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Current Affairs 11 December 2023

  1. Climate Change Performance Index
  2. Indian Navy’s Modernization for Undersea Operations
  3. UNEP’s Action Plan for Cooling Sector Emission Reduction
  4. Ban on the Use of Sugarcane Juice and Sugar Syrup in Ethanol Production
  5. Voluntary Code of Ethics and Government Oversight: Online Gaming Industry’s Initiative for Stability in India
  6. Syphilis
  7. Potteromyces Asteroxylicola


Context:

Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2024 was released on the sidelines of the ongoing COP28 at Dubai. India ranked 7th in this year’s Climate Change Performance Index, up one spot from the previous one.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India’s Climate Action: Fourth Strongest
  2. India-Specific Observations
  3. About Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI)

India’s Climate Action: Fourth Strongest

Germanwatch Annual Performance Index:
  • India’s climate actions ranked fourth strongest in the annual performance index released by Germanwatch.
Top Performers:
  • Denmark:
    • Retained the top spot with a score of 75.59%, yet none of the top countries achieved a very high rating in recent years.
  • Estonia and the Philippines:
    • Occupied the second and third ranks with scores of 72.07 and 70.70, respectively.
  • India:
    • Followed closely in the fourth position with a score of 70.25%.
Worst Performers:
  • Most Developed Countries:
    • Countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, and others fared poorly compared to the previous year.
  • Saudi Arabia:
    • Ranked at the bottom of the performance index.
Global Climate Action Observations:
  • Urgent Decarbonization:
    • Despite the urgency to decarbonize all sectors, global greenhouse gases increased in 2022.
  • CO2 Levels:
    • Atmospheric CO2 is now 50% higher than pre-industrial levels.
  • CCPI Goals:
    • CCPI countries need an emissions peak by 2025 to achieve the 1.5°C goal.
    • Emissions must be halved by 2030 (vs 2020) levels.

India-Specific Observations:

High Population Impact:

  • India’s high population, leading to reduced per capita energy use, contributes significantly to its high position in climate performance.

Category Rankings:

  • 9th in GHG Emissions.
  • 10th in Energy Use.
  • 10th in Climate Policy.
  • 37th in Renewable Energy (within the ‘high’ performance category).

Progress Toward Benchmarks:

  • On track to meet a benchmark of well below 2°C in per capita GHG emissions.

Concerns About Coal Use:

  • India’s effort to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is impacted by a heavy reliance on coal, oil, and gas.
  • Coal use is a major source of GHG emissions and contributes to severe air pollution, especially in urban areas.

Air Pollution Challenge:

  • India remains among the most air-polluted countries globally.

About Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI):

  • The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI)  was released and published by three environmental nongovernmental organizations viz. New Climate Institute, German-watch, and the Climate Action Network (CAN) International.
  •  It is an independent monitoring tool for tracking the climate protection performance of 57 countries and the European Union.
  • These countries together generate 90%+ of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Aim: It aims to enhance transparency in international climate politics and enables comparison of climate protection efforts and progress made by individual countries.
  • CCPI looks at four categories with 14 indicators:
    • Greenhouse Gas Emissions,
    • Renewable Energy,
    • Energy Use, and
    • Climate Policy.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Indian Navy aims to enhance the capabilities of its Marine Commandos (MARCOS) for special undersea operations through the acquisition of indigenously-made swimmer delivery vehicles, also referred to as underwater chariots and midget submarines.

Relevance:

GS III: Defence and Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Navy’s Acquisition Plans for Indigenous Undersea Chariots
  2. Marine Commandos (MARCOS)
  3. The Chariots in Naval Operations

Navy’s Acquisition Plans for Indigenous Undersea Chariots

Key Features:
  • Crew Capacity:
    • Undersea chariots designed to carry a crew of at least six members.
  • Power Source:
    • Propulsion powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries.
Operational Advantages:
  • Increased Size:
    • Larger size of delivery vehicles facilitates the transport of bigger cylinders by divers.
  • Extended Underwater Stay:
    • Longer operational durations underwater due to enhanced cylinder capacity.
  • Improved Operational Range:
    • Overall operational range in shallow waters extended.
Enhanced Capabilities:
  • Weapon Carriage:
    • Larger chariot dimensions allow for the carriage of additional weapons.
Indigenous Production:
  • Made in India:
    • Emphasis on indigenous manufacturing for undersea chariots.

