitigate impacts of extreme climate events such as flooding and droughts.
  • Indigenous knowledge can be used as an additional layer to scientific research in designing early warning systems for floods.

Signs of Nature:

  • Understanding changes in natural indicators, such as plants, birds and temperatures, could be used to alert urban residents to extreme weather.
  • Knowledge transfers that can be made between rural and peri-urban spaces could save lives and livelihoods around the world.
  • Researchers documented natural indicators used by indigenous communities to predict floods, droughts and temperature changes.
  • The indicators include:
    • Links between rainfall patterns and ant behaviour
    • Appearances by certain birds
    • Flowering of baobab trees
    • Observations of heat intensity
    • Promoting tree-planting in urban areas could offer further opportunities to apply indigenous knowledge on flora in cities.

GREEN BONDS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Context:

  • New study finds firms that have adopted green bonds benefit from both positive financial and environmental outcomes.

What Are Green Bonds:

  • A green bond is like any other regular bond but with one key difference: the money raised by the issuer are earmarked towards financing `green’ projects, i.e. assets or business activities that are environment-friendly.
  • Such projects could be in the areas of renewable energy, clean transportation and sustainable water management.

What Are Benefits of Green Bonds?

  • Green bonds enhance an issuer’s reputation, as it helps in showcasing their commitment to wards sustainable development.
  • It also provides issuers access to specific set of global investors who invest only in green ventures.With an increasing focus of foreign investors towards green investments, it could also help in reducing the cost of capital.
  • Green bonds present the opportunity for investors to feel as if they’re making a difference for the environment while earning a respectable return in the process.

Green Bond in India

  • CLP India, was the first Indian company to tap this route. So far, Rs 7,200 crore has been raised via green bonds.

Key Findings of Study

  • Green bonds offer financial benefits to companies in the long run in terms of better returns on assets and equity.
  • Green bonds fulfil their intended goal of better environmental outcomes: companies issuing green bonds saw a significant reduction in their CO2 emissions and a boost in their environmental ratings.
  • Though green bonds are only a small share of the larger bond market, they have grown rapidly over the last decade.
  • Most of these green bonds were issued by governments, financial and utility companies.
  • The green bond market is dominated by three countries – China ($83 billion worth of green bonds issued over the last decade), United States ($58 billion) and France ($57 billion) have been the largest issuers of green bonds.
  • India still lags behind these countries ($5.2 billion in 2018), it is one of the fastest-growing green bond markets in Asia.

Way Forward:

  • There are neither uniform standards to classify a green bond nor a governing body to regulate the market.
  • There is need to address this is critical issue for green bond markets to flourish which has good amount of potential.

MOSAiC Mission

Why in News?

  • 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.

HIMALAYAN GLACIERS ARE MELTING TWICE AS FAST SINCE 2000: STUDY

Context:

  • Comparing data obtained by Cold War• era spy satellites with images from modern stereo satellites have shown Himalayan glaciers are Melting.

Background:

  • During cold war Spy satellite war deployed by US, this satellite took images across the globe, now this image are compared to new images and global warming impact is studied.
  • US spy programme – code named Hexagon – launched 20 satellites into orbit to secretly photograph the Earth.
  • The research is published in the journal Science Advances.

Report Details:

  • Annual mass losses suggest that of the total ice mass present in 1975, about 87% remained in 2000 and 72% remained in 2016.
  • Similar mass loss rates across sub regions and a doubling of the average rate of loss during 2000– 2016 relative to the 1975– 2000 interval.
  • The study goes on to assert that rising temperatures are responsible for the accelerating loss.
  • The study rules out other causes for glacier changes, such as the deposition of soot on snow and ice and changing precipitation patterns.

UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION

Context:

  • 14th    Session  of  Conference  of United   Nations   Convention Desertification  will  be  held  in between September 2 and 14.

About:

  • One-third  of   the  Earth’s  land degraded,  affecting  more than people  and  costing  us  as  much  as  $10.6 trillion every year in lost ecosystem services.
  • It is estimated that up to 40% of the world’s agricultural land is seriously degraded. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) came into force in 1996. Global Environment Facility (GEF) serves as a financial mechanism.

What is land Degradation?

  • Land degradation is caused by multiple forces, including extreme weather conditions particularly drought, and human activities that pollute or degrade the quality of soils and land utility negatively affecting food production, livelihoods, and the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services.

Causes of Land Degradation:

  • Climate Change,
  • Land clearance and deforestation,
  • Depletion of soil nutrients through poor farming practices,
  • Overgrazing and over grafting
  • Water Erosion is the most Prominent Reason of Land Degradation.

Consequences of Land Degradation:

  • Decline in the productive capacity of the land (temporary or permanent) Decline in the land’s “usefulness”.
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Increased vulnerability of the environment or people to destruction or crisis Destruction of soil structure including loss of organic matter.

Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN):

  • A state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.

UN Environment has played a key Role in:

  • Negotiating and informing policy for the Convention.
  • Providing sound science-to-policy linkages to decision makers Developing the Performance Review and Assessment of Implementation System (PRAIS) online reporting tool in support of the Convention

Technical Expertise and Resources:

  • Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands
  • Community Innovations in Sustainable Land Management: lessons from the field in Africa.

SDG: 

  • Sustainable  Development  Goal  15  of  the  2030  Agenda  aims  to  “protect,  restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Indian Initiative:

  • India launched a flagship project for Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR). This comes in line with the Bonn challenge.
  • Under the project, India aims to enhance the capacity of its forest land restoration programmes. Initially, FLR will be implemented under pilot phase of 3.5 years in five states. The states are Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland and Karnataka.
  • The IUCN through this project aims to develop and adapt best practices and monitoring protocols for Indian states and build capacity within these states. The project will be later scaled up across the country.

What is FLR?

  • Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the ongoing process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes.
  • A  2016  report  of  ISRO  acknowledged  that  29%  of  India’s  land  being  degraded  with  an increase of 0.57% from 2003-05.

What is Bonn Challenge?

  • The  Bonn  Challenge  is  a  global  effort  to  bring  150  million  hectares  of  the  world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030. It was launched in 2011 by the Government of Germany and IUCN, and later endorsed and extended by the New York Declaration on Forests at the 2014 UN Climate Summit.
  • Underlying the Bonn Challenge is the forest landscape restoration (FLR) approach, which aims to restore ecological integrity at the same time as improving human well-being through multifunctional landscapes.

 

Facts:

  • World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: 17 June.
  • The  World  Day  to  Combat  Desertification  and  Drought  2019  theme  is  ‘Let’s Grow the Future Together’.

STUDY PINPOINTS SOURCE OF OZONE-DEPLETING GAS

Why in News:

  • Rogue emissions of a gas that harms the ozone layer are coming from eastern China, primarily from two heavily industrialised provinces, an international team of researchers said

Details:

  • The new research will add to international pressure on the Chinese government to curtail the illegal use of CFC-11.
  • Factories in Shandong, one of the provinces specified in the study, were still making or using the gas to manufacture foam insulation.
  • CFC-11 is one of a class of compounds called chlorofluorocarbons that destroy atmospheric ozone. They are also potent greenhouse gases that contribute to atmospheric warming.
  • Chlorofluorocarbons were outlawed for almost all uses by the Montreal Protocol, an international pact negotiated decades ago to preserve the layer of ozone that blocks ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
  • Excessive amounts of some types of UV radiation can cause skin cancer and eye damage in people and are harmful to crops and other vegetation.

What is Montreal Protocol?

  • It seeks to cut the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances (ODS) in
  • order to protect the earth’s fragile ozone layer.
  • It also aims at phase out HCFCs by 2030. It came into force in 1989 and has been ratified by 197 parties making it universally ratified protocol in UN history.
  • It is also highly successful international arrangement, as it has phased-out more than 95% of the ODS so far as per its main mandate in less than 30 years of its existence.

