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Current Affairs 21 November 2023

  1. Emission Gap Report 2023
  2. Once-in-a-Century Floods in East Africa: A UNOCHA Report
  3. UN Warning on Unprecedented Greenhouse Gas Surge
  4. Ixchiq Vaccine
  5. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
  6. Greenwashing
  7. Indira Gandhi Peace Prize


Context:

Ahead of COP28, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report titled ‘Emissions Gap Report 2023: Broken Record — Temperatures hit new highs, yet world fails to cut emissions (again)’.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Emissions Gap Report
  2. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  3. Major Insights from the Emissions Gap Report 2023: Addressing Climate Challenges

About Emissions Gap Report

  • The UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report gives a yearly review of the difference between where greenhouse emissions are predicted to be in 2030 and where they should be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
  • The annual report from UNEP measures the gap between anticipated emissions and levels consistent with the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming this century to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

  • The UNEP is a leading global environmental authority established in 1972 and Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • It sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for global environment protection.
  • It sets the global environmental agenda, promotes sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for global environment protection.
  • The UNEP Publishes:
    • Emission Gap Report,
    • Global Environment Outlook,
    • Frontiers,
    • Invest into Healthy Planet.

Major Insights from the Emissions Gap Report 2023: Addressing Climate Challenges

Record-Breaking Temperatures:

  • 86 days recorded with temperatures exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in 2023.
  • September marked the hottest month ever, surpassing the previous record by an unprecedented 0.5°C.

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

  • Emissions increased by 1.2% from 2021 to 2022, reaching a new record of 57.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e).
  • All sectors rebounded from pandemic-induced drops, except for transport, exceeding 2019 levels.
  • Fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributed two-thirds to the overall increase.

Per Capita Territorial Emissions:

  • Vary significantly across countries.
  • More than double the world average in Russia and the USA, while India remains under half.
  • Similar levels in Brazil, the European Union, and Indonesia, slightly below the G20 average.

Emissions Gap and NDCs:

  • Emissions gap defined as the difference between estimated global emissions from NDCs and those aligned with Paris Agreement goals.
  • Global ambition in the next round of NDCs (2025) crucial for achieving targets consistent with below 2°C and 1.5°C pathways.

Climate Change Mitigation Efforts:

  • Current policies imply limiting global warming to 3°C (66% chance) throughout the century.
  • Warming expected to increase post-2100 as CO2 emissions are not projected to reach net-zero levels.
  • Optimistic scenario meeting conditional NDCs and net-zero pledges limits warming to 2°C.

Key Areas for Political Action:

  • Setting and signaling priorities for Carbon Dioxide removal.
  • Developing robust measurement, reporting, and verification systems.
  • Harnessing synergies and co-benefits.
  • Accelerating innovation to address climate challenges.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has characterized the recent floods in Somalia and neighboring East African countries as a once-in-a-century event. The floods, triggered by torrential rainfall and influenced by climatic factors like El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole, have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. The impact extends beyond Somalia, affecting regions in neighboring Kenya, leading to 15 reported deaths and posing significant challenges in areas like Mombasa, Mandera, and Wajir.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)
  2. El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
  3. Impact of Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)

Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)

  • The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), sometimes referred to as the Indian Nino, is a phenomenon similar to El Nino.
  • It occurs in a relatively smaller area of the Indian Ocean, between the Indonesian and Malaysian coastline in the east and the African coastline near Somalia in the west.
  • In the IOD, one side of the ocean along the equator becomes warmer than the other.
  • A positive IOD occurs when the western side of the Indian Ocean, near the Somalia coast, becomes warmer than the eastern Indian Ocean.
  • Conversely, a negative IOD indicates cooler temperatures in the western Indian Ocean.
Negative IOD
  • Air circulation in the Indian Ocean basin moves from west to east near the surface and in the opposite direction at the upper levels.
  • Warmer waters from the western Pacific cross into the Indian Ocean, causing a slight temperature rise in that region.
  • During normal years, this leads to the rising of air and helps maintain the prevailing air circulation.
  • In years when the air circulation becomes stronger, more warm surface waters from the African coast are pushed towards the Indonesian islands, resulting in a warmer western Indian Ocean.
  • Hotter air rises, reinforcing the cycle of a negative IOD.
Positive IOD
  • Air circulation becomes weaker than normal, and in rare cases, it may even reverse direction.
  • As a result, the African coast becomes warmer, while the Indonesian coastline experiences cooler temperatures.
  • Positive IOD events often occur during El Nino periods, while negative IOD is sometimes associated with La Nina.
  • The cooling effect of El Nino on the Pacific side of Indonesia contributes to the development of a positive IOD in the Indian Ocean.