Marine Commandos (MARCOS)

Overview:
  • Special Operations Force:
    • Formed by the Indian Navy, MARCOS specializes in air, water, and land operations.
  • Establishment:
    • Founded in February 1987.
  • Alternate Name:
    • Also known as the Marine Commando Force (MCF).
Modeling After Elite Units:
  • Inspiration:
    • Modeled after the elite units such as the US Navy SEALs and the Royal Marines.
Functions:
  • Diverse Operations:
    • Trained to conduct a variety of operations encompassing air, water, and land domains.
  • Specialized Roles:
    • Proficient in:
      • Maritime and amphibious warfare.
      • Counter-terrorism operations.
      • Unconventional warfare.
      • Rescue missions.
      • Reconnaissance.
      • Raids.
  • Swift Response:
    • Capable of a swift and stealthy response in denied territories.

The Chariots in Naval Operations

Overview:
  • Specialized Platforms:
    • Chariots are highly specialized self-propelled vehicles used by advanced navies worldwide.
  • Launch Capability:
    • Launched from ships or submarines based on size and designated roles.
  • Historical Reference:
    • In World War II, manned human torpedoes were referred to as chariots.
Functionality:
  • Shallow-Water Operations:
    • Especially useful for naval operations in shallow waters.
  • Mission Range:
    • Suitable for various missions, including shallow-water surveillance and attacking coastal installations and adversary ships in harbors.
  • Access to Restricted Areas:
    • Enables marine commandos to access areas close to adversary harbors that submarines cannot reach due to shallow waters.
  • Transportation of Equipment:
    • Facilitates the transportation of weapons and equipment to operational areas.
Usage in India:
  • Limited Public Information:
    • Limited publicly available information on the swimmer delivery vehicles used by the Indian Navy.
  • Historical Use:
    • Some sources suggest the use of Italian-made chariots by the Navy for several years.
  • Indigenous Production:
    • In 2012, the Ministry of Defence directed Hindustan Shipyard Limited to build two submarines of this type.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has put forth an action plan outlined in the report “Keeping it Chill: How to meet cooling demands while cutting emissions,” with the goal of significantly decreasing emissions from the global cooling sector. This initiative has the potential to make a substantial impact, foreseeing a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The report’s release aligns with the Global Cooling Pledge, a collaborative effort led by the United Arab Emirates, the host of the Conference of Parties (COP28), in conjunction with the Cool Coalition.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. UNEP’s Action Plan for Sustainable Cooling
  2. Addressing the Significance of the Cooling Sector
  3. Benefits of Sustainable Cooling:

UNEP’s Action Plan for Sustainable Cooling

Passive Cooling Measures:

Recommendations:

  • Advocates the adoption of passive cooling measures like shading, ventilation, insulation, green roofs, and reflective surfaces.
  • Suggests reintroducing nature to urban areas.

Impact on Energy Consumption:

  • Highlights that passive cooling can significantly reduce the reliance on mechanical cooling, leading to energy and emission savings.
Higher Energy Efficiency:

Technological Emphasis:

  • Stresses the importance of adopting higher energy efficiency technologies and practices for cooling equipment such as air conditioners, refrigerators, and fans.

Benefits:

  • Points out that higher-energy efficiency cooling not only reduces energy consumption and emissions but also lowers costs for users and utilities.
Alternative Cooling Substances:
  • Shift from HFCs:
    • Advocates for the use of alternative substances like hydrocarbons, ammonia, or carbon dioxide instead of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  • Impact of HFCs:
    • Describes HFCs as potent greenhouse gases with super-pollutant properties, capable of trapping heat hundreds to thousands of times more than carbon dioxide.
  • Phase-Down Initiative:
    • Urges a faster phasedown of climate-warming refrigerants and air conditioning under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
  • Reducing Direct Emissions:
    • Highlights that low-global warming potential refrigerants can contribute to the reduction of direct emissions from cooling devices.

Addressing the Significance of the Cooling Sector

Importance of Cooling Sector:
  • The cooling sector is vital for mitigating rising temperatures, ensuring food safety, supporting industrial processes, and fostering productive economies.
Challenges Without Intervention:

Electricity Consumption and Emissions:

  • The growing demand for cooling equipment could result in a substantial increase in electricity consumption and emissions.
  • The cooling sector currently constitutes 20% of global electricity consumption.
  • Without intervention, the installed capacity of cooling equipment globally could triple, leading to a more than twofold increase in electricity consumption by 2050.
  • This scenario could contribute to emissions between 4.4 billion and 6.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2050, accounting for over 10% of projected global emissions.

Benefits of Sustainable Cooling:

  • Economic Savings:
    • Passive cooling techniques and efficient cooling equipment can save consumers USD 17 trillion between 2022 and 2050.
  • Power Requirements Reduction:
    • Sustainable cooling is projected to reduce peak power requirements by 1.5-2 terawatts (TW), avoiding substantial power generation investments.
  • Emission Reductions:
    • Increasing the adoption of low-global warming potential technologies and managing refrigerant life cycles can reduce HFC emissions by 50% in 2050.
    • Decarbonizing the power grid can further reduce sectoral emissions by 96%.