SEVERE CYCLONE FANI HITS PURI

Why in News

  • The extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani barrelled into the Odisha coast, unleashing torrential rain and winds gusting up to 175 kmph, killing at least eight people, bringing rail and air transport to a halt, and swamping towns and villages,

Details:

  • The cyclonic system made landfall near the coastal pilgrim town of Puri and brought heavy winds and rainfall to the State capital Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
  • More than one million people in low-lying areas were evacuated to nearly 4,000 shelters, ahead of the cyclone’s landfall.

Re-curving Cyclone

  • Cyclone Fani was a ‘re-curving cyclone’ and therefore a harder to precisely predict than
  • most cyclones
  • Recurving cyclones’ are those that sharply turn north-eastwards instead of a more typical path of north-westwards. In the Indian context, they are relatively rare and harder to track.
  • It also had an unusually long gestation period of atleast 10 days.
  • Fani was the strongest cyclone to have passed India since cyclone Hudhud in 2014. It’s also
  • the first time since 1976 that a cyclone of such intensity will be blowing through India
  • The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Navy have deployed men, material and assets as
  • part of preparatory efforts for the extremely severe cyclonic storm ‘Fani’.
  • They have launched Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations

Role and Mandate of NDRF:

  • Specialized response during disasters.
  • Proactive deployment during impending disaster situations. Acquire and continually upgrade its own training and skills. Reconnaissance, Rehearsals and Mock Drills.
  • Impart basic and operational level training to State Response Forces (Police, Civil Defence and Home Guards).
  • Community Capacity Building Programme. Organize Public Awareness Campaigns

Tropical cyclones

  • Tropical cyclones are regarded as one of the most devastating natural calamities in the world. They originate and intensify over warm tropical oceans.
  • These are ferocious storms that originate over oceans in tropical areas and move over to
  • the coastal areas causing violent winds, very heavy rainfall, and storm outpourings.

Draft Un Report

Why in News:

  • Extinction of species due to loss of clean air, drinkable water, CO2-absorbing forests, pollinating insects, protein-rich fish and storm blocking mangroves says-UN Draft Report.

Background: Causes for biodiversity losses:

  • The accelerated rates of species extinctions that the world is facing now are largely due to human activities. There are four major causes
  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Over-exploitation
  • Alien species invasions
  • Co-extinctions

Habitat loss and fragmentation:

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation is the most important cause driving animals and plants to extinction.
  • The most intense examples of habitat loss come from tropical rain forests. The Amazon rain forests protecting probably millions of species is being cut and cleared for agricultural purposes or for conversion to grasslands for raising beef cattle.
  • In addition to the total loss, the degradation of several habitats by pollution also threatens the existence of many species.
  • When large habitats are broken up into small fragments due to anthropogenic activities, mammals and birds necessitating large territories and certain animals with migratory habits are severely affected, leading to population regressions.

Over-exploitation

  • Humans have always depended on nature for food and shelter, etc.
  • The population explosion is the major reason for the over-exploitation of available resources. Many species extinctions in the last 500 years such as Steller’s sea cow, passenger pigeon were due to overexploitation by humans.
  • Currently, several marine fish populations around the world are over harvested, threatening the sustained existence of certain commercially important

Alien species invasions

  • When alien species are introduced by chance or deliberately, some of them turn aggressive and cause the extinction of local The Nile perch introduced into Lake Victoria in East Africa led ultimately to the extinction of a naturally unique group of more than 200 species of cichlids fish in the lake. The illegal introduction of the African catfish, Clarias gariepinus for aquaculture purposes is posing a danger to the local catfishes.

Co-extinctions

  • When a species becomes extinct, the flora and fauna related with it in an essential way also become
  • When a host fish species becomes extinct, its unique assemblage of parasites also meets the same

How we all contribute every day :

  • Electricity is the main source of power in urban areas. All our gadgets run on electricity generated mainly from thermal power These thermal power plants are run on fossil fuels (mostly coal) and are responsible for the emission of huge amounts of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.
  • Cars, buses, and trucks are the principal ways by which goods and people are transported in most of our cities. These are run mainly on petrol or diesel, both fossil fuels. We generate large quantities of waste in the form of plastics that remain in the environment for many years and cause damage. We use a huge quantity of paper in our work at schools and in Timber is used in large quantities for construction of houses, which means that large areas of forest have to be cut down. A growing population has meant more and more mouths to feed.
  • Because the land area available for agriculture is limited (and in fact, is actually shrinking as a result of ecological degradation!), high-yielding varieties of crop are being grown to increase the agricultural output from a given area of
  • However, such high-yielding varieties of crops require large quantities of fertilizers; and more fertilizer means more emissions of nitrous oxide, both from the field into which it is put and the fertilizer industry that makes
  • Pollution also results from the run-off of fertilizer into water bodies.

Plans and Policies in India for mitigation:

National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), 2008

  • National Solar Mission (MNRE) – Goal for increasing the development of solar technologies such as increasing production of photo-voltaic to 1000 MW/year, Establishing the solar research center and promoting international
  • National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (MoP)– Energy consumption reduction in industries; trading energy-savings certificates; energy incentives like lower taxes on energy- efficient appliances
  • National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (MoHUA) – Better waste management; power from waste; extending energy conservation building code; incentivizing fuel-efficient vehicles; energy efficiency as part of urban planning; public transport promotion
  • National Water Mission (MoWR) – Improving water use efficiency with the use of pricing and other measures
  • National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (MoS&T) – conserve biodiversity, forest cover, and glaciers of the Himalayan region
  • National Mission for “Green India” (MoEFCC) – expanding forest cover from 23% to 33% of India’s territory. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (MoA) – climate-resilient crops, crop insurance, sustainable agricultural practices.
  • National Mission on Strategic Knowledge Platform for Climate Change (MoS&T) – Climate Science Research Fund; better climate modeling; international collaboration; private sector participation in the technologies for the adaptation and mitigation

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • Management tool to regulate the impact of industries on the environment for ensuring optimal use of natural resources for sustainable development
  • Applicable for major projects like infrastructure, thermal and nuclear power, industries, mining etc. Industrial categorization (Red, Orange, Green and White) according to their impact to maintain balance between regulation and ease of doing business. White industries do not require EIA approval

Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ)

  • Objective is to create “shock absorbers” for the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities that threaten the forest areas e.g. Western Ghats

Other environment related laws:

  • Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
  • Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
  • Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 The Indian Forest Act, 1927
  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.

APRIL, MAY TO BE WARMER THAN NORMAL

Why in News:

  • Indian meteorological department has said the average maximum temperatures are likely to be warmer than normal by 0.5C-1C in several places in central and northwest India.

Indian Meteorological Department:

  • The IMD is the national meteorological service of the country and it is the chief government agency dealing in everything related to meteorology, seismology and associated subjects formed in 1875. IMD is under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.

Functions of IMD:

  • Taking meteorological observations and providing current information for the operation of weather-dependent activities such as irrigation, agriculture, aviation, shipping, offshore oil exploration and so on.
  • Offering warning against severe weather phenomenon such as tropical cyclones, dust storms, nor westers, heat waves, cold waves, heavy rains, heavy snow, etc.
  • Providing met-related statistics needed for agriculture, industries, water resources management, oil exploration, and any other strategically important activities for the country. Engaging in research in meteorology and allied subjects.
  • Detection and location of earthquakes and evaluation of seismicity in various parts of the country for developmental projects.

EL NINO:

  • The El NINO is an anomalous heating of the central Pacific Ocean that occurs once in three to five years. Its impact usually lasts for 9-12-18-24 months. It weakens the trade winds and changes in Southern Oscillation, thereby affects the rainfall pattern across the world. Warmest sea surface temperature anomalies in central equatorial Pacific are more effective in focusing drought-producing subsidence over India. IMD has found that whenever monsoons failed, the sea surface temperature was high in the central Pacific Ocean.

Global warming:

Global warming, the phenomenon of increasing average air temperatures near the surface of earth over the past one to two centuries.

Earth’s climate has changed over almost every conceivable timescale since the beginning of geologic time and that the influence of human activities has been deeply woven into the very fabric of climate change.

In 2013 the IPCC reported that the interval between 1880 and 2012 saw an increase in global average surface temperature of approximately 0.9 °C (1.5 °F).

