This post is a part of our current affairs series for the UPSC IAS Prelims 2022. In this post, we have covered all of the current affairs linked to Climate Change, Pollution and mitigating measures.
List of Contents
- Topics related to Climate Change
- Pollution and mitigating effors
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Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD)
About Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue (CAFMD)
CAFMD is one of the two tracks of the India-U.S. Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership launched at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April 2021
Launched by: India and the United States of America (USA)
Purpose of CAFMD
To help both the countries move towards decarbonising economies in sync with their respective commitments to deal with climate change.
The dialogue would have three pillars:
Climate Action Pillar: Under this, India and the US will develop proposals together which can contribute to curbing emissions.
Finance Mobilisation Pillar: It would involve collaborating on attracting finance to deploy 450 GW of renewable energy and demonstrate at scale clean energy technologies.
Note: India has increased its renewable energy target to 450 GW by 2030 from 175 GW by 2022. Currently, India has already achieved the target of 100GW
Adaptation and Resilience Pillar: Under this, the two countries will collaborate in building capacities to “measure and manage climate risks’. They would include setting out a roadmap to achieving the 450GW in transportation, buildings and industry.
Greenhouse gas emitted and absorbed by forests in UNESCO World Heritage sites
Researchers at UNESCO, the World Resources Institute and the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) have released a new assessment of greenhouse gas volumes emitted from and absorbed by forests in UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Key findings of the report on UNESCO World Heritage Forests
The researchers have assessed the gross and net carbon absorbed and emitted by 257 UNESCO World Heritage forests between 2001 and 2020.
They found that these 257 sites stored approximately 13 billion tonnes of carbon. If all this stored carbon were to be released into the atmosphere as CO2, it would be akin to emitting 1.3 times the world’s total annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.
The researchers have found that 10 of 257 forests emitted more carbon than they captured between 2001 and 2020 due to different anthropogenic disturbances and pressures.
The reasons for emissions to be greater than sequestration included clearance of land for agriculture, the increasing scale and severity of wildfires due to drought, as well as extreme weather phenomena such as hurricanes.
About Indian Sundarbans
According to the research, India’s Sundarbans National Park is among five sites that have the highest blue carbon stocks globally.
The other four sites are the Bangladeshi portion of the Sundarbans, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Everglades National Park in the United States and the Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritania.
Note: Blue carbon is an organic carbon that is mainly obtained from decaying plant leaves, wood, roots and animals. It is captured and stored by coastal and marine ecosystems.
Suggestions given by the report
Strong and sustained protection of UNESCO World Heritage sites and their surrounding landscapes to ensure their forests could continue to act as strong carbon sinks and stores for future generations.
Maintaining and strengthening ecological connectivity through improved landscape management.
Integrating the continued protection of UNESCO World Heritage sites into international, national and local climate, biodiversity and sustainable development strategies.
Heatwaves and Climate Change
According to Scientists, India’s long spell of Heatwaves is significantly due to human-induced climate change.
According to the Indian Meteorological Department(IMD), Heatwave is a condition of air temperature which becomes fatal to the human body when exposed.
Quantitatively, Heatwave is defined based on the temperature thresholds over a region in terms of actual temperature or its departure from normal.
For instance, Heatwave will be declared if the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40 °C or more for plains and at least 30 °C or more for Hilly regions.
About Climate Change and Heatwaves
Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming: Accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere exacerbated temperatures in the oceans and the land and caused increased glacier melt, heightened sea level rise and led to changes in the biosphere.
– For instance, in Greenland warming waters around glaciers are heating even ice sheets, thereby accelerating warming.
Rising Sea Level: Sea levels are rising only three millimetres a year. But even this minor rise was responsible for driving greater numbers of extreme climate events such as floods that could devastate coastal regions, particularly in India.
Increased Carbon Dioxide Emissions: If carbon emissions remain unchecked, half the planet would be in severe drought by the century. Along with carbon dioxide emissions, pollution from biomass burning combined caused 1.5 million deaths annually in India.
