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Worst coral die-off recorded at Australia’s Great Barrief Reef

Scientists have recorded worst mass coral bleaching event on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It has killed more corals than ever before, sounding the alarm over the delicate ecosystem.

It is estimated nearly two-thirds of 2,300-kilometre long reef or 700 km stretch of coral in the Great Barrier Reef’s northern part have died in the past nine months.

This is the worst die-off ever recorded in Great Barrier Reef and also the largest ever recorded anywhere. However, the central and southern sections of the reef are fared far better, with only 6% and 1% of the coral dead, respectively.

What are Corals reefs?

  • Coral reefs result from the natural work of little polyps (few millimeters long) is budded on top of one another. They are the most biologically diverse ecosystems of the planet
  • Over centuries, shells (mostly made up of Calcium Carbonate) of these corals combine to form the exotic shapes of coral reefs.
  • Tiny differences in the anatomy of each polyp species mainly affect the shape of their shells and produce the exotic shapes of each reef.
  • Conditions required for growth of corals: Warm tropical oceans with minimum temperature of 20 degree. They are primarily located between 30 degree north and 25 degree south latitudes where water temperature favours the growth of coral organisms; Transparent parts of ocean bodies; Oceanic water must free of sedimentation; it should have relatively low salinity.

What is coral bleaching?

  • Coral bleaching causes corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour. It calcifies the corals to  turn into white.
  • Algae are vital to the coral, which uses the organic products of photosynthesis to help it grow. The loss of algae makes it vulnerable to disease and it will eventually die.
  • When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. They can recover if the water temperature drops and the algae are able to re-colonise them.
  • Reasons: It occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures.
  • In recent times unusual warm ocean water is mainly heated by man-made climate change and the natural El Niño climate pattern.

About the Great Barrier Reef

  • It is the biggest coral reef system in the world composed of over 2,900 individual reefs. It was recorded as a World Heritage site in 1981.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, north east of Australia and covers an area of approximately 348,000 sq km.
  • It is credited as the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms and is visible from the outer space.

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Himalayan hydro power projects face flood risk

The potential hydro power projects in the Himalayan region face increased flood risks from the formation of new lakes and the expansion of existing ones due to melting glaciers.

It was revealed by study conducted by Swiss researchers on the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.

The study made analysis of Himalayan glaciers and their possible future impact on livelihoods in States adjoining the region. It found that the global warming could cause Himalayan glaciers to melt rapidly increasing the flow of water.

According to the study

  • 441 hydro-power projects spanning India, Nepal, Pakistan and China are on possible Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) tracks.
  • It means that these projects could be gorged with extra water from melting glaciers. These 441 projects accounts 66% of constructed and potential hydro power projects,
  • Thus, almost a third of these hydro-power projects could experience GLOF discharges well above what these dams account for.
  • If the hydro-power projects are situated close to these glaciers, they would have to account for higher water flows.
  • The fear of floods can be mitigate by taking in to consideration extra need of design or safety features in these projects.

What is Indian Scenario?

In this study, 129 hydro projects from India were analysed. In the Parvati Valley catchment area, 12 lakes in 1989 had increased to 77 lakes in 2014 and in the Beas basin, six lakes (in 1989) had increased to 33 (in 2011). Most of the lakes were in Himachal Pradesh are relatively small or with a capacity less than of a million cubic metres, and only a few of them had a capacity larger than 10 million cubic metres of water.

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India ranks 20th on 2017 Climate Change Performance Index

India was placed at the 20th rank among the 58 countries on the 2017 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).

The index was released by Germanwatch, an independent German NGO and Climate Action Network Europe.

What is CCPI?

  • The CCPI is an instrument designed to enhance transparency in international climate politics. It is list of countries doing the most to combat climate change.
  • It aims to put social and political pressure on those countries which have, up until now, failed to take ambitious action on climate protection.
  • The index evaluates and compares the climate protection performance of 58 countries on the basis of standardised criteria.
  • These 58 countries together are responsible for about 90% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.

Key Highlights of 2017 CCPI

  • First three spots in the list of 2017 CCPI rankings were left vacant. France was placed at 4th place, thus leads list for the first time. It was followed by Sweden (5th) and UK (6th).
  • The index underlines that countries like India are making “great efforts” in the fields of renewables and energy efficiency.
  • It emphasised that developing countries should choose a “cleverer and cleaner” development path and not ape industrialised nations.
  • Emerging economies of G20 like India (20), Argentina (36) and Brazil (40) have improved their ranking. India’s scores have improved slightly interms of renewables and energy efficiency.
  • Canada (55), Australia (57) and Japan (60) are in the bottom group countries and have been rated very poor the list.
  • The 2015 Paris Agreement has helped in encouraging the trends in switching towards the renewable energy, but the revolution in switching is very slow at the global level.
  • Many countries still lack in ambition in switching towards the renewable energy. World’s two largest emitters are USA and China were ranked 43rd and 48th respectively.

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