International panel on climate change:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established in 1988 is a scientific and intergovernmental body under United Nations, dedicated to the task of providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts.

World meteorological organisation:

WMO is the specialised agency of the UN for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences, established in 1950.

India is a member of WMO

Its mandate covers weather, climate and water resources.

CLIMATE CHANGE MAY HIT INDIA’S WIND POWER

Increased warming in the Indian Ocean and the resultant weakening of the Indian summer monsoon may come in the way of India’s goal of leading the world’s wind power generation.

Summer winds

  • Summer winds in India are driven by the temperature contrast between the Indian subcontinent and the Indian Ocean, and the warming in the Indian Ocean reduced this contrast. Also, warming of the Equatorial Indian Ocean resulted in a decline in the wind speed.
  • The Indian government has set a target of 60 GW of cumulative wind power capacity by 2022. The researchers say that this goal can be beneficial only if planners in India take these historical reconstructions into account while setting up wind power installations in the future.

Wind Energy in India

  • The Union Government has set an ambitious target of achieving 175 Giga Watt (GW) power capacity from clean renewable energy resources by 2022.
  • Out of this, 60 GW target is set for wind power. The present installed wind power capacity in the country is nearly 26.7 GW accounting for nearly9% of total installed capacity.
  • Globally, India is at 4th position in term of installed wind power capacity after China, USA and Germany.
  • The National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) under the MNRE assesses the wind power potential in the country at 100 meter above ground level.
  • It has estimated it over 302 GW and there are 8 windy states namely Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana
  • India has achieved the largest-ever wind power capacity addition of 3,423 MW in 2015-16, exceeding the target by 44%.

Targets:

  • Medium term target for Offshore wind power: 5 GW by 2022 Long term target for Offshore wind power: 30 GW by 2030 Target for Onshore wind power: 60 GW
  • The offshore wind power will add new element to already existing basket of renewable energy of the country.

Analysis:

  • The target set for offshore wind power is moderate in comparison to on-shore wind target of 60 GW and its achievement of 34 GW and solar target of 100 GW by 2022.
  • This is mainly because of challenges considering difficulties in installing large wind power turbines in open seas.
  • Moreover, offshore wind turbines are of much larger dimensions and capacities than onshore turbines. Globally the installation capacity of off-shore wind power is about 17 to 18 GW. It led by countries such as UK, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands & China. Recent years have witnessed fall in off-shore wind tariff in some of these markets.

Steps for Offshore Power:

  • MNRE had notified National Offshore Wind Energy Policy in October 2015 for this sector. Under it, Chennai based National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) was designated nodal agency to carry out necessary studies and surveys before final bidding of offshore wind project sites. It also serves as single window for facilitating necessary clearances required for development of offshore wind projects.
  • NIWE had identified southern tip of Indian peninsula and west coast with good potential for off-shore wind power. Moreover, preliminary studies were conducted are off coast of Gujarat and that of Tamil Nadu for development of offshore wind power projects.
  • It had had installed India’s first offshore LiDAR in Gulf of Khambhat for measurement of wind resource and is collecting wind speed data from November 2017.

OCEAN HEAT HITS RECORD HIGH: UN

  • Ocean heat hit a record high in 2018, raising urgent new concerns about the threat global warming is posing to marine life.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 figures previously announced in provisional drafts of the flagship report.
  • 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.

Ocean warming?

  • The ocean absorbs most of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, leading to rising ocean temperatures.
  • Increasing        ocean temperatures affect marine species and ecosystems.     Rising temperatures cause coral bleaching and the loss of breeding grounds for marine fishes and mammals.
  • Rising ocean temperatures also affect the benefits humans derive from the ocean – threatening food security, increasing the prevalence of diseases and causing more extreme weather events and the loss of coastal protection.
  • Achieving the mitigation targets set by the Paris Agreement on climate change and limiting the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels is crucial to prevent the massive, irreversible impacts of ocean warming on marine ecosystems and their services.
  • Establishing marine protected areas and putting in place adaptive measures, such as precautionary catch limits to prevent overfishing, can protect ocean ecosystems and shield humans from the effects of ocean warming.

What can be done?

Limiting greenhouse gas emissions

  • There is an urgent need to achieve the mitigation targets set by the Paris Agreement on climate change and hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This will help prevent the massive and irreversible impacts of growing temperatures on ocean ecosystems and their services.

Protecting marine and coastal ecosystems

  • Well-managed protected areas can help conserve and protect ecologically and biologically significant marine habitats. This will regulate human activities in these habitats and prevent environmental degradation.

Restoring marine and coastal ecosystems

  • Elements of ecosystems that have already experienced damage can be restored. This can include building artificial structures such as rock pools that act as surrogate habitats for organisms, or boosting the resilience of species to warmer temperatures through assisted breeding techniques.

Improving human adaptation

  • Governments can introduce policies to keep fisheries production within sustainable limits, for example by setting precautionary catch limits and eliminating subsidies to prevent overfishing.
  • Coastal setback zones which prohibit all or certain types of development along the shoreline can minimise the damage from coastal flooding and erosion. New monitoring tools can be developed to forecast and control marine disease outbreaks.

Strengthening scientific research

  • Governments can increase investments in scientific research to measure and monitor ocean warming and its effects. This will provide more precise data on the scale, nature and impacts of ocean warming, making it possible to design and implement adequate and appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Urban areas cooler than non-urban regions during 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The land surface temperature was estimated by analysing satellite data collected between 2003 and 2016. Between 1951 and 2016, a majority of urban areas experienced about five hot days and nights per year.
  • About 44% of urban areas showed an increase in frequency of hot days while 34% showed a significant decline in frequency of hot days.
  • Between 1951 and 1980, the frequency of hot days in urban areas located in the Indo-Gangetic plain region was more than in urban areas lying outside this region.
  • But post-1980, the urban areas in the Indo-Gangetic plain region witnessed a decline in the frequency of hot days and hot nights. The decline in the frequency is due to intensive irrigation in the Indo-Gangetic plain.

India Bans Import of Plastic Waste

  • Taking an important step towards tackling menace of plastic waste, the government has put a complete ban on import of solid plastic waste/scrap into the country. India every day generates 25,940 tonnes of such waste.

About:

  • The country has now completely prohibited the import of solid plastic waste by amending the Hazardous Waste (Management & Trans-boundary Movement) Rules on March 1,” said an environment ministry official. The Rules were amended, keeping in view the huge gap between waste generation and recycling capacity in the country and also India’s commitment to completely phase-out single-use plastic by 2022.
  • Under other amendments in the rules the ministry made a provision where white category (practically non-polluting or very less polluting) industries will have to hand over their hazardous wastes generated in their units to authorized users, waste collectors or disposal facilities.
  • The white category of industries contains 36 industrial sectors such as air-coolers, air-conditioners, biscuits making, metal caps, hand-loom a chalk-making among others. Besides, the amendments brought certain changes in trans-boundary movement of electrical and electronic components and silk waste. Referring to those amendments, the environment ministry said, “Exporters of silk waste have now been given exemption from requiring permission from the ministry.”
  • Similarly, electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective can now be imported back into the country, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from the environment ministry.
  • It has been done keeping into consideration the ‘ease of doing business’ and boosting ‘Make in India’ initiative by simplifying the procedures under the Rules, while at the same time upholding the principles of sustainable development and ensuring minimal impact on the environment.

Background:

  • Earlier, such import was partly banned as India did not prohibit it in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Besides, import of plastic waste/scrap was also allowed by the Export Oriented Units (EOUs) which used to procure it from abroad as post-recycling resources.
  • After a ban by China few years ago, India had emerged as one of the world’s largest importers of the plastic waste. The provision of partial ban used to be reportedly misused by many companies on the pretext of being in the SEZ.
  • Since there is no adequate capacity of recycling of plastic waste in the country, a huge quantity of such hazardous waste remains uncollected causing substantial damage to soil and water bodies. According to a study, conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), total 10,376 tonnes (40%) out of 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste per day remain uncollected in the country.