Ways to reduce the impact of Climate Change
Provide Clean Cooking Fuel: India could cut its pollution by half just by providing clean cooking fuel to rural households in the Indo-Gangetic plain.
Prepare a 10-year Action Plan: India should prepare a 10-year plan to ensure that India’s poor who stood to be most affected by climate change were protected from heatwaves and wildfires.
Increase Forest Area: Nearly a third of emitted carbon dioxide didn’t make it to the atmosphere as they were absorbed back into the soil by forests and other vegetation thus slowing down temperature rise. Therefore, nature-based solutions such as increasing forest area would be valuable to India’s climate adaptation programmes.
Carbon Pricing Approach
Pennsylvania has become the first major fossil fuel-producing state in the US to adopt a carbon pricing policy to address climate change.
Different approaches adopted by countries to address climate change
The United States has adopted a less direct approach known as the Social Cost of Carbon. This approach calculates future climate damages to justify tougher restrictions on polluting industries.
On the other hand, countries like Canada have adopted a Carbon Pricing approach. For example, Canada imposes fuel charges on individuals and also makes big polluters pay for emissions. It’s one of 27 nations with some kind of carbon tax.
About the Carbon Pricing Approach
Carbon pricing is an instrument that captures the external costs of greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions and ties them to their sources through a price usually in the form of a price on the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted.
These GHG emissions include the costs of emissions that the public pays for, such as damage to crops, health care costs from heatwaves and droughts, and loss of property from flooding and sea-level rise.
A price on carbon helps shift the burden for the damage from GHG emissions back to those who are responsible for it and who can avoid it.
Types of Carbon Pricing
There are two main types of carbon pricing namely:
Emission Trading System(ETS): It is a system where emitters can trade emission units to meet their emission targets.
Carbon Tax: It directly sets a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions or – more commonly – on the carbon content of fossil fuels. It is different from an ETS in that the emission reduction outcome of a carbon tax is not pre-defined but the carbon price is.
Difference between the Social Cost of Carbon and Carbon Pricing
The social cost of carbon attempts to capture the value of all climate damage centuries into the future.
Carbon pricing reflects how much companies are willing to pay today for a limited amount of emission credits offered at an auction.
In other words, the social cost of carbon guides policy, while carbon pricing represents policy in practice.
Pollution and mitigating effors
IIT Madras is developing an online platform called “e-Source” to tackle electronic wastes (e-waste) by linking stakeholders in the formal and informal economy.
About e-Source Platform
- e-Source is an exchange platform that will serve as an online marketplace for waste electrical and electronic equipment. It will also facilitate a formal supply chain between various stakeholders (buyers and sellers).
- Led by: The initiative is being led by Indo-German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS) which is located at the IIT-Madras campus.
- Funded by: It is funded by the Government of India’s Department for Science and Technology and the German Academic Exchange Service.
Need for this initiative
- Currently, the world generates 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste every year. This is expected to double in the next 16 years. Around 85% of this e-waste is being lost globally.
- Moreover, E-waste is also a pressing issue in India. It is the world’s third-largest producer of e-waste. But only 5% of its e-waste is recycled properly.
Significance of e-source platform
- The platform uses machine learning for better traceability of e-waste. This will help increase the opportunities for the repair and re-use of e-waste.
- The platform will also potentially:
- Improve livelihoods for youth and women in peri-urban settings by upgrading their skills and improving occupational health and safety
- Reduce the flow of toxic materials in waste streams, and
- Broaden the market for affordable, second-hand e-devices.
A new study has pointed out that crops and vegetables that use fluoride-contaminated groundwater have been contributing to an increase in the consumption of fluoride among locals in Bengal.
About the three stages of fluoride toxicity
First, the groundwater used for agricultural purposes deposits a good amount of fluoride in the soil.
Second, this fluoride is absorbed by crops.
Third, it enters the food chain system, causing harm to the human body.
Harmful effects of the Fluoride contamination
Fluoride is an essential micronutrient and has both beneficial and detrimental effects on human health. However, exposure to high levels of fluoride causes dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis and non-skeletal fluorosis.
