Environment, Uncategorized

Environment Digest – 3 July- 10 July 2016

1]Remote Pacific nation threatened by rising seas

Issue

  • Impact of climate change on Kiribati.

Key points

  • Pacific island nations are among the world’s most physically and economically vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events like floods, earthquakes and tropical cyclones.
  • While world powers have summit meetings to negotiate treaties on how to reduce and mitigate carbon emissions, residents of tiny Kiribati, a former British colony with 1,10,000 people, are debating how to respond before it is too late.
  • Much of Kiribati, a collection of 33 coral atolls and reef islands scattered across a swath of the Pacific Ocean about twice the size of Alaska, lies no higher than 6 feet above sea level.
  • The latest climate models predict the world’s oceans could rise 5 to 6 feet by 2100.
  • The prospects of rising seas and intensifying storms “threaten the very existence and livelihoods of large segments of the population.”
  • For years, scientists have been predicting that much of Kiribati may become uninhabitable within decades because of an onslaught of environmental problems linked to climate change.
  • And for just as long, many here have paid little heed. But while scientists are reluctant to attribute any specific weather or tidal event to rising sea levels, the tidal surge last winter, known as a king tide, was a chilling wake-up call.

[2]Ozone layer over Antarctic shows signs of healing

Issue

  • Atmospheric scientists have seen signs of the mending of the ozone hole above the Antarctic.

Ozone hole

  • The ozone hole is a region of depleted layers of ozone above the Antarctic region, whose creation is linked to increased cases of skin cancer.
  • Depletion of ozone is due to many factors, the most dominant of which is the release of chlorine from CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) which destroys the ozone.
  • CFCs are released by products such as hairsprays, old refrigerators etc, and the decision taken by all countries in the Montreal protocol to ban products that release CFCs has been effective.

Stages in the ozone recovery process

(a) reduced rate of decline

(b) levelling off of the depletion and

(c) ozone increase linked to reduction of the levels of CFCs

Theory of healing

  • Typically, depletion of ozone becomes significant in September and peaks in October. So the measure of the “ozone hole” in September is a marker of the extent of ozone depletion.
  • Scientists has found that the ozone hole has shrunk by more than four million square kilometres since 2000.
  • This is the year when ozone depletion was at its peak. They also determine by comparing with a simulation that this healing is due to the reduction of chloroflourocarbons in the atmosphere.
  • In addition, and throwing doubts in the theory of healing, there is an observed peak in the size of the ozone hole in 2015. The scientists attribute to a volcanic eruption that took place that year.
  • The Montreal protocol to ban the use of CFCs was implemented more than 37 years ago. Many people expected the ozone hole to heal quickly.
  • This has not happened because of the long residence time of CFCs in the atmosphere and the role of natural processes such as El Nino and volcanic eruptions.

[3]Apply polluter pays principle to U.S.: CJI

Issue

  • Observations of CJI on climate change

Responsibilities of US

  • The entire human race has been affected by the excesses of industrialised nations like the U.S.
  • It is easy to pin accusations of environment degradation and climate change on emerging economies like India, while advanced nations like the United States have been emitting carbon 10 times more than India for the past 200 years.
  • An international framework should be evolved to apply the polluter pays principle to advanced economies like the U.S.

Importance of International Law

  • International law should not be treated merely for furthering global trade and commerce but its sweep should factor in the formidable issues of environment and climate change which are threatening the entire human race irrespective of nations and boundaries.
  • India is also affected if environment is harmed in Pakistan or Bangladesh and vice-versa.
  • So an international law based on comity of nations taking into consideration the humanity living in both industrialised and non-industrialised nations should be framed.

[4]New species of ‘ant-mimicking’ spider found

News

  • A new species of spider, which mimics the characteristics of ants, has been discovered in the moist deciduous forest of the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary.

About the spider

  • This spider belongs to Aetius genus of the ant-mimicking spider family Corinidae.
  • Even though there are more than 200 variety of ant-mimicking spiders, this is first time a spider, which is so much similar to an ant, is being discovered,
  • This spider, which lives along with ants in the corrugated bark of large trees, is difficult to differentiate from ants.
  • The lean male spider almost looks like slender ant (Tetraponera rufonigra).
  • It’s raised front legs during movement mimics the antennae of the ant.
  • The spider uses this (Batesian mimicry) to escape from predators.
  • As found only with ants, it is very difficult to spot this spider in a group of ants. In case of disturbance, it hides itself in the crevices of tree bark.

[5]Volcanic eruptions in India linked to dinosaur extinction: study

Issue

  • Causes behind mass extinctions of dinosaurs.

Key findings of a study

  • Combined impacts of volcanic eruptions in India and the impact of an asteroid in Mexico brought about one of the Earth’s biggest mass extinctions of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Recently developed technique

  • Researchers used a recently developed technique called the carbonate clumped isotope paleothermometer to analyse the chemical composition of fossil shells in the Antarctic Ocean.
  • This analysis shows that ocean temperatures rose approximately 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and links these findings to two previously documented warming events that occurred near the end of the Cretaceous Period.

India and Mexico link

  • One event was related to volcanic eruptions in India, and the other, tied to the impact of an asteroid or comet on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
  • To create their new temperature record, which spans 3.5 million years at the end of the Cretaceous and the start of the Paleogene Period, researchers analysed the isotopic composition of 29 remarkably well-preserved shells of clam-like bivalves collected on Antarctica’s Seymour Island.
  • The Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary is widely associated with the mass extinction of dinosaurs.
  • It is actually a physical boundary usually marked by a thin band of rock found in geological structures all around the world.

It was the asteroid

  • Scientists have shown that the K-Pg boundary contains iridium, also found in asteroids, meteorites and comets, bolstering the theory that an asteroid killed most of the creatures of the Cretaceous Period.

[6]231 clean Ganga projects to take off today

News

  • Government has launched 231 projects under the ‘Namami Gange’ project, which would take it closer to achieving its Clean Ganga objective.

Locations

  • 231 projects would be simultaneously inaugurated at various locations in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana and Delhi.

Scope of the projects

The projects deal with

  • Commissioning and improving sewage treatment plants
  • Re-developing ghats and crematoriums
  • Development of sewage infrastructure and treatment
  • Afforestation, tree plantation (medicinal plants)
  • Pilot drain project, trash skimmers and
  • Conservation of biodiversity.

Additional points

  • Eight biodiversity centres would be developed along the Ganga for restoration of identified priority species.
  • The projects were just a portion of the nearly 1,000 projects of various kinds that would be undertaken across various stretches of the river.
  • The Ganga Act would be formulated by the Centre to ensure proper and speedy implementation of the ‘Namami Gange’ project.
  • States would be consulted before the draft of the Ganga Act was finalised.
  • People who continue to dump industrial waste and sewage water into the Ganga would be sent to jail.

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