El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

  • The El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a climate phenomenon that affects the Pacific Ocean and has global weather implications.
  • In a normal year, the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean near the northwestern coast of South America is cooler compared to the western side near the islands of the Philippines and Indonesia.
  • This temperature difference arises due to prevailing wind systems that move from east to west, pushing warmer surface waters toward the Indonesian coast.
  • As the warm surface waters are displaced, relatively cooler waters from deeper levels rise up to replace them.
  • During an El Nino event, there is a weakening of the wind systems, resulting in less displacement of the warmer waters.
  • This causes the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean to become warmer than usual. The opposite occurs during La Nina.
  • El Nino and La Nina are two phases of ENSO.
  • Both El Nino and La Nina have widespread effects on weather patterns globally.
  • In India, El Nino has the impact of suppressing monsoon rainfall.
El Niño
  • El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the International Date Line and 120°W), including the area off the Pacific coast of South America.
  • The ENSO is the cycle of warm and cold sea surface temperature (SST) of the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean.
  • El Niño is accompanied by high air pressure in the western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern Pacific.
  • During the development of El Niño, rainfall develops between September–November.
  • The cool phase of ENSO is La Niña, with SSTs in the eastern Pacific below average, and air pressure high in the eastern Pacific and low in the western Pacific.
  • The ENSO cycle, including both El Niño and La Niña, causes global changes in temperature and rainfall.
La Niña
  • La Niña is a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that is the colder counterpart of El Niño, as part of the broader El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern.
  • It is a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that is the colder counterpart of El Niño, as part of the broader El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern.
  • During a period of La Niña, the sea surface temperature across the equatorial Eastern Central Pacific Ocean will be lower than normal by 3 to 5 °C (5.4 to 9 °F).
  • An appearance of La Niña persists for at least five months.
  • It occurs as strong winds blow warm water at the ocean’s surface from South America across the Pacific Ocean towards Indonesia.
  • As this warm water moves west, cold water from the deep sea rises to the surface near South America.
  • As a result, it is considered to be the cold phase of the broader El Niño–Southern Oscillation weather pattern, as well as the opposite of El Niño weather pattern.

Impact of Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)

  • The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) exhibits an ocean-atmosphere interaction that resembles the fluctuations observed during El Nino events in the Pacific Ocean. However, the IOD is relatively less powerful than El Nino, resulting in relatively minimal impacts.
  • During a positive IOD event, rainfall increases along the African coastline and over the Indian subcontinent, while rainfall is suppressed over Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and Australia. The impacts are opposite during a negative IOD event.
Past Events:
  • In 2019, an IOD event developed during the late monsoon season. It was so strong that it compensated for the deficit rainfall experienced during the first month of the monsoon season (June, which had a 30% rainfall deficiency that year).
  • The deficit in June 2019 was also attributed to a developing El Nino, but the El Nino weakened and did not have a significant impact later on.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The United Nations has issued a warning, drawing attention to the unprecedented surge in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, reaching new records in 2022. The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) 19th Annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin emphasizes the alarming implications of this surge, anticipating increased temperatures, intensified extreme weather events, and elevated sea levels.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Highlights of the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin
  2. Greenhouse Gases
  3. Major Implications of Rising Greenhouse Gas Concentrations

Major Highlights of the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

Record-Breaking Levels:

  • Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, the primary greenhouse gases, reached unprecedented concentrations, surpassing previous records.
  • Carbon dioxide measured at 418 parts per million, methane at 1,923 parts per billion, and nitrous oxide at 336 parts per billion in 2022.

