Current Affairs - Current News

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.

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.

Health for All: Transforming Economies to Deliver What Matters

On May 23, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the "Health for All: Transforming economies to deliver what matters" report during the 76th World Health Assembly.

Key Findings

  • Reorienting economies: The report emphasizes the need to restructure economic activity to prioritize health for all. It advocates for health to be at the heart of government decision-making and private sector collaboration.
  • Valuing Health: The report calls for new economic metrics that measure and value what truly matters in terms of health outcomes and well-being. It highlights the importance of considering social and environmental factors in economic assessments.
  • Financing Health: The report proposes viewing health for all as a long-term investment rather than a short-term cost. It recommends exploring innovative financing mechanisms to ensure sustainable funding for essential health services.
  • Promoting Innovation: The report underscores the need to advance health innovation for the common good. It emphasizes the importance of fostering collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources to address global health challenges.
  • Strengthening Public Sector Capacity: The report emphasizes the significance of building robust and dynamic public sector capacity to achieve health for all. It highlights the role of effective governance and strategic investments in strengthening health systems.

The Green Shift: The Low Carbon Transition of India’s Oil and Gas Sector

Recently a report titled "The Green Shift: The Low Carbon Transition of India’s Oil and Gas Sector," was released by the Energy Transition Advisory Committee (ETAC) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoP&NG).

The report emphasizes the role of compressed biogas (CBG) in addressing the country's energy deficit and reducing emissions.

Key findings of the report are:

  • CBG as an Alternative to Imported Fossil Natural Gas: India faces a significant deficit in natural gas supply, relying heavily on imports. CBG, derived from various waste and biomass sources, can serve as a viable alternative to imported fossil natural gas, offering nearly net-zero emissions and enhancing energy security.
  • Current Status of CBG Plants: As of March 2023, only 46 out of the planned 5,000 CBG plants under the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) scheme have been commissioned in India. However, the industry is gaining momentum, with 4,090 letters of intent issued to stakeholders.
  • India's Gas-Based Economy Goals: The government aims to increase the proportion of gas in the energy mix from the current 6.5% to 15% by 2030, establishing India as a gas-based economy.
  • Policy Recommendations: The report suggests several policy measures to incentivize the CBG sector, including exempting CBG transportation through natural gas pipelines from charges for ten years, implementing a 5% CBG mandate for natural gas marketing organizations, and targeting a 10% blend of CBG in natural gas by 2030.
  • Feedstock Supply Challenges: The lack of a reliable and consistent supply of feedstock poses a major challenge to establishing CBG plants. The report recommends the Ministry of Agriculture take responsibility for biomass management, supported by state-level policies and initiatives to promote biomass clusters and decentralized storage facilities.
  • Financial Incentives and Institutional Framework: To attract private investment, the report suggests providing financial incentives such as improved access to credit, accelerated depreciation, long-term land leases, and tax holidays to the CBG sector.
  • It also highlights the importance of establishing a coordinated institutional framework and promoting research and development (R&D) through collaborations with domestic institutions

Thriving: Making Cities Green, Resilient, and Inclusive in a Changing Climate

Recently, the World Bank released a report, titled "Thriving: Making Cities Green, Resilient, and Inclusive in a Changing Climate”.

The report highlights the critical role of cities in tackling the global climate challenge.

Key findings of the report are:

  • Urbanization and Emissions: The world's population increasingly resides in cities due to rapid urbanization. Cities account for about 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the number of urban dwellers rising from 1.19 billion to 4.46 billion between 1970 and 2021.
  • Carbon Emissions Disparities: Cities in high and upper-middle-income countries have the highest per capita fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, while cities in low-income countries have the lowest. North American cities are the largest per capita emitters, whereas Sub-Saharan African cities exhibit the lowest emissions on average.
  • Climate Hazards and Vulnerabilities: Low and lower-middle-income cities, despite contributing only 14% of global urban CO2 emissions, face the most severe climate-related hazards such as floods, heat stress, cyclones, sea-level rise, water stress, and wildfires.
  • Green Urban Planning Strategies: The report emphasizes the urgent need for cities to adopt integrated green urban planning strategies. These strategies should address interconnected challenges and include investments in green space and sustainable infrastructure.
  • Urban Population Growth: The urban population is projected to grow by 2.5 billion by 2050, leading to increased strain on urban water resources and infrastructure. Protecting and restoring ecosystems, especially forests, is crucial for urban resilience and water security.
  • Inclusiveness and Resilience: Lack of inclusiveness contributes to cities' vulnerability in low and lower-middle-income countries. Adopting a different development path that promotes compact and connected urban development is essential for both climate action and poverty reduction.
  • Recommendations for Policymakers: The report provides a set of recommendations for policymakers to help cities become greener, more resilient, and inclusive. These recommendations include information dissemination, incentives, insurance coverage, integration, and investments.

Quad Leaders’ Summit

On 20th May 2023, Indian Prime Minister participated in the third in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit held in Hiroshima, Japan, along with Prime Minister of Australia, Prime Minister of Japan, and President of the United States of America.

The Quad Leaders’ Vision Statement- “Enduring Partners for the Indo-Pacific” was released during the summit.

Initiatives announced during the summit include:

  • Clean Energy Supply Chains Initiative: Clean Energy Supply Chains Initiative would facilitate research and development and support the Indo-Pacific’s energy transition.
  • In addition, the Quad Principles of Clean Energy Supply Chains were approved to guide engagement with the region on clean energy supply chain development.
  • Quad Infrastructure Fellowships Programme: The programme will support policy makers and practitioners in the region to design, build and manage sustainable and viable infrastructure in their countries.
  • Partnership for Cable Connectivity and Resilience: It aims to leverage Quad’s collective expertise in design, manufacturing, laying and maintenance of undersea cables to secure and diversify these critical networks.
  • ORAN Deployment in Palau: The leaders announced their support for the deployment of Open Radio Access Network (ORAN) in Palau, marking the first such deployment in the Pacific region.
  • They also released the ORAN Security Report to support industry investment in open, interoperable and secure telecom platforms.
  • Quad Investors' Network: A private sector-led platform called the Quad Investors' Network has been launched to facilitate investments in strategic technologies.
  • Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness: The leaders welcomed progress of the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, which was announced during the previous Quad Summit last year in Tokyo.
  • Data Sharing Partners in South East and the Pacific: They noted that data sharing with partners in Southeast Asia and the Pacific under this programme is underway and would soon include partners in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Indian Prime Minister highlighted how India’s approach to demand-driven development cooperation with the region was contributing to these efforts.
  • The leaders also emphasized the need to preserve the integrity of the United Nations (UN), its Charter, and its agencies. The leaders agreed to maintain regular dialogue and sustain the momentum of Quad engagement.
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