Inkjet Solar Panels set to Reshape Green Energy

Perovskites-coated cells are light, Flexible and Inexpensive:

  • Perovskites — a new generation of cheaper solar cells — that makes it possible to produce solar panels under lower temperatures, thus sharply reducing costs.
  • Perovskite solar cells have the potential to address the world energy poverty
  • Solar panels coated with the mineral are light, flexible, efficient, inexpensive and come in varying hues and degrees of transparency.
  • They can easily be fixed to almost any surface — be it laptop, car, drone, spacecraft or building — to produce electricity, including in the shade or indoors.
  • Though the excitement is new, perovskite has been known to science since at least the 1830s, when it was first identified by German mineralogist Gustav Rose while prospecting in the Ural Mountains and named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski.

‘Bull’s Eye’:

  • In the following decades, synthesising the atomic structure of perovskite became easier. But it was not until 2009 that Japanese researcher Tsutomu Miyasaka discovered that perovskites can be used to form photovoltaic solar cells.
  • Initially the process was complicated and required ultra-high temperatures, so only materials that could withstand extreme heat — like glass — could be coated with perovskite cells.

Self-sufficient Buildings:

  • The Swedish construction group Skanska is testing the cutting-edge panels on the facade of one of its buildings in Warsaw. It also inked a licencing partnership with Saule for exclusive right to incorporate the technology in its projects in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
  • “More or less transparent, the panels also respond to design requirements. Thanks to their flexibility and varying tints, there’s no need to add any extra architectural elements.

India’s Solar Policy:

  • About 70% of India’s electricity generation capacity is from fossil fuels. India is largely dependent on fossil fuel imports to meet its energy demands.
    By 2030, India’s dependence on energy imports is expected to exceed 53% of the country’s total energy consumption. Greater import dependence is a a threat to India’s energy security as it introduces global market volatility into the mix.

Solar Energy:

  • As per World Energy Outlook Report 2015, India has substantial solar potential around 750 gigawatts (GW) (based on the assumption that 3% of wasteland in each state can be used for solar power projects, plus an assessment of the potential for rooftop solar). This represents almost three times India’s total installed power capacity today.
  • Solar capacity region wise:
    The solar resource is strongest in the north and northwest of the country (Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir), but the potential is also considerably high in several other states, including. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh.

India’s renewable energy target:

  • Target: 175GW from renewable energy sources by 2022 · Break up:100 GW from solar, 60 GW from the wind, 10 GW from biomass and 5 GW from small hydroelectric projects. · 100GW = 60 GW of utility-scale projects (both solar PV and CSP) like solar parks + 40 GW of rooftop solar applications for commercial users and households, together with some small-scale schemes and off-grid capacity
    PV: Photo Voltaic CSP: Concentrated Solar Power
  • Note: World’s total installed solar power capacity was 181 GW in 2014. If India achieves this target, it would make it a global leader in renewable energy.
    National Solar Mission or Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM)
    It was launched on 11th January 2010 Apex ministry: Ministry of New and
    Renewable Energy (MNRE).
    · India’s Solar capacity in 2010: 17.8MW
  • Grid connected solar power in 2016: 8GW

Objectives of JNNSM:

  • To establish India as a global leader in solar energy
  • To promote ecologically sustainable growth while addressing India’s energy security challenges
  • Short term: To create enabling environment for penetration of solar technology throughout the country Mission’s target was revised in 2015,
    Initial Target: 20GW
    Revised Target: 100GW
    Target is to be achieved in 3 phases,
    • 1st Phase: 2010-13
    • 2nd Phase: 2013–17
    • 3rd Phase: 2017–22

    At each stage, progress will be reviewed and roadmap for future targets will be adopted.
    Note: We are currently in 2nd phase of the mission

Scientists Warn of Climate ‘Time Bomb’

  • Future generations face an environmental “time bomb” as the world’s groundwater systems take decades to respond to the present-day impact of climate change.
  • Found underground in cracks in soil, sand and rock, groundwater is the largest useable source of freshwater on the planet and more than two billion people rely on it to drink or irrigate crops.
  • It is slowly replenished through rainfall — a process known as recharge — and discharges into lakes, rivers or oceans to maintain an overall balance between water in and water out.
  • Groundwater reserves are already under pressure as the global population explodes and crop production rises in lockstep.
  • But the extreme weather events such as drought and record rainfall — both made worse by our heating planet — could have another long-lasting impact on how quickly reserves replenish, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.
  • An international team of researchers used computer modelling of groundwater datasets to put a timescale on how reserves may respond to the changing climate.
  • “Groundwater is out of sight and out of mind, this massive hidden resource that people don’t think about much yet it underpins global food production. The effect we are having now is going to have this really long lag-time in terms of climate change. There’s a memory in the system — and the memory is very large in some places.
  • Cuthbert and his team found that only half of all groundwater supplies are likely to fully replenish or re-balance within the next 100 years — potentially leading to shortages in drier areas.
  • “This could be described as an environmental time bomb because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the base flow to rivers and wetlands a long time later.

Massive lags:

  • The process through which rainwater is filtered through bedrock and accumulated underground can take centuries and varies greatly by region.
  • As climate change delivers longer droughts and bigger superstorms, the extremes of rainfall become more pronounced, impacting groundwater reserves for generations to come.
  • The team found that reserves in arid areas took far longer — several thousand years in some cases — to respond to alterations in climate than reserves in more humid parts.
  • Parts of the groundwater that’s underneath the Sahara currently is still responding to climate change from 10,000 years ago when it was much wetter there. The team said their research showed one of the hidden impacts of climate change, and called for immediate action to ensure future generations aren’t left high and dry.
  • Some parts of the world might get wetter, some might get drier but it’s not just the overall amount of rainfall that is important, it is also how intense the rainfall is.
  • Climate science says that changes in rainfall intensity are very significant for groundwater.

Giant Cavity in Antarctic Glacier Signals Rapid Decay

The 300-metre-tall gap can hold 14 billion Tonnes of ice:

  • NASA scientists have discovered a gigantic cavity, almost 300 metres tall, growing at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, indicating rapid decay of the ice sheet and acceleration in global sea levels due to climate change.
  • The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers’ undersides in calculating how fast sea levels will rise in response to warming.
  • Researchers expected to find some gaps between ice and bedrock at Thwaites’ bottom, where ocean water could flow in and melt the glacier from below.
  • The size and explosive growth rate of the hole, however, is surprised. It is big enough to have contained 14 billion tonnes of ice, and most of that ice melted over the last three years.It has been suspected for years that Thwaites was not tightly attached to the bedrock beneath. The cavity was revealed by ice-penetrating radar in NASA’s Operation Ice Bridge, an airborne campaign beginning in 2010 that studies connections between the polar regions and the global climate.

18 Indian Institutions to Study Nitrogen Pollution

Context:

  • Eighteen research institutions in India are among a group of 50 institutions — called the South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) — in the United Kingdom and South Asia that have secured £20 million (about Rs. 200 crore) from the U.K. government to assess and study the quantum and impact of “nitrogen pollution” in South Asia.

Details:

  • While nitrogen is the dominant gas in the atmosphere, it is inert and doesn’t react. However, when it is released as part of compounds from agriculture, sewage and biological waste, nitrogen is considered “reactive”, and it may be polluting and even exert a potent greenhouse gas (heat trapping) effect.

Major Impacts:

  • “So far, we have focussed on carbon dioxide and its impact on global warming. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide but isn’t as prevalent in the atmosphere. However, this is poised to grow,” said N. Raghuram, Chairman, International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) and Professor of Biotechnology at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi.
  • “In the future, reactive nitrogen pollution will be a matter of significant global discussion and, unlike carbon, India and South Asia cannot wake up at the last minute, realising that it has no updated, scientific assessment of its inventory.”

Conclusion:

  • Last year, Dr. Raghuram led a consortium of researchers who assessed trends in nitrogen emissions in India, where NOx emissions grew at 52% from 1991 to 2001 and 69% from 2001 to 2011. The SANH will study the impacts of the different forms of pollution to form a “coherent picture” of the nitrogen cycle. In particular, it will look at nitrogen in agriculture in eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives.

