Current Affairs

Indo-US Defence Industrial Cooperation

On June 5th , 2023, Indian Defence Minister and U.S. Secretary of Defence concluded a bilateral meeting, during which they outlined a road map for 'Defence Industrial Cooperation' between the two countries.

  • Aims of Roadmap: It aims to guide policy direction for the next few years, emphasizing cooperation in high technology areas and identifying opportunities for co-development and co-production.

Key Highlights

  • Strengthening Industrial Cooperation: The meetings focused on enhancing industrial cooperation between India and the U.S. in the defence sector.
  • Collaboration in Defence Start-up Ecosystems: The ministers discussed ways to foster collaboration between the defence start-up ecosystems of both countries. This cooperation aims to leverage the innovation and expertise of start-ups in the defence industry.
  • Convergence of Strategic Interests: The discussions emphasized the convergence of strategic interests between India and the U.S. Both sides expressed their commitment to enhancing defence cooperation and security collaboration.
  • Free and Open Indo-Pacific: The critical role of the India-U.S. partnership in ensuring a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region was emphasized. Both nations acknowledged the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region.
  • Robust Bilateral Defence Cooperation: It highlighted the robust and multifaceted nature of bilateral defence cooperation between India and the U.S. The momentum of engagement will be sustained, and recent successful dialogues on defence Artificial Intelligence and defence space were acknowledged.

Climate Transition in India: Unequal Distribution of Costs and Benefits

Recently, a study conducted by researchers shed light on the unequal distribution of costs and benefits associated with the climate transition in India.

The key findings of the study are:

  • Adverse Effects Concentrated in Economically Disadvantaged States: The adverse effects of the climate transition are primarily concentrated in economically disadvantaged states in eastern India, including Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, and Bihar, which heavily rely on coal mining.
  • Widening Gap between Poor and Wealthy Regions: Without compensatory measures, the gap between poor and wealthy regions in India is likely to widen significantly as a result of the climate transition.
  • Impacts on Disadvantaged Regions: These regions would experience job losses, increased burden on poorer households, and pressure on energy-intensive industries.
  • Affluent States as the Main Beneficiaries: Conversely, comparatively affluent states would be the biggest winners from ambitious climate policies.
  • Importance of Short-Term Effects: Short-term effects play a decisive role in the enforceability of energy and climate policy measures.
  • Challenges to Political Process: The concentration of short-term losers in specific regions can pose significant challenges to the political process of implementing climate protection, as seen in Germany's struggle to phase out coal.
  • Need for New Social and Industrial Policies: The climate transition in India would require the implementation of new social and industrial policies to address regional resistance and competing interest groups.
  • Mitigating Adverse Effects: To support the climate transition and mitigate its adverse effects, various measures can be employed, including utilizing carbon price revenues, careful siting of fossil-free energy production, compensation payments for coal phase-out, and financial aid from Western industrialized countries.
  • Learning from Other Countries: Lessons can be learned from other countries such as South Africa, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where coal phase-out has been accompanied by financial aid from Western industrialized nations.

Indian Scientists Discover New Exoplanet

Recently, an international team of scientists from India, Germany, Switzerland and the USA discovered a new Jupiter-size exoplanet with the highest density known till this date.

The key findings are:

  • Telescope: The discovery of the massive exoplanet was made using the indigenously made PRL Advanced Radial-velocity Abu-sky Search spectrograph (PARAS) at the 1.2 m telescope of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) at its Gurushikhar Observatory in Mt. Abu by measuring the mass of the planet precisely.
  • The Star: The newly discovered exoplanet is found around the star called TOI4603 or HD 245134.
  • The Planet: Using PARAS, the scientists discovered it as a planet by measuring the mass of the secondary body and hence, the planet is called TOI 4603b or HD 245134b.
  • Location: It is located 731 light years away.
  • It orbits a sub-giant F-type star TOI4603 every 7.24 days.
  • It orbits very close to its host star at a distance less than 1/10th the distance between our Sun and Earth.
  • Mass: The new exoplanet has a mass 13 times that of Jupiter.

The detection of the new exoplanet provides valuable insights into the formation, migration, and evolution mechanisms of massive exoplanets.

Early Slowdown of Antarctic Deep Ocean Currents

Recently, a new research revealed that deep ocean currents in Antarctica are slowing down much earlier than previously predicted.

Key findings of the research are:

  • Early Slowdown: Deep ocean currents in Antarctica, known as the overturning circulation, are slowing down earlier than predicted, with a 30% slowdown observed over the past three decades.
  • Cause: The slowdown is attributed to the melting of Antarctic ice, which is disrupting the formation of Antarctic bottom water, a dense and oxygen-rich water mass that drives the overturning circulation.
  • Reduced Supply of Oxygen: The decline in Antarctic bottom water formation reduces the supply of oxygen to the deep ocean, leading to a decrease in deep ocean oxygen levels.
  • The reduction in oxygen-rich bottom water allows warmer, oxygen-depleted waters to replace it, further reducing oxygen levels in the deep ocean.
  • Impact on Deep-Ocean Organisms: The slowdown in the overturning circulation and declining oxygen levels have significant implications for marine life, as even small changes in oxygen can impact deep-ocean organisms' behaviour and habitat availability.
  • May Intensify Global Warming: The slowdown may also intensify global warming as the overturning circulation transports carbon dioxide and heat to the deep ocean, and reduced ocean storage capacity leads to more carbon dioxide and heat remaining in the atmosphere.
  • Increase in Sea Levels: The reduction in Antarctic bottom water reaching the ocean floor increases sea levels due to thermal expansion of warmer waters.

Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates (JME)

Recently, the 2023 Edition of the Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates (JME) was released by UNICEF, WHO, and the World Bank. It includes estimates of prevalence and numbers for child stunting, overweight, wasting and severe wasting.

The key findings are:

  • Reduction in Stunting: India has shown a reduction in stunting among children under five years. The prevalence rate of stunting dropped from 41.6% in 2012 to 31.7% in 2022. This resulted in 1.6 crore fewer stunted children in 2022 compared to 2012.
  • Global and Regional Comparison: Globally, the prevalence of stunting declined from 26.3% in 2012 to 22.3% in 2022. In South Asia, including India, the decline was more significant, dropping from 40.3% to 30.5%.
  • Burden of Stunting: India's share of the global burden of stunting decreased from 30% to 25% over the past decade.
  • Wasting Concern: Wasting remains a concern in India, with an overall prevalence rate of 18.7% in 2022. India contributes 49% to the global burden of wasting.
  • Obesity Levels: The prevalence of obesity among children in India increased marginally from 2.2% in 2012 to 2.8% in 2022. India's obesity numbers grew to 31.8 lakh from 27.5 lakh, contributing to 8.8% of the global share. However, the overall classification for obesity in India remains low compared to the global prevalence of 5.6%.
  • Weight Issue: The prevalence rate of overweight children globally increased from 5.5% to 5.6%.
  • NFHS Data: The decline in stunting observed in India aligns with the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 data, which estimated a prevalence of 35.5% compared to 38% in NFHS-4 and 48% in NFHS-3.
  • NFHS-5 also highlighted improvements in access to health services and reductions in underweight children but raised concerns about anaemia.
  • Maternal Malnutrition and Wasting: Wasting is a complex indicator that assesses acute malnutrition over short periods. In India, two-thirds of wasting cases among children at 12 or 24 months were found to be caused by maternal malnutrition. This suggests that children are born with low weight for height and do not recover despite weight gain.

The NVS-01 satellite

On May 29, 2023, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the first of the second-generation satellites for its navigation constellation from Sriharikota using a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket.

  • The satellite, named NVS-01, is part of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), also known as NavIC.
  • Heaviest in the Constellation: This new satellite is the heaviest in the constellation, weighing 2,232 kg, compared to the previous satellites in the IRNSS constellation that weighed around 1,425 kg.
  • Rubidium atomic clock: The NVS-01 satellite incorporates a Rubidium atomic clock, a crucial technology developed by India.
  • The space-qualified Rubidium atomic clock, developed by the Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad, is a significant achievement, possessed only by a handful of countries.
  • Importance of Atomic Clock: The presence of the atomic clock onboard NVS-01 is particularly important as previous satellites experienced clock failures, resulting in the loss of location data. This affected the accuracy and reliability of the NavIC system. The introduction of the Rubidium atomic clock addresses this issue and ensures the provision of precise location services.
  • Transmit Signals in the L1 Frequency: The second-generation satellites will transmit signals in the L1 frequency, along with the existing L5 and S frequency signals.
  • This expansion of signal frequencies enhances interoperability with other satellite-based navigation systems and facilitates the use of NavIC in wearable devices and personal trackers that utilize low-power, single-frequency chips.
  • Life of over 12 years: The new satellites have an extended mission life of over 12 years, surpassing the 10-year mission life of the current satellites. This enhancement ensures longer operational periods and sustained functionality for the navigation system.
  • Applications of IRNSS Constellation: It has applications in public vehicle safety, power grid synchronization, real-time train information systems, and fishermen's safety.
  • Efforts are being made to expand its utilization in emergency warning systems, time dissemination, geodetic networks, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The integration of NavIC receivers in smartphone chipsets further facilitates its adoption.
  • Advantages of Navic as a Regional Navigation System: It is the only regional system among the four global satellite-based navigation systems, namely GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and Beidou.
  • NavIC signals provide higher accuracy, with open signals being accurate up to 5 meters and restricted signals offering even greater precision.
  • The coverage extends over the Indian landmass and approximately 1,500 km beyond, ensuring availability even in remote and challenging terrains.
  • In High Geo-Stationary Orbit: Unlike GPS, NavIC satellites are in high geo-stationary orbit, so they are always looking over the same region on Earth.
  • The signals reach devices in congested areas, dense forests, and mountains more effectively due to the 90-degree angle of incidence.

Origins of Fast Radio Bursts

Recently, a study by a team of astronomers uncovered significant insights into fast radio bursts (FRBs).

About FRBs: FRBs are fleeting bursts of radio waves from distant galaxies that have puzzled scientists for over 15 years.