Exceeding Pre-industrial Levels:

  • These concentrations exceeded pre-industrial levels by 150%, 264%, and 124%, respectively.
  • Carbon dioxide accounts for approximately 64% of the climate warming effect, followed by methane at 16%, and nitrous oxide at 7%.

Paris Agreement Targets Missed:

  • Despite the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the global mean temperature in 2022 already surpassed this target, reaching 1.15 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Grim Trajectory:

  • The current trajectory indicates a future with a significant temperature rise, surpassing the Paris Agreement targets by the end of the century.
  • Anticipated consequences include extreme weather events, ice melt, and ocean acidification.

Escalating Climate Risks:

  • The continuous increase in heat-trapping gases points to a future marked by intensified climate disruptions.
  • Urgent action to reduce fossil fuel consumption is emphasized to mitigate escalating risks.

Critical Tipping Points:

  • The bulletin raises concerns about the climate system nearing critical “tipping points.”
  • Potential irreversible cascades, such as the rapid die-back of the Amazon, North Atlantic circulation slowdown, and destabilization of major ice sheets, are highlighted.

Greenhouse Gases:

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are naturally occurring and human-generated gases present in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Properties:

  • GHGs absorb and emit heat, trapping thermal energy within the atmosphere.
  • They act as a thermal blanket, allowing sunlight to enter while preventing a significant portion of absorbed heat from escaping into space.
  • This phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect, crucial for regulating Earth’s temperature.

Human Impact:

  • Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes, have increased GHG concentrations.
  • This amplifies the greenhouse effect, leading to global warming and climate change.
Major Greenhouse Gases:
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2):
    • Predominantly emitted from burning fossil fuels for energy.
    • Deforestation reduces carbon sinks, releasing stored carbon.
  • Methane (CH4):
    • Significant contributions from livestock farming and improper waste management.
    • Thawing permafrost releases methane, creating a feedback loop.
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O):
    • Released through agriculture, particularly from nitrogen-based fertilizers.
  • Water Vapour:
    • Naturally occurring GHG contributing to the greenhouse effect.
Factors Leading to GHG Concentration:
  • Fossil Fuel Burning: Main contributor to CO2 emissions from industrial activities, transportation, and power generation.
  • Deforestation: Reduces carbon sinks, transforming areas like the Amazon rainforest into carbon emitters.
  • Agriculture: Livestock farming generates methane, while nitrogen-based fertilizers contribute to nitrous oxide.
  • Waste Management: Improper waste disposal in landfills produces methane during organic waste decomposition.
  • Natural Processes: Volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and natural decay processes release GHGs.
  • Urban Expansion: Rapid urban growth increases energy demand, vehicular emissions, and infrastructure needs.
  • Permafrost Thaw: Rising temperatures cause permafrost thaw, releasing trapped methane, intensifying global warming.

Major Implications of Rising Greenhouse Gas Concentrations

Intensified Greenhouse Effect:

  • Increased concentrations trap more heat, leading to a warming atmosphere.

Global Warming:

  • Altered weather patterns, rising temperatures, and shifts in precipitation.
  • Droughts, heatwaves, floods, and severe storms become more frequent.

Melting Glaciers and Ice Caps:

  • Contributes to rising sea levels, posing threats to coastal communities, biodiversity, and infrastructure.

Coastal Erosion and Flooding:

  • Rising sea levels result in coastal erosion, increased flooding, and heightened risks to coastal areas.

Agricultural Impacts:

  • Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns affect crop productivity.
  • Crop failures and reduced food security become more prevalent.

Water Scarcity and Excess:

  • Changes in precipitation patterns impact water availability for drinking, agriculture, and industry.
  • Regions experience either water scarcity or excessive rainfall.

Ocean Acidification:

  • Excess CO2 absorbed by oceans leads to acidification, affecting marine life.