No Pause in Climate change: Study

Context:

  • The research says the world’s oceans are heating up at an accelerating pace as global warming threatens a diverse range of marine life and a major food supply for the planet

Details:

  • Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change and more rapid warming would only threaten our biodiversity and human life.
  • The study says about 93% of excess heat, trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels, accumulates in the world’s oceans.
  • Various scientific models have predicted that the temperature of the top 2,000 metres of the world’s oceans will rise 0.78 degrees Celsius by the end of the century if no measures were taken to reduce greenhouse gases
  • The thermal expansion, water swelling as it warms, would raise sea level 30 cm, above any sea level rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets.

Bid to curb Pollution, Govt Launched NCAP Scheme for 102 Cities

Context:

  • Looking beyond national capital which invariably gets wider attention on critical issue of air pollution, the Centre launched a comprehensive pan-India air pollution abatement scheme for 102 cities, National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Details:

  • The Centre has formally unveiled details of its mid-term (five year) pollution reduction target and strategies with keeping states into the loop for implementation and bringing global multilateral agencies on board for technical support.
  • It has a target to reduce air pollution by 20-30% by 2024, taking 2017 as a base year.
  • Contrary to demand of environmentalists, the pollution reduction target in these cities will, howver, not be legally binding on respective states, despite being collaborative and participatory in nature.
  • And the programme will be linked with existing programmes of the National Action Plan on Climate Change and other other existing initiatives such as implementation of smart cities schemes in 43 cities. It will be implemented through city specific air pollution abatement action plans for all non-attainment cities, similar to the comprehensive action plan for Delhi.All cities will have details of time-bound action plans and emergency measures such as graded response action plan (GRAP) on the basis of Air Quality Index (AQI). It will be operationalised through inter-sectoral groups which include ministries of road transport and highways, petroleum and natural gas, renewable energy and urban affairs among others.

Gas Hydrates Produced Under ‘SPACE’ Conditions

Context:

  • Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have experimentally shown that methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) can exist as gas hydrates at temperatures and pressures seen in interstellar atmosphere.

Details:

  • In terrestrial conditions, gas hydrates are formed naturally under the sea bed and glaciers under high pressure, low temperature conditions.
  • The researchers have stimulated the conditions of deep space (very low pressure and temperature) to produce methane and CO2 hydrates in the lab
  • It is been inferred from the produced carbon dioxide hydrate that there could be high possibility of sequestering or storing carbon dioxide as hydrates by taking advantage of ice exiting in environmental conditions favourable for hydrate formation.
  • It is said that in these environmental conditions, the carbon dioxide will have enough energy to interact with ice, and hence both molecules will have enough mobility to allow interaction to form carbon dioxide hydrate.
  • It is further said that CO2 hydrate is thermodynamically more stable than methane hydrate. So if methane hydrate has remained stable for millions of years under the sea bed, it would be possible to sequester gaseous CO2 as solid hydrate under the sea bed

About Gas Hydrates:

  • Gas hydrate is a solid ice-like form of water that contains gas molecules in its molecular cavities. In nature, this gas is mostly methane. Methane gas hydrate is stable at the seafloor at water depths beneath about 500 m. The gas hydrate stability zone extends into the seafloor sediments down to a depth where temperature exceeds gas hydrate stability, usually some 10s to 100s of meters beneath the seafloor.
  • Large quantities of gas hydrates exist on the world’s continental margins. Methane from gas hydrates may constitute a future source of natural gas.
  • Gas hydrates are also important for seafloor stability studies, because “melting” gas hydrate may cause seafloor “land” slides. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane released from gas hydrate may therefore play a significant role in climate change.
  • It is important to distinguish between the climate change aspects of methane released naturally from gas hydrates and those of methane produced from gas hydrates for energy use. By burning methane or using it in fuel cells, the methane is converted to CO2. – just like burning coal or oil.
  • Combustion of methane, however is more CO2 efficient than that of any other hydrocarbon, e.g., twice as efficient as burning coal. Hence, using methane from gas hydrate as an energy resource would be, compared to other hydrocarbons, relatively climate friendly.

Ganga water quality has improved, Govt. Tells RS

Context:

  • The water quality of the Ganga in 2018 has “improved over last year”, according to a
    written statement in the Rajya Sabha.

Details:

  • The three parameters were analysed to understand the quality of water of the Ganga.
  • The parameter ‘Dissolved oxygen’ showed considerable increase at 39 locations and
    ‘Biological oxygen demand’ showed demand reduction and also there was an overall
    decrease in faecal coliform.
  • These three parameters are a proxy for both the presence of aquatic life as well as microbes
    that may be harmful to these biota, and are conventionally used to assess the quality of the
    river.

Dissolved oxygen:

  • Presence of organic and inorganic wastes in water decreases the dissolved Oxygen (DO) content of the water. Water having DO content below 8.0 mg/L may be considered as contaminated. Water having DO content below. 4.0 mg/L is considered to be highly polluted. DO content of water is important for the survival of aquatic organisms. A number of factors like surface turbulence, photosynthetic activity, O2 consumption by organisms and decomposition of organic matter are the factors which determine the amount of DO present in water.
  • The higher amounts of waste increase the rates of decomposition and O2 consumption, thereby decreases the DO content of water.

Biological oxygen demand:

  • The demand for O2 is directly related to increasing input of organic wastes and is expressed as biological oxygen demand (BOD) of water.
  • Water pollution by organic wastes is measured in terms of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD).
  • BOD is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by bacteria in decomposing the organic wastes present in water. It is expressed in milligrams of oxygen per litre of water.
  • The higher value of BOD indicates low DO content of water. Since BOD is limited to biodegradable materials Therefore, it is not a reliable method of measuring pollution load in water.

Chemical oxygen demand:

  • Chemical oxygen demand (COD) is a slightly better mode used to measure pollution load in water. COD measures the amount of oxygen in parts per million required to oxidize organic (biodegradable and non-biodegradable) and oxidizable inorganic compounds in the water sample.

Warming leads to water crisis in Himalayas: study

Context:

  • Climate change is driving glaciers in the Himalayas to melt more rapidly than at any point in the last 10,000 years, and could soon cause water supply shortage in parts of India, Pakistan, and Nepal, a study has warned.

Details:

  • Researchers showed that while water supply is declining, demand is rising because of growing populations.
  • The international research team dubbed the plateau the “Third Pole” because it contains the largest stores of freshwater in the world outside of the North and South poles.
  • A study also showed that climate change could have devastating effects on vulnerable residents in the Andes Mountain and Tibetan plateau.

About Third Pole:

  • The region that encompasses the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau is widely known as the Third Pole because its ice fields contain the largest reserve of fresh water outside the Polar Regions.
  • This region is the source of the 10 major river systems that provide irrigation, power and drinking water for over 1.3 billion people in Asia – nearly 20% of the world’s population.
  • Many countries in this region are suffering serious water stress, while infrastructure projects, including dams, are raising cross-border tensions and may have severe environmental impacts.
  • Many people in the Himalayan watersheds face high risks from flooding, water shortage and pollution. Future population growth, climatic variation and increasing demands on scarce water resources from agriculture and industry will increase these risks.
  • Mitigating them and adapting to them will demand high levels of cooperation.

Climate talks deliver ‘rule book’

Context:

  • A deal has been brought down at COP24 to breathe life into the landmark 2015 Paris climate treaty.

Details:

  • Delegates from nearly 200 states finalized a common rule book designed to deliver on the Paris agreement
  • The Katowice agreement (COP24) aims to deliver the Paris goals of limiting global temperature rises to well below 2C.
  • The summit accord, reached by 196 states, outlines plans for a common rulebook for all countries – regulations that will govern the nuts and bolts of how countries cut carbon, provide finance to poorer nations and ensure that everyone is doing what they say they are doing.

Concerns and challenges:

  • Climate experts and scientists have been mentioning that “Paris Rulebook” will not be enough to stop carbon pollution from reaching critical levels
  • Countries would have to do far more to curb fossil fuel use and deforestation to avoid the droughts, superstorms, deadly heat waves and coastal floods associated with global warming.