Fluoride is not carcinogenic like arsenic. It attacks the calcium in the body. It leads to painful and stiff joints.
Ligaments calcification, liver and kidney dysfunction, nerve weakness, developmental disorder, organ tissue damage, bending of legs etc., are some commonly seen health issues.
As a result of fluoride contamination, pregnant women show a lower birth rate.
Methods to control fluoride contamination
Nano technology and electro-coagulation methods can be used to filter out the contaminated water.
Rainwater harvesting is also useful as it will lead to less dependence on groundwater.
Water pipelines need to be installed in affected areas to provide large scale water supply.
Constant monitoring of the fluoride-endemic regions is needed.
Proper watershed management through treatment of surface water is another solution.
Recently, black oil-emanating balls also called Tarballs were seen lying on the shore of Mumbai Beach.
Tarballs are dark-coloured, sticky balls of oil that form when crude oil floats on the ocean surface. They are transported from the open sea to the shores by sea currents and waves.
Some of the Tarballs are as big as a basketball, while others are smaller globules. They are usually coin-sized and are found strewn on the beaches
Formation of Tarballs
Tarballs are formed by weathering of crude oil in marine environments. They are also formed from oil-well blowouts, accidental and deliberate release of bilge and ballast water from ships, river runoff, discharges through municipal sewage and industrial effluents.
Harmful effects associated with Tarballs
Fishing: Tarballs that travel towards the coast can get stuck to the fishing nets installed in the sea, making it difficult for fishermen to clean.
Marine Life: Tarballs could affect marine life, especially filter feeders like clams and oysters.
Tarball pollution: It is a major concern to the global marine ecosystem. Microbes such as bacteria and fungi are known to be associated with tarballs.
Difficult to Break Down: Tarballs are difficult to break down, and can therefore travel for hundreds of miles in the sea.
Tourism: Tarballs washed ashore on beaches will negatively affect local economies because tourists will be offended by the odour.
Plastic Waste recycling targets
The government has issued the Plastic Waste recycling targets.
Various categories of plastic wastes
The guidelines divide plastic waste into three categories.
Rigid plastics: These are plastic products that do not give easily when squeezed. For example, many large and bulky items like lawn chairs, buckets, toddler toys etc.
Flexible: It contains packaging of a single layer or multilayer, plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags (including carry bags made of compostable plastics), plastic sachet or pouches.
Multilayer: It consists of products that have at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic.
About the new rules
Mandatory collection: They mandate producers of plastic packaging material to collect all of their produce by 2024. It aims to ensure that a minimum percentage of it is recycled and used in subsequent supply.
EPR Certificates: The guidelines has also specified a system where makers and users of plastic packaging can collect Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) certificates and trade in them.
Disposal: Only a fraction of plastic that cannot be recycled such as multi-layered multi-material plastics will be eligible to be sent for end-of-life disposal such as road construction, waste to energy, and waste to oil and cement kilns.
Here too, only methods prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will be permitted for their disposal.
Centralized website: Producers of plastic will have to declare to the government how much plastic they produce annually, via a centralized website.
Targets for collection and recycling
Targets for Collection: Companies will have to collect at least 35% of the target in 2021-22, 70% by 2022-23 and 100% by 2024.
Targets for recycling: In 2024, a minimum of 50% of their rigid plastic (category 1) will have to be recycled along with 30% of their category 2 and 3 plastic.
Each subsequent year will see progressively higher targets. After 2026-27, 80% of their category 1 and 60% of the other two categories will need to be recycled.
Rules for not fulfilling the targets
If entities cannot fulfill their obligations, then they will be permitted to buy certificates on a “case by case” basis. They can make up for their shortfall from organizations that have used recycled content in excess of their obligation. The CPCB will develop a “mechanism” for such exchanges on a centralized online portal.
Non-compliance would not invite a traditional fine. Instead, an “environmental compensation” would be levied.
