Science & Technology Current
December 2nd week 2015 current affairs
Category : Science & Technology Current
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1) Paris climate pledges to slow growth in energy related emissions: IEA
  • The International Energy Agency, IEA has said that climate pledges made for the Paris conference will slow growth in energy related emissions, which account for two-thirds of total green house gas emissions. In its report released on 3rd December, the Agency however said that the average global temperature will rise by 2.7 degree Celsius by 2100. The aim of the Paris conference is to limit it to 2 degree Celsius.
  • The IEA Report says that if these pledges made through Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, INDC, are met, then countries currently accounting for more than half of global economic activity will see their energy-related green house gas emissions either plateau or be in decline by 2030. Global energy intensity, a measure of energy use per unit of economic output, would improve to 2030 at a rate almost 3 times faster than the rate seen since 2000. In the power sector, 70 per cent of additional electricity generation to 2030 would be low-carbon.
  • The Agency reports that the full implementation of these pledges will require the energy sector to invest 13.5 trillion dollars in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies in next 15 years. It is an annual average of 840 billion dollars. However, despite these efforts, the pledges still fall short of the major course correction necessary to achieve the globally agreed climate goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, relative to pre-industrial levels.
2) International Solar Alliance launched
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande jointly launched the International Solar Alliance in Paris.It aims to bring 121 tropical countries together to tap solar energy. 
  • India and 17 countries launch "Mission Innovation" committing to double public investment in basic energy research over next 5 years. The Paris climate summit has begun with the objective of saving the earth from rising global temperatures and the catastrophic effects of climate change.
  • Over 190 countries will negotiate an agreement on climate change over the next 11 days on reducing green house gas emissions and fixing responsibilities of member countries of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • The leaders opening event was initiated by French President Francois Hollande and hoped that developed countries will shoulder more responsibility even as all countries agree to reduce carbon emissions.
  • The Paris climate conference will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C over pre-industrial temperatures by reducing green house emissions. At the current pace of green house gas emissions, global temperatures are likely to rise by well over 2 degree Celsius by 2030.
  • India is the 3rd biggest emitter of such emissions but it`s per capita emissions are much less. It ranks 10th in per capita green house gas emissions in the world. 
  • While India says tackling climate change is a concern and responsibility of all but has also laid out its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. Under which it has committed to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030 and increase India`s share of non-fossil fuels in total installed capacity to about 40 % by 2030.

3) GAIL launches project for satellite monitoring of pipelines

  • Current Affirs State-run energy major GAIL and National Remote Sensing Centre, a unit of ISRO, have started an innovative surveillance geo-portal called `Bhuvan-GAIL Portal` for utilising space technology for its pipeline application.
  • GAIL said it has also developed an innovative mobile application from which pictures, taken from any mobile phone, can be uploaded instantly on the portal.
  • It said that with recent progress in satellite-sensing technology, availability of new high-resolution satellites, object-oriented image analysis, there is a possibility to introduce space technology for pipeline monitoring applications. A report system integrated with the Bhuvan-GAIL portal can send alerts to relevant officials through SMS and e-mail.
4) Paris pact on water and climate change adaptation announced with India on board
  • A broad coalition of nations including India, river basin organizations, business and civil societies from across the globe on 2nd December announced the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation to make water systems - the very foundation of sustainable human development - more resilient to climate impact. These major collaborative projects represent over $20 million in technical assistance and potentially over $1 billion in financing.
  • India, on its part, committed to build climate resilience through improved groundwater management in the country. Almost 290 water basin organisations are engaged under the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation.
  • The announcement was part of the "Water Resilience Focus" event under the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) on climate change. It also highlighted other key partnerships and coalitions to make river basins, lakes, aquifers and deltas more resilient to climate change and reduce human interference with oceans. The LPAA is a joint undertaking of the Peruvian and French COP (conference of parties) presidencies, the Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the UNFCCC Secretariat.
  • It aims to strengthen climate action through 2015 and well beyond by mobilizing robust global action towards low carbon, more climate resilient societies. It will provide enhanced support to existing initiatives, such as those launched during the New York UN secretary general climate summit in September 2014 and help mobilize new partners providing them a platform for the visibility of their actions, commitments and results in the run up to COP21.
  • The Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation involves a wide geographic coalition of national and cross-border river basin organisations, governments, funding agencies, local governments, companies and civil society. 
  • It encompasses individual commitments to implement adaptation plans, strengthening water monitoring and measurement systems in river basins and promoting financial sustainability and new investment in water systems management.

5) Climate summit: India stresses on financial support

  • On the back of reports in the western media terming it as `obstructionist` at the on-going climate summit, India strongly put forward its point and made it clear that the country wants a "legally binding" agreement that enables financial support from the countries which have developed on the basis of cheap energy to those which have to meet their energy demand through more expensive `zero carbon` sources.
  • India also made it clear that it won`t shy away from extending financial support the way China promised as part of the South-South cooperation.
  • The country at the same time made it clear that such post-2020 financial contribution from India will not be part of the climate finance under the Green Climate Fund (GCF) -- an international mechanism where the rich countries are expected to annually contribute US $ 100 billion from 2020 onwards to help poor and developing countries fight challenges of climate change.
6) Equal sharing of global climate finance violation of rules: developing nations
  • A large coalition of developing nations on 2nd December warned that attempts by developed nations to share the burden of global climate finance equally among all nations is a violation of rules and will threaten the possibility of a new climate agreement in Paris. 
  • The group, which includes India, wants developed nations to shoulder a bigger share of the burden.
  • The G77 and China said in a statement that climate finance is a legal obligation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is neither “aid” nor “charity”. 
  • The group, which now includes over 100 developing countries, issued the statement after the US and partner countries proposed equal contribution from developing countries towards climate finance on the second day of the Paris climate talks.
  • In 2009, industrialised countries committed to give $100 billion every year by 2020 to help developing countries cut carbon emissions and adapt to climate change. However, the developed world is far from the target and has not even committed to a road map for the same.
  • India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has emphasised that climate finance is an integral part of the overall agreement that India is looking at from Paris.
7) 30% increase in tiger population since 2010: Prakash Javadekar
  • There has been a 30 percent increase in the number of tigers in the country since 2010, according to Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar. The estimated number of tigers in the country has gone up to 2,226 (range 1,945-2,491) as compared to 1,706 in 2010 (range 1,520-1,909 tigers), he informed the Lok Sabha.
8) Retinal nerve cells grown in lab
  • Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have developed a method to efficiently turn human stem cells into retinal nerve cells that transmit visual signals from the eye to the brain. Death and dysfunction of these cells cause loss of sight in conditions like glaucoma and multiple sclerosis (MS). This work could lead… to a cell-based human model that could be used to discover drugs that stop or treat blinding conditions. Eventually, it could lead to the development of cell transplant therapies that restore vision in patients with glaucoma and MS.
  • Using a genome editing laboratory tool, investigators inserted a fluorescent protein gene into the stem cells’ DNA. They used a technique called fluorescence-activated cell sorting to separate newly differentiated retinal ganglion (nerve) cells from a mixture of different cells into a highly purified cell population for the study.
  • Researchers also found that adding a naturally occurring plant chemical called forskolin on the first day of the process helped improve the cells’ efficiency of becoming retinal cells. The researchers, however, caution that forskolin, , is not scientifically proven to be safe. In follow-up studies, the team is looking to find other genes that are important for ganglion cell survival and function.