1st International conference on sustainable water management

Why in news?

  • The first International Conference on ‘Sustainable Water Management’ began on December 10, 2018 at Indian School of Business (ISB) in Mohali, Punjab.
  • The conference is being organised by Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) under the aegis of the National Hydrology Project of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
  • The theme of the international conference is ‘Sustainable Water Management’.

Objective:

  • To foster the participation of and dialogue between various stakeholders, including governments, the scientific and academic communities, so as to promote sustainable policies for water management.
  • To create awareness of water-related problems, motivate commitment at the highest level for their solution and thus promote better management of water resources at local, regional, national and international levels.
  • The conference is expected to witness participation from a number of experts and delegates from reputed organisations from both within India and other countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Spain, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Canada, Germany and Sri Lanka.
  • The experts will deliver their experience and expertise in the use of state of art technology to the stakeholders for sustainable development of water resources.
  • The participation in the conference is by invitation and more than 400 delegates have been registered.
  • Overall, around 20 companies and organisations will be putting up stalls in the exhibition to showcase their activities in the area of sustainable water resources management.
  • The conference is the first in the series of conferences being organised in India under the aegis of the ongoing National Hydrology Project.
  • The hydrology project is being implemented by the Bhakra Beas Management Board with financial assistance from the Ministry of Water Resources.

National Hydrology Project:

  • It is a World Bank Board sponsored project to strengthen the capacity of institutions to assess water situation in their regions in India.
  • The project aims to scale up the successes achieved under Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II to cover the entire country including the states of Ganga and Brahmaputra-Barak basins. Apart from benefitting the states in further upgrading and completing their water monitoring networks, the project aims to help new states to better manage water flows from the reservoirs.
  • The project includes setting up of national flood forecasting systems with an advance warning system and reservoir operation systems as well as water resources accounting in river basins.
  • It will have the potential to help communities to build resilience against possible uncertainties of climate change.

Global Warming of 1.5oC, an IPCC

  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment.
  • With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

About:

  • Global Warming of 1.5°C, is an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.
  • The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C was approved by the IPCC in Incheon, Republic of Korea. It will be a key scientific input into the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December, when governments review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.
  • With more than 6,000 scientific references cited and the dedicated contribution of thousands of expert and government reviewers worldwide, this important report testifies to the breadth and policy relevance of the IPCC.

Key Highlights:

  • One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes.
  • The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C.
  • The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.
  • Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems.
  • Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds.

Way Forward:

  • The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5°C, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate.
  • If the average global temperature rises by more than one degree Celsius from the present, India could “annually” expect conditions like the 2015 heat wave that killed at least 2,000
  • The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.
  • Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.
  • Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.
  • The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future.
  • This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history.

Background:

  • The IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options.
  • The Paris Agreement adopted by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015 included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • As part of the decision to adopt the Paris Agreement, the IPCC was invited to produce, in 2018, a Special Report on global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.
  • The report was prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups. Working Group, I assess the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change. The IPCC accepted the invitation, adding that the Special Report would look at these issues in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.
  • Global Warming of 1.5°C is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Cycle. Next year the IPCC will release the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and Climate Change and Land, which looks at how climate change affects land use.
  • Ninety-one authors and review editors from 40 countries prepared the IPCC report in response to an invitation from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) when it adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Assam to introduce methane as cooking fuel

In news:

  • Public sector Assam Petrochemicals Limited is set to introduce – in a first in India – methanol as cleaner, cheaper alternative to liquefied petroleum gas.

Background:

  • As India grows, it would like to fuel its rising energy demand in an energy secure, affordable, accessible and sustainable manner
  • LPG is prepared by refining petroleum or “wet” natural gas, and is almost entirely derived from fossil fuel sources, being manufactured during the refining of petroleum (crude oil), or extracted from petroleum or natural gas streams as they emerge from the ground
  • Methanol (CH3OH) is a single carbon compound which can be produced from coal, natural gas, biomass (i.e. products which are capable of producing syngas), whereas DME (CH3OCH3) which is the simplest ether compound can be produced from methanol or directly from syngas.

Advantages of Methanol:

  • Methanol and Dimethyl ether (DME) can play an important role in order to contain the rising imports and improve the energy security of India.

Methanol and DME to be used as a Transportation Fuel:

  • Methanol is an efficient fuel (octane number 100) and emits lesser NOx and Particulate matter (PM) than gasoline and produces no SOx as there is no sulphur in methanol
  • It can be blended (or be completely substituted) with gasoline to use as a transport fuel along with other applications.
  • It is a highly efficient fuel, can be blended with gasoline/diesel, emits lesser NOx, PM, no Sox
  • Therefore, this would reduce the already high import dependence on crude oil (82% of the crude requirements were met through imports in 2016-17) of India

Clean cooking fuels:

  • Methanol/DME to help in achieving the objective of access to clean cooking fuels in India and further the flagship initiative of the Government, PMUY (Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

Displacing diesel in Telecom Towers:

  • Telecom towers in India consume around 2% of diesel (1.5 MT) consumption which is a significant amount indicating a vast potential for DME to replace diesel.

In news:

  • Public sector Assam Petrochemicals Limited is set to introduce – in a first in India – methanol as cleaner, cheaper alternative to liquefied petroleum gas.

Production of various chemicals:

  • Methanol can be used for producing various chemicals like formaldehyde, acetic acid and olefins which can be exported and can be high foreign exchange earners.

Boost to Swachh Bharat Mission:

  • Methanol can also be produced from waste which would give a boost to India’s flagship programme “SWACHH BHARAT MISSION”

India’s Target:

  • India has already set itself an ambitious target of 10% reduction in import dependence of oil & gas by 2022 in comparison with 2014- 15 levels

Problems of Methanol:

  • However, methanol is more corrosive than gasoline and may require new equipment for storage and distribution of the same • It’s also toxic to humans if ingested.

Way Forward:

  • As India moves ahead with its ambitious developmental agenda, it has the right to use its carbon space, though; India has taken effective measures to reduce its emissions. By using methanol, India will be to achieve energy security to some extent.
  • India can and must leapfrog to a Methanol Economy which could significantly reduce its import dependence and carbon footprint. A recently released NITI Aayog paper also suggested the same

Center hikes ethanol prices

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the revised the price of ethanol to be procured for blending with petrol under the Ethanol Blending Programme.

Background:

  • The price of ethanol derived from B heavy molasses (100 per cent sugarcane juice) has been hiked from ₹47.49 a litre to ₹52.43.
  • The price of ethanol from C heavy molasses (partially sugarcane juice) has been marginally lowered from ₹43.70 a litre to ₹43.46.
  • The revised price is applicable for the forthcoming sugar season 2018-19 during the ethanol supply year from December 1, 2018 to November 30, 2019.
  • Surplus of sugar production leads to the depressing prices. Consequently, sugarcane farmers’ dues have increased due to lower capability of sugar industry to pay the farmers. As the exmill price of sugar has increased from the earlier estimated price, there is a need to revise price of B heavy molasses and 100 per cent sugarcane juice for production of ethanol.
  • According to the Ministry directive, ethanol produced from sugar mills that produce only ethanol will be prioritised first, followed by ethanol from B heavy molasses or partial sugarcane juice, and then C heavy molasses, and then ethanol produced from damaged food grains or other sources.