About the Study: The study focused on a repeating FRB, FRB 20190520B, allowing researchers to investigate its local environment and shed light on its sources.

Key Findings

  • Highly Variable Faraday Rotation Measure: The FRB’s Faraday rotation measure – an indicator of its magnetic field strength – was highly variable.
  • Researchers observed two instances of magnetic field reversal, suggesting that the FRB source orbits a binary star system with a massive star or black hole companion.
  • Variations in Magnetic Field Strength: The observations also revealed variations in magnetic field strength and electron density around the FRB source, indicating a turbulent and magnetized plasma environment.
  • Wind Emitted by a Massive Companion Star: Models constructed by the scientists attribute these variations to a wind emitted by a massive companion star in the binary system.
  • FRB Originated from a Binary System: This study provides compelling evidence that this FRB originated from a binary system, and it suggests that all repeating FRBs may be associated with binaries, albeit with different local conditions.
  • Understanding changes in the magnetized environment around FRBs is crucial for revealing their origins.

Pulsars are rotating neutron stars observed to have pulses of radiation at very regular intervals that typically range from milliseconds to seconds.

The da Vinci glow

On May 19, 2023, a glimpse of the Da Vinci glow was witnessed. It is a phenomenon that can happen around sunset when a crescent moon is on the horizon, but the outline of a full moon is visible.

About da Vinci glow

  • Named after Leonardo da Vinci: This phenomenon is named after the legendary Renaissance artist and scientist, Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Leonardo da Vinci, in the 16th century, became the first person to describe this spectacle, intertwining his artistic perception with scientific curiosity.
  • Sky Retains A Touch Of Darkness: During the Da Vinci glow time, the sky retains a touch of darkness but is not completely devoid of light.
  • Emanates From Light Reflected By The Earth: This enchanting glow, also known as earthshine, emanates from light reflected by the Earth onto the moon's surface, making the lunar night an astounding 50 times brighter than a typical full-moon night on Earth.
  • Provided A Deeper Understanding: Although da Vinci's original explanation had flaws, subsequent advancements in technology and lunar missions have provided a deeper understanding of the da Vinci glow, enhancing the appreciation of this celestial phenomenon.

Impact of Climate Change on Global Biodiversity

Recently, a study has revealed alarming findings regarding the impact of climate change on global biodiversity. The study highlights the potential abrupt loss of habitat for numerous species due to climate change.

Key Findings:

  • 30 Percent of Species over Tipping Points: Climate change has the potential to push up to 30 percent of species over tipping points as their habitats experience unprecedented temperature changes.
  • Unfamiliarly Hot Temperatures: If the planet warms by 1.5 degrees Celsius, 15 percent of species studied will face unfamiliarly hot temperatures across at least 30 percent of their geographic range within a single decade.
  • This risk doubles to 30 percent of species if warming reaches 2.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Thermal Exposure Threshold: The study introduced the concept of a thermal exposure threshold, which signifies the point at which areas within a species' range consistently surpass historically extreme temperatures experienced between 1850 and 2014.
  • Crossing this threshold does not guarantee extinction, but it poses a significant challenge for species to survive under higher temperatures.
  • Many animals will experience the thermal exposure threshold across a substantial portion of their geographic range within a short timeframe.
  • Potential Mass Extinction Crisis: Urgent reduction of carbon emissions is crucial to mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change and prevent a potential mass extinction crisis.
  • Catastrophic Consequences: Visualizing the changes over time helps raise awareness about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked climate change.
  • Combating Climate Change: Proactive measures are essential in combating climate change to protect global biodiversity and ensure a sustainable future for all species.
  • The study's findings can aid conservation efforts by providing an early warning system to identify areas and species at risk.

ITF Transport Outlook 2023 report

On May 24, 2023, the ITF Transport Outlook 2023 report was launched at the International Transport Forum (ITF) Summit in Leipzig, Germany.

Key Findings

  • Decarbonization Potential: The transport sector has the potential to reduce its CO2 emissions by about 80% over the next 25 years compared to 2019 levels if decisive action is taken to decarbonize transportation.
  • Paris Agreement Goals: Decarbonization of the transport sector can contribute to achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, particularly in limiting the global temperature increase to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • Policy Mix: A mix of policies is needed to promote sustainable choices in transportation. This includes investing in public transport infrastructure, supporting modes of transport with higher occupancy or load factors, and encouraging more compact cities.
  • Infrastructure Investment: Decarbonization of transport can reduce the need for investment in core infrastructure, such as roads, railways, and ports, compared to a business-as-usual scenario. This could potentially save governments globally $4 trillion on road maintenance and investment.
  • Cost-Competitive Technologies: Scaling up cost-competitive technologies and fuels is crucial to achieving significant emissions reductions in the transportation sector.
  • This includes the adoption of technologies that enable people and goods to be transported with far fewer emissions.
  • Lower Investment Requirements: Contrary to common belief, achieving ambitious decarbonization goals in transport is not necessarily more expensive.
  • The report suggests that the total capital investment needs for core infrastructure in road, rail, airports, and ports would be 5% lower with ambitious decarbonization policies compared to business as usual.
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