-Source: Down To Earth



Context:

The Centre’s recent ban on using sugarcane juice and sugar syrup for ethanol production in the 2023-24 supply year aims to maintain adequate sugar availability for domestic consumption and stabilize prices. However, the government has permitted the use of B-molasses for ethanol production.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology, GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Ethanol fuel?
  2. What is ethanol blending?
  3. Advantages of Ethanol Blending
  4. Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)
  5. Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025

What is Ethanol fuel?

  • Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, used as fuel.
  • It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline.
  • Ethanol is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane.
  • Bioethanol is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks.
  • It can be made from very common crops such as hemp, sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn.
  • There has been considerable debate about how useful bioethanol is in replacing gasoline.
  • Concerns about its production and use relate to increased food prices due to the large amount of arable land required for crops, as well as the energy and pollution balance of the whole cycle of ethanol production, especially from corn.

What is ethanol blending?

  • Blending ethanol with petrol to burn less fossil fuel while running vehicles is called ethanol blending.
  • Ethanol is an agricultural by-product which is mainly obtained from the processing of sugar from sugarcane, but also from other sources such as rice husk or maize.
  • Currently, 10% of the petrol that powers your vehicle is ethanol.
  • Though we have had an E10 — or 10% ethanol as policy for a while, it is only this year that we have achieved that proportion.
  • India’s aim is to increase this ratio to 20% originally by 2030 but in 2021, when NITI Aayog put out the ethanol roadmap, that deadline was advanced to 2025.
  • Ethanol blending will help bring down our share of oil imports (almost 85%) on which we spend a considerable amount of our precious foreign exchange.
  • Secondly, more ethanol output would help increase farmers’ incomes.
  • The NITI Aayog report of June 2021 says, “India’s net import of petroleum was 185 million tonnes at a cost of $55 billion in 2020-21,” and that a successful ethanol blending programme can save the country $4 billion per annum. 
What are first generation and second generation ethanols?
  • With an aim to augment ethanol supplies, the government has allowed procurement of ethanol produced from other sources besides molasses — which is first generation ethanol or 1G.
  • Other than molasses, ethanol can be extracted from materials such as rice straw, wheat straw, corn cobs, corn stover, bagasse, bamboo and woody biomass, which are second generation ethanol sources or 2G.

Advantages of Ethanol Blending

  • Use of ethanol-blended petrol decreases emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
  • The unregulated carbonyl emissions, such as acetaldehyde emission were, however, higher with E10 and E20 compared to normal petrol. However, these emissions were relatively lower.
  • Increased use of ethanol can help reduce the oil import bill. India’s net import cost stands at USD 551 billion in 2020-21. The E20 program can save the country USD 4 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) per annum.
  • The oil companies procure ethanol from farmers that benefits the sugarcane farmers.
  • Further, the government plans to encourage use of water-saving crops, such as maize, to produce ethanol, and production of ethanol from non-food feedstock.

Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in 2003- and this initiative is pursued aggressively in the last 4 to 5 years to reduce import dependence of crude oil as well as mitigate environmental pollution.
  • The Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP) seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with motor sprit with a view to reducing pollution, conserve foreign exchange and increase value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.
  • Although the Government of India decided to launch EBP programme in 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol, it later scaled up blending targets from 5% to 10% under the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP).
  • The Government of India has also advanced the target for 20% ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030.
  • Currently, 8.5% of ethanol is blended with petrol in India.

Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025

  • The central government has released an expert committee report on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025 that proposes a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022 and phased rollout of E20 from April 2023 to April 2025.
  • The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) had instituted an Expert Group to study the issues such as pricing of ethanol, matching pace of the automobile industry to manufacture vehicles with new engines with the supply of ethanol, pricing of such vehicles, fuel efficiency of different engines etc.
How have other countries fared?
  • Though the U.S., China, Canada and Brazil all have ethanol blending programmes, as a developing country, Brazil stands out.
  •  It had legislated that the ethanol content in petrol should be in the 18-27.5% range, and it finally touched the 27% target in 2021.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The online gaming industry has taken a significant step toward self-regulation by voluntarily adopting a code of ethics. This initiative aims to establish a more stable and responsible environment within the industry. The Government of India has designated the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to oversee online gaming matters, emphasizing the need for organized governance in this rapidly growing sector.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Code of Ethics for the Gaming Industry: Voluntary Initiatives
  2. Understanding Online Gaming: Regulations and the Code
  3. Code Alignment with Government Regulations:

Code of Ethics for the Gaming Industry: Voluntary Initiatives

  • Initiating Self-Governance: The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), E-Gaming Federation (EGF), and All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) have collaboratively adopted a voluntary code of ethics to self-regulate the online gaming industry.
  • Non-Binding Commitment: The code of ethics, although non-binding, reflects a commitment to fostering responsible practices within the gaming sector, addressing concerns related to transparency and user protection.
  • Empowering Consumers: Aimed at safeguarding consumer interests, the code emphasizes empowering users with information to make informed decisions regarding their online gaming choices.
  • KYC Procedures: Online gaming companies are mandated to implement know-your-customer (KYC) procedures in compliance with relevant laws, ensuring a secure and accountable gaming environment.
  • Transparency and Fairness: The code emphasizes transparency by requiring companies to disclose criteria for determining winners, applicable fees, and ensuring that deposited funds are solely used for playing games on the platform.
  • Promoting Responsible Gaming: With a focus on creating a “healthy environment” for online gaming in India, the code encourages responsible gaming practices, underscoring transparency, fairness, and user protection.

Understanding Online Gaming: Regulations and the Code

  • Online Gaming Defined: Online gaming refers to playing games over the internet, enabling players to connect and collaborate regardless of physical locations, accessible on various devices such as computers and mobile phones.
  • Distinguishing Gambling and Online Gaming: Gambling involves placing bets on uncertain outcomes to win money or possessions, posing a risk of loss. In India, games of skill are distinguished from games of chance, and the Supreme Court considers competitions substantially involving skills as not falling under gambling.

Code Alignment with Government Regulations:

  • Public Gambling Act, 1867: While primarily addressing physical gambling, this act extends its relevance to online gaming, providing a legal framework for regulation.
  • Information Technology Act, 2000: Sections 66, 67, 67A, and 67B empower authorities to formulate laws regarding online gaming, recognizing the need for discretion in regulating chance-based activities. This aligns with the constitutional division, placing gambling under state jurisdiction.
  • Self-Regulatory Bodies: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology permits the establishment of self-regulatory bodies within the online gaming industry, emphasizing industry self-governance.
  • Inter-Ministerial Task Force Recommendations: Proactively addressing the sector, the government’s recommendations from the inter-ministerial task force contribute to formulating rules for online gaming, emphasizing a balanced approach between industry growth and consumer protection.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

A cluster of cases of ocular syphilis has been recently reported in Michigan, US.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Syphilis: A Sexually Transmitted Infection

Cause and Duration:
  • Syphilis is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum.
  • The infection can remain latent in the body for years without symptoms and may become active again.
Transmission:
  • It spreads through direct contact with sores on the genitals, rectum, or mouth.
  • Transmission can also occur from a mother to a baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
Symptoms:
  • Syphilis progresses through stages, often with painless symptoms.
  • The first stage involves painless sores on genital, rectal, or oral areas.
  • The second stage may include a rash, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, fever, sore throat, and muscle aches.
  • After the second stage, symptoms may become latent, hiding the infection.
Complications and Risks:
  • If untreated, syphilis can cause severe damage to the heart, brain, and other organs, becoming life-threatening.
Treatment:
  • Syphilis is curable with prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotics. Early treatment is crucial for effective resolution.

-Source: The Print



Context:

Researchers discover a 407-million-year-old fungus fossil, Potteromyces asteroxylicola in the Rhynie Chert, marking the oldest evidence of fungi causing diseases.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Potteromyces asteroxylicola: Unveiling Ancient Plant-Fungus Interaction

Discovery and Host:

  • Potteromyces asteroxylicola is a newly identified fungus found infecting the ancient plant Asteroxylon mackiei.
  • The discovery showcases a predator-prey interaction between the fungus and the living plant during its ancient existence.

Reproductive Structures:

  • The fungus’s reproductive structures, known as conidiophores, stood out due to their unique shape and formation.
  • This distinctive feature led to the classification of Potteromyces asteroxylicola as a new species.

Rhynie Chert Site:

  • The discovery took place at the Rhynie Chert site in Scotland, renowned for preserving Early Devonian communities, including plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria.

Devonian Period:

  • The Devonian Period spanned approximately 2 million to 358.9 million years ago.
  • It is often referred to as the “Age of Fishes” due to the diversity and abundance of fish species in Devonian seas.
  • Significant events in this period include the appearance of forests, coiled shell-bearing marine organisms (ammonites), and the emergence of the first four-legged amphibians, indicating the colonization of land by vertebrates.
  • Three major continental masses, including North America, Europe, and a composite continent in the southern hemisphere, characterized the Devonian landscape.

-Source: The Times of India


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