Ethanol blending programme:

  • Ethanol blending is the practice of blending petrol with ethanol. Many countries, including India, have adopted ethanol blending in petrol in order to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and also to reduce the import burden on account of crude petroleum from which petrol is produced.
  • It is estimated that a 5% blending (105 crore litres) can result in replacement of around 1.8 million Barrels of crude oil .
  • The renewable ethanol content, which is a by-product of the sugar industry, is expected to result in a net reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC).
  • Ethanol itself burns cleaner and burns more completely than petrol it is blended into. In India, ethanol is mainly derived by sugarcane molasses, which is a by-product in the conversion of sugar cane juice to sugar.
  • The practice of blending ethanol started in India in 2001. Government of India mandated blending of 5% ethanol with petrol in 9 States and 4 Union Territories in the year 2003 and subsequently mandated 5% blending of ethanol with petrol on an all-India basis in November 2006 (in 20 States and 8 Union Territories except a few North East states and Jammu & Kashmir). This was also an attempt to reduce the Under-recovery of Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
  • Ethanol blending first found mention in the Auto fuel policy of 2003. It suggested developing technologies for producing ethanol/ bio fuels from renewable energy sources and introducing vehicles to utilise these bio fuels.
  • Later, as per National Policy on Bio-fuels, announced in December 2009, oil companies were required to sell petrol blended with at least 5% of ethanol. It proposed that the blending level be increased to 20% by 2017. • Further, ethanol produced from other non-food feedstocks besides molasses, like cellulosic and ligno cellulosic materials including petrochemical route, has also been allowed to be procured subject to meeting the relevant Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specifications.

Cyclone Daye

Why in news?

  • Heavy rainfall due to cyclonic storm Daye has brought normal life to a standstill in Odisha, leaving several parts in the state waterlogged. Gates of the Upper Kolab Dam in Karapur were opened to maintain the water level.

Cyclone Daye:

  • After crossing the Odisha coast, the track of the latest Bay of Bengal cyclone will head in a classical west-north-west direction (diagonal across Central and Western India) into the weekend and early next week. • To be named ‘Daye’ (Myanmar language) as per protocol, the cyclone is likely to be the last sea-based system to emerge during the 2018 monsoon. But it will drop considerable rain along the track reaching right into North Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Cyclone:

  • A cyclone is a low-pressure area. A cyclone’s center (often known in a mature tropical cyclone as the eye), is the area of lowest atmospheric pressure in the region.
  • Near the center, the pressure gradient force (From the pressure in the center of the cyclone compared to the pressure outside the cyclone) and the force from the Coriolis effect must be in an approximate balance, or the cyclone would collapse on itself as a result of the difference in pressure.
  • Because of the Coriolis effect, the wind flow around a large cyclone is counter clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • In the Northern Hemisphere, the fastest winds relative to the surface of the Earth therefore occur on the eastern side of a northward-moving cyclone and on the northern side of a westward-moving one; the opposite occurs in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • In contrast to low pressure systems, the wind flow around high pressure systems are clockwise (anticyclonic) in the northern hemisphere, and counter clockwise in the southern hemisphere.
  • Tropical cyclogenesis, the development of a warm-core cyclone, begins with significant convection in a favourable atmospheric environment.
  • There are six main requirements for tropical cyclogenesis:
    • sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures,
    • atmospheric instability,
    • high humidity in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere
    • enough Coriolis force to develop a lowpressure center
    • A pre-existing low-level focus or disturbance
    • low vertical wind shear.

Naming of the cyclone:

  • For the Indian Ocean region, deliberations for naming cyclones began in 2000 and a formula was agreed upon in 2004.
  • Eight countries in the region – Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand – all contributed a set of names which are assigned sequentially whenever a cyclonic storm develops.
  • The list of names India has added to the database includes Agni, Akash, Bijli, Jal (cyclones which have all occurred since 2004). The Indian names in the queue are Leher, Megh, Sagar and Vayu.

Niti Panel urges plan

NITI Aayog constituted group of experts has urged the government to set up a dedicated mission to salvage and revive spring water systems in the country’s Himalayan States submitted their report.

Background:

NITI Aayog, constituted a Working Group on “Inventory and Revival of Springs of Himalaya for Water Security” as one of 5 thematic Working Groups for Sustainable Development of the Indian Himalayan Region.

  • The broad objective of setting up of this Working Group was to take stock of
  • The magnitude of the problem (drying of springs, spring water quality).
  • Review related policies across IHR to ascertain adequacy and gaps.
  • Review existing initiatives and best practices including inventorization and spring revival by different agencies across IHR
  • Ascertain to what extent learning from all the best practices and some of the step-wise methodologies is being integrated into spring-related work and ways to strengthen it.

Himalayan Springs:

  • Springs are natural discharge points of the aquifer that provide access of water to people in their natural, often pristine state.
  • Mountain springs are the primary source of water for rural households in the Himalayan region. For many people, springs are the sole source of water.
  • For instant, a major proportion of drinking water supply in the mountainous parts of Uttarakhand is spring based, while in Meghalaya all villages in the State use springs for drinking, irrigation and for livestock.
  • There are five million springs across India, out of which nearly 3 million are in the IHR alone.

Threat:

  • Spring discharge is reported to be declining due to increased water demand, land use change, and ecological degradation. High dependency on one hand and an increasing sensitivity to depletion on the other, make Himalayan springs greatly vulnerable.
  • With climate change and rising temperatures, rise in rainfall intensity and reduction in its temporal spread, and a marked decline in winter rain, the problem of dying springs is being increasingly felt across the Indian Himalayan Region.
  • Besides, water quality is also deteriorating under changing land use and improper sanitation. • Spring depletion has not only affected people, but has also had serious impact on forests and wildlife. The problem, therefore, transcends the entire spectrum of dependents and dependencies, rural and urban to forests and wildlife.
  • Any change in spring hydrology has clear ramifications on river hydrology, whether in the headwater regions, where springs manifest themselves as sources of rivers, or in the lower-reach plains of river systems where they contribute almost invisibly as base flows to river channels.
  • A large share of the groundwater flux ends up in springs and consequently in rivers. River rejuvenation will be incomplete without a clear focus on spring revival
  • Rivers are kept alive throughout the year, particularly in a monsoonal climate, primarily due to discharge from groundwater as springs and seeps along their river channels. Hence, spring water depletion, without our knowing it, affects flows in rivers and their revival holds great significance in the rejuvenation and restoration of rivers such as the Ganga, the Narmada, the Krishna, the Godavari and the Cauvery.
  • Himalayan culture attributes a high value to springs and many cultural activities are still prevalent around spring water. Any further inaction will not only lead to physical consequences in the form of spring depletion and contamination, but also to the erosion of the rich culture and heritage around springs and spring water across the entire Himalayan landscape.

Policy and Knowledge Gap:

  • There is misunderstanding of what constitutes springs, and how they are recharged, led to overall policy neglect of springs.
  • Most of India’s water policies were designed around the ‘development’ of water, whether in the form of large structures such as dams or in the form of sinking wells into the ground to create access to groundwater. Spring water emerges on to the surface naturally and therefore did not receive much attention.
  • It may be obvious to many that springs represent groundwater discharge. However, they have hardly found a place in mainstream education that was as important as that accorded to wells and other aspects of groundwater. Hence, knowledge on spring hydrology remains limited to some centres, mainly in the ivory towers of higher education in different discipline. springs did not feature in the mainstream assessment of groundwater resources.
  • There is deficit in understanding of traditional practices and culture around springs both of which have significant socioeconomic and governance dimensions.
  • While there is significant traction on the impacts of climate change and variability on water resources in the Himalayas, long-term data pertaining to both climate parameters and spring discharge at high granularity is missing until now.
  • Similarly, documentation of various initiatives and institutions working on the multiple aspects of spring management is also missing.

Way Forward:

  • There is also an urgent need to take up a national level initiative focused on rejuvenation, restoration and management of Himalayan springs.
  • The success of spring restoration, and of the Springs Initiative hinges on the enthusiastic participation of all the entities concerned. Handholding by and support of State and local governments are of crucial importance.
  • There are the communities that use springs. It is important that they are convinced of the need to conserve their springs, understand how it is done, and are willing to assume responsibility for managing their springs therefore, the demand for spring restoration needs to come from such communities.
  • Programmes have to be of participatory, involving local communities, NGOs, CSOs and implemented through a science-based management approach.
  • Spring shed management is need for an hour. For spring revival, the appropriate unit is the spring shed – the unit of land where rain falls (recharge area), and then emerges at discharge point, the spring. a paradigm shift from watershed to spring shed as an appropriate unit of intervention in the IHR.
  • The most important recommendation of the group is to launch a National Programme on Regeneration of Springs in the Himalayan Region. The programme will entail several short, medium and long-term actions.
  • The sustainable management of spring water is clearly linked not only to multiple disciplines such as hydrogeology, social systems, economic trade-offs, gender and equity dimensions, but also to the interdisciplinary nature of responses to some of the crises surrounding spring water. • Establishing a clear relationship between climatic factors and spring depletion is difficult to obtain at the moment, it is important to develop a knowledge base that could facilitate and encourage workers in the region to take up groundwater resource augmentation and protection ventures with regard to spring water
  • Systematic mapping of springs across the Himalayas is critical. Creation of a web-enabled database/web portal on which the springs can be mapped/tagged. All State Government Departments, R&D institutions and NGOs working on springs and springshed management will upload data on the web portal.