Impact on Marine Ecosystems:

  • Acidic waters hinder the ability of marine organisms to build shells and skeletons.
  • Affects coral reefs, shellfish, and plankton—the foundation of marine food chains.

Climate-Induced Displacement:

  • Resource scarcity and competition for habitable areas could lead to geopolitical tensions and conflicts.
  • Particularly in regions facing socio-political instability.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States recently granted approval for Ixchiq, the world’s first vaccine for chikungunya. Developed by the European vaccine manufacturer Valneva, this novel vaccine represents a crucial advancement in addressing the chikungunya virus (CHIKV).

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Features of Ixchiq Vaccine
  2. About Chikungunya

Key Features of Ixchiq Vaccine

  • Single Dose Administration: Administered as a single dose via injection into the muscle.
  • Chikungunya Virus Content: Contains a live, weakened version of the chikungunya virus.
  • Symptom Induction: The live virus in the vaccine may potentially cause symptoms similar to the chikungunya disease in vaccine recipients.
  • Age Criteria: Approved for administration in individuals aged 18 years or older.
  • Target Population: Intended for people at increased risk of exposure to the chikungunya virus.

About Chikungunya:

  • Transmission: Chikungunya is a viral disease that is primarily transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, specifically the Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti and Aedes (Stegomyia) albopictus species. These mosquitoes can also transmit other viruses like dengue and Zika.
  • Origin of the Name: The term “chikungunya” originates from the Makonde language spoken in East Africa, and it translates to “bent over in pain,” describing the characteristic joint pain associated with the disease.
  • Global Spread: The first outbreak of chikungunya was documented in southern Tanzania in 1952. Since then, the disease has been identified in nearly 40 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
  • Incubation Period: After being bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms of chikungunya typically appear within 4 to 8 days. However, the incubation period can range from 2 to 12 days.
  • Common Symptoms: The most common symptom of chikungunya is the sudden onset of fever, often accompanied by severe joint pain. Other common symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, and rash.
  • Complications: While serious complications are rare, severe cases of chikungunya can occur, leading to long-term joint pain and even death, especially in older individuals.
  • Treatment: Currently, there is no approved vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for chikungunya. The primary focus of treatment is on relieving symptoms through rest, adequate hydration, and the use of pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit 2023 took place in San Francisco, United States.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. APEC Leaders’ Summit 2023 Highlights
  2. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
  3. India and APEC

APEC Leaders’ Summit 2023 Highlights

  • Theme: “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All”
    • Emphasis on resilience and sustainability in the APEC 2023 summit.
  • Commitment to Free, Fair, and Open Trade
    • APEC leaders reiterated their dedication to promoting free, fair, and open trade and investment.
  • Focus on Inclusive and Sustainable Growth
    • A commitment to advancing inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the region.
  • Golden Gate Declaration
    • The summit concluded with the adoption of the Golden Gate Declaration.
    • A collective commitment to building a resilient and sustainable future for all APEC member economies.
  • APEC Action Agenda on Climate Change and Energy Security
    • Endorsement of a comprehensive action agenda addressing climate change and energy security.
    • Outlined specific actions and targets to enhance cooperation and coordination in tackling the climate crisis.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC):

Establishment and Purpose:
  • Formed in 1989 as a regional economic forum.
  • Aims to enhance prosperity in the Asia-Pacific by fostering balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative, and secure growth.
Permanent Secretariat:
  • Supported by a permanent secretariat headquartered in Singapore.
Member Countries:
  • Includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States.
  • India holds the ‘observer’ status.
Significance:
  • Represents around 62% of world GDP and 48% of world trade as of 2021.
  • One of the oldest and most influential multilateral platforms in the Asia-Pacific region.
Operational Framework:
  • Operates without binding commitments or treaty obligations.
  • Commitments are voluntary, and capacity-building projects aid in the implementation of APEC initiatives.
Main Goals:
  • Support economic growth and prosperity.
  • Enhance regional economic integration.
  • Strengthen human security.
  • Address common challenges like climate change, health, and food security.