NITI Aayog – UNDP Handbook on Sustainable Urban Plastic Waste Management
NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman has launched the NITI Aayog – United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Handbook on Sustainable Urban Plastic Waste Management.
Need for this handbook
Globally, only about 9% of the total plastic produced gets recycled, about 12% is incinerated and energy is recovered and the rest about 79% gets into the land, water, and ocean and pollutes the environment.
In India, Urban local bodies (ULBs) are mandated under the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, and the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 to manage municipal solid waste and plastic waste at the city level.
Hence, the handbook has provided suggestions that can be adopted by the urban local bodies for Sustainable Urban Plastic Waste Management.
Suggestions given by the handbook
Material Recovery Facility(MRF)
The urban local bodies across states should adopt the Material Recovery Facility(MRF) model & implement it as a public-private partnership model for sustainable management of urban plastic waste.
A Materials Recovery Facility is a specialized plant that receives, separates and prepares recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers.
Institutionalization of Waste Pickers in governance bodies
The Waste Pickers need to be institutionalized by Urban Local Bodies(ULBs) for long-term plastic waste management.
They should be provided with benefits like making them financially literate and opening bank accounts for them, linking them to various social protection schemes, providing occupational ID cards, health benefits and personal protective equipment while working, and creating self-help groups.
IEC and Digitization
The Indore model of spreading mass awareness and explaining the importance of waste management at the household level needs to be adopted by other cities. It will be the key to make plastic waste management a people’s movement.
Moreover, technology platforms need to be linked with relevant stakeholders such as bulk waste generators (BWGs), recyclers and waste pickers for more effective online reporting, monitoring and information exchange.
Death due to Air pollution
According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, there is a rapid degradation in air quality and an increase in urban exposure to air pollutants hazardous to health.
Key findings of the study
Premature Deaths due to Air Pollution
Air pollution caused more than 100,000 premature deaths in some of India’s largest cities from 2005 to 2018.
Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune recorded the highest number of such deaths.
Note: The study did not cover Delhi, Noida and Faridabad, which featured in the WHO’s list of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world.
Increase in Pollutants
The study found significant annual increases in pollutants directly hazardous to the health of up to 14% for nitrogen dioxide(NO2), 8% for fine particles(PM2.5) and 12% for ammonia.
There is also a 1.5 to four-fold increase in population exposure to air pollution in 40 of the 46 cities for NO2 and 33 of the 46 cities for PM2.5.
This rapid increase in exposure to air pollutants is due to population growth combined with road traffic, waste burning and widespread use of charcoal and fuelwood.
Premature Deaths due to exposure to PM 2.5
India had 123,900 premature deaths from long-term exposure to PM 2.5 in 2005 which increased to 223,200 in 2018.
Note: PM 2.5 are tiny particles or droplets that are 2.5 micrometres or fewer in width that are linked to a host of diseases and premature death.
Niracara Svayamsasita Vedh Shala(NSVS)
Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) Kanpur has developed an Aquatic Autonomous Observatory named Niracara Svayamsasita Vedh Shala(NSVS) to monitor the “health” of the River Ganga.
This observatory has been developed with the help of the Department of Science and Technology, the Government of India, and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF).
About Niracara Svayamsasita Vedh Shala(NSVS)
It is a low-cost, water quality monitoring platform that would enable in situ monitoring, real-time data transmission and web-based visualisation of River Ganga.
Working of NSVS
NSVS consists of an array of sensors and auto sampler on a stationary platform that is semi-submersible, all-weather, robust and perfectly stable.
The system can sense three parameters namely, pH (a scale to measure acidity/alkalinity), conductivity and dissolved oxygen capacity of water. This can be further utilised to estimate total dissolved solids, specific gravity and the presence of metallic ions in water.
It can also autonomously collect data every 15 minutes and report it through a wireless network to the institute.
Significance of this platform
With its large riverine network, India battles frequent floods, foam-filled toxic water bodies, unexpected rise in water levels, polluted rivers and so on. Hence, in this context, this river monitoring system is expected to aid conservation efforts.