Conclusion:

  • Springs have provided water to the mountain communities for centuries and the revival of this traditional source of water is extremely important for the region’s sustainable growth.Depletion in spring discharge is not just a one-dimensional problem it is of multidimension in nature which will impact entire ecosystem.so systematic and scientific based approach involving all stakeholders is need for an hour.

Kerala floods

  • The South-West monsoon has been vigorous over Kerala, resulting in heavy floods in various parts of the state.
  • The State Disaster Management Authority has declared a red alert in Idukki and Wayanad districts in the light of the extremely heavy rain.

Rescue Operations:

Operation Madad:

  • The Indian Navy’s Operation Madad was launched to assist the state administration and undertake disaster relief operations due to unprecedented flooding in many parts of Kerala following incessant rainfall and release of excess water from Idukki and other dams.
  • Naval helicopters are also deployed for ferrying divers, power tools, axes and relief material to the flooded areas to augment ongoing relief operations.

Operation Sahyog:

  • The operation sahyog has been launched by Indian Army in rescue mission.
  • The army pushed its men and machinery into disaster relief and rescue operations at Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Idukki after incessant rain and landslides hit various northern districts of the state.

Probable Reasons:

  • Global warming could be a responsible for the unprecedented rain that is witnessed in Kerala.
  • South west monsoon has been intensified due to climate change.
  • Urbanisation and Encroachments.

World’s largest penguin colony shrinks 90%

The planet’s largest colony of king penguins has declined by nearly 90 percent in three decades.

About the Study:

  • The colony of king penguins (Aptenodytes Patagonicus) on Ile aux Cochons, an island in the southern Indian Ocean, had the distinction of being the world’s biggest colony of king penguins and second biggest colony of all penguins.
  • However, due to its isolation and inaccessibility, no new estimates of its size were made over the past decades.
  • Recent satellite images and photos taken from helicopters show the population has collapsed, with barely 200,000 remaining.

Causes for the Decline:

  • Though the clear reason for the decline has not been stated by the researchers, they said that there can be several reasons for the decline in the population of penguins. Like:

Climate Change

  • The issue of global warming can play a significant role in this decline.
  • Climate change in general on its current trajectory and will likely make the Iles Crozet — the archipelago that contains Ile aux Cochon — non-viable for king penguins by mid-century.
  • Moreover, there are no other suitable islands nearby, so, migration is not possible for the king penguins.

Invasion By Other Species

  • There is a possibility that various other animals such as rats, mice or cats may have entered into the island and invaded the penguins’ colony, and may have disrupted their lifestyle and population.

Overcrowding of Penguins

  • Overcrowding can be a reason as the larger the population of penguins, the fiercer the competition between individual penguins.
  • The lack of food can trigger an unprecedented rapid and drastic drop in numbers.

AVIAN CHOLERA

  • It is a type of bacterial disease that affects wild and domestic birds worldwide.
  • There are chances that the birds on the island might have been affected by the same disease.

Penguins:

  • Penguins are a family of 17 to 19 species of birds that live primarily in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • They include the tiny blue penguins of Australia and New Zealand, the majestic emperor penguins of Antarctica and king penguins found on many sub- Antarctic islands, the endangered African penguin and the Galápagos penguin—the only penguin to be found north of the equator.
  • Though they are birds, penguins have flippers instead of wings.
  • They cannot fly and on land they waddle walking upright—though when snow conditions are right they will slide on their bellies.
  • In the water they are expert swimmers and divers, and some species can reach speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.

King Penguins:

  • King penguin, second largest member of the Penguinorder characterized by its dignified, upright posture, long bill, and vivid coloration.
  • King penguins are found on several Antarctic and sub Antarctic islands.
  • Their body weight ranges from 11 to 16 kilograms, and they are about 90 centimetres tall (between head and feet).
  • The plumage differs slightly between males and females, as females have more orange tinged markings around the neck and chest area than males.
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern.

Flash Flood Warning to Asian Nations

India has been designated as nodal centre for preparing flash flood forecast to Asian Nations by the World Meteorological Department

Background:

  • The WMO says flash floods account for 85% of flooding incidents across the world, causing some 5,000 deaths each year.
  • Like India, several southeast Asian countries depend on the monsoon and are prone to its vagaries.

As nodal centre:

  • According to Ministry of Earth Science, India will have to develop a customised model that can issue advance warning of floods.
  • The IMD would be working to customise a weather model, developed by the United States and donated to the WMO, to warn of flash floods at least six hours in advance.
  • Using a combination of satellite mapping and ground-based observation, the Flash Flood Guidance System aims to provide forecasts six hours in advance.
  • The proposed model would provide forecasts by computing the likelihood of rainfall and the soil moisture levels to warn of possible floods.
  • A test version of this was being tried out by the IMD, and that was able to give a flood warning about an hour in advance.

Nations:

  • Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand,
  • Though Pakistan was among the list of countries that would benefit from the forecast, it had refused to participate in the scheme.

India’s Existing Early warning systems:

Tsunami Early Warning Centre:

  • Tsunami Early Warning Centre is a part of Indian Nation Centre For Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).
  • An Early Warning System is imperative for the Indian Ocean to mitigate the loss of life and property due to Tsunamis and Storm Surges.
  • The Indian Tsunami Early Warning System incorporates the needs of storm surge forecast too. The System design is based on end-to-end principle.

INCOIS:

  • Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) is an autonomous organization of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • INCOIS is mandated to provide the best possible ocean information and advisory services to society, industry, government agencies and the scientific community through sustained ocean observations and constant improvements through systematic and focussed research.

Flash flood:

  • A sudden and destructive rush of water down a narrow gully or over a slopping surface caused by a heavy rainfall.
  • Flooding that begins within 6 hours, and often within 3 hours, of the heavy rainfall (or other cause).
  • Flash Floods can be caused by a number of things, but is most often due to extremely heavy rainfall from thunderstorms.
  • Flash Floods can occur due to Dam or Levee Breaks, and/or Mudslides (Debris Flow).

Flash Flood

What is Flash Flood?

  • Flash floods can be caused by a number of things, but is most often due to extremely heavy rainfall from thunderstorms.
  • Flash flood as any flood that develops in less than six hours.
  • They can occur almost anywhere, but are most commonly found in low-altitude areas with poor drainage systems.

What causes Flash Floods?

  • The intensity of rain fall
  • Location and distribution of rainfall
  • The land use and topography
  • Vegetation types
  • Soil type and soil water content
  • dam failures,
  • ice jams
  • snow melts
  • Deforestation on low lying areas over grazing can cause water to rise quickly.

Recommendations of task force on Flash Flood Management

  • Expand the role of the Central Government in the Flood control sector – The flood control schemes should be funded through a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in the ratio of 90% Central and 10% State from the present 75:25.
  • The total investment for plan/flood Management may be to at least 1% of the total plan outlay.
  • Earmarking funds in the state sector as Additional Central Assistance for maintenance of embankments.
  • Creation of a revolving fund of Rs. 50 Crore, which may be available annually to the Ministry of Water Resources to take up emergent flood management schemes.
  • Strengthening of the Ganga Flood Control Commission by the addition of a Member (Works) and appropriate field formation for investigation and execution of critical flood management works.
  • Strengthening of Flood Management Organisation of the Central Water Commission by restoring the post of Member (Floods) abolished earlier and redeployment of posts of Chief Engineer, two Directors and other lower level functionaries in order to have policy formulation and coordination amongst various agencies.

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