India and APEC:

  • Initiation of Interest (1991):
    • India expressed interest in joining APEC in 1991.
    • Coincided with India’s introduction of economic liberalization, signaling a more open trade approach.
  • Mixed Reception:
    • Some APEC members favored India’s inclusion due to potential economic opportunities.
    • Others opposed, citing perceived rules and restrictions hindering business with India.
  • Membership Freeze (1997):
    • APEC decided to halt the admission of new members in 1997.
    • The freeze aimed at enhancing cooperation among existing members.
  • Continued Exclusion:
    • The membership freeze, initially planned until 2012, remained unchanged.
    • India’s aspirations to join APEC were consequently thwarted during this period.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) recently proposed guidelines that aim to check Greenwashing in ads.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What Is Greenwashing?
  2. Effects of greenwashing

What Is Greenwashing?

  • Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or misleading information about how a company’s products are environmentally sound.
  • Greenwashing involves making an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly or have a greater positive environmental impact than is true.
  • In addition, greenwashing may occur when a company attempts to emphasize sustainable aspects of a product to overshadow the company’s involvement in environmentally damaging practices.
  • Performed through the use of environmental imagery, misleading labels, and hiding tradeoffs, greenwashing is a play on the term “whitewashing,” which means using false information to intentionally hide wrongdoing, error, or an unpleasant situation in an attempt to make it seem less bad than it is.
Examples of Greenwashing
  • A classic example of greenwashing is when Volkswagen admitted to cheating emissions tests by fitting various vehicles with a “defect” device, with software that could detect when it was undergoing an emissions test and altering the performance to reduce the emissions level.
  • A plastic package containing a new shower curtain is labeled “recyclable.” It is not clear whether the package or the shower curtain is recyclable. In either case, the label is deceptive if any part of the package or its contents, other than minor components, cannot be recycled.
  • A trash bag is labeled “recyclable.” Trash bags are not ordinarily separated from other trash at the landfill or incinerator, so they are highly unlikely to be used again for any purpose. The claim is deceptive because it asserts an environmental benefit where no meaningful benefit exists.

Effects of greenwashing

  • There is a growing body of evidence that shows consumer sentiment is slanted toward being green and environmentally sustainable.
    • When a company, product or service is caught or discovered to be greenwashing, there is a general sense of distrust that occurs. Consumers will no longer trust the brand or product in question, and might also begin to question other claims.
  • Companies engaged in greenwashing – consumers will likely choose other organizations that are more ethical.
    • Greenwashing can degrade customer satisfaction, erode brand loyalty and potentially affect repeat purchases.
  • On Planet – Ultimately, the biggest effect of greenwashing is existential.
    • Each act that an organization or individual doesn’t take with real green initiatives has a potential negative effect on the planet.
    • With the effects of climate change continuing to manifest on humanity, there is no time to waste in taking steps to help improve sustainability such that humanity and Earth itself will continue to survive.

-Source: Business Standard



Context:

Recently, the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development 2022 was jointly awarded to the Indian Medical Association and the Trained Nurses Association of India as representatives of the COVID-19 warriors in the country.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Indira Gandhi Peace Prize:

Inception and Purpose:
  • Instituted in 1986, the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development honors the memory of the former prime minister.
  • Aims to acknowledge outstanding contributions to international peace, development, and the use of scientific discoveries for humanity’s betterment.
Award Components:
  • The prize comprises a monetary award of 25 lakh rupees and a citation.
Criteria for Recognition:
  • Recognizes individuals or organizations working towards international peace and development.
  • Emphasizes the responsible use of scientific advancements to promote freedom and benefit humanity.
  • Encourages efforts in creating a new international economic order.
Distinguished Recipients:
  • Past laureates include prominent figures and entities:
    • Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union (1987).
    • UNICEF (1989).
    • Jimmy Carter, former president of the US (1997).
    • UN and its secretary-general Kofi Annan (2003).
    • Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany (2013).
    • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) (2014).
    • Former Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh (2017).
    • Sir David Attenborough (2019).
    • Pratham NGO (2021).

-Source: The Hindu


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