Current Affairs Oct 6

Clouds Role  in the Climate change puzzle

  • In some climate models, clouds strongly amplify warming. 
  • In others, they have a neutral effect or even dampen warming slightly. 

Why are clouds so important?

  • Clouds can act like a parasol, cooling the Earth by reflecting sunlight away from the planet’s surface and back into space. 
  • But they can also act like an insulating blanket, warming the Earth by preventing some of the heat in our atmosphere from escaping into space as infrared radiation. 
  • This “blanket” effect is particularly noticeable during the winter, when cloudy nights are typically much warmer than cloud-free ones.
  • Which of these two effects dominates—parasol or blanket—depends on the altitude and thickness of the clouds. 
  • As a general rule, the higher a cloud is, the more effective it is at preventing heat from escaping into space. 
  • The thicker a cloud is, the better it is at reflecting sunlight away from Earth’s surface.
  • High, thin clouds let sunlight through while effectively preventing heat from escaping to space as infrared radiation, providing a net warming effect. 
  • Low, thick clouds strongly reflect sunlight, while having little impact on infrared radiation escaping to space, creating a net cooling effect.
  • As the atmosphere contains far more low, thick clouds than high, thin clouds, the parasol effect dominates and our planet would be much hotter if clouds did not exist.

The clouds are changing

  • Global warming is expected to cause changes in the amount of cloud cover, and the height and thickness of these clouds in the future, shifting the balance between the parasol and blanket effects of clouds. 
  • The knock-on effect this will have on temperature is known as cloud feedback.
  • Clouds are more likely to amplify global warming than they are to dampen it for two reasons.
  • First, the cover of low clouds is expected to decrease in the tropics as global temperatures rise, reducing their parasol effect. 
  • Second, it is well understood that high clouds will move into higher regions of the atmosphere as it warms, making them more effective blankets. 
  • These warming effects may be mitigated slightly by an increase in the thickness of clouds at high latitudes only, particularly over the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, but this will not cancel out the overall warming effect.

Dangerous 1.5℃ warming limit

  • The Paris climate agreement seeks to limit global warming to 1.5℃ this century. 
  • A new report by the World Meteorological Organisation warns this limit may be exceeded by 2024 — and the risk is growing.
  • This first overshoot beyond 1.5℃ would be temporary, likely aided by a major climate anomaly such as an El Niño weather pattern. 
  • However, it casts new doubt on whether Earth’s climate can be permanently stabilised at 1.5℃ warming.
  • The report also found while greenhouse gas emissions declined slightly in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they remained very high — which meant atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have continued to rise.

Greenhouse gases rise as COmissions slow

  • Concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases — 
  • carbon dioxide (CO䔖, methane (CH䔬 and nitrous oxide (N䔖), have all increased over the past decade. 
  • Current concentrations in the atmosphere are, respectively, 147 per cent, 259 per cent and 123 per cent of those present before the industrial era began in 1750.
  • Growth in CO䔖missions from fossil fuel use slowed to around one per cent per year in the past decade, down from three per cent during the 2000s. 
  • Although emissions will fall slightly, atmospheric CO䔖oncentrations will still reach another record high this year. 
  • This is because we’re still adding large amounts of CO䔖o the atmosphere.

Warmest five years on record

  • The global average surface temperature from 2016 to 2020 will be among the warmest of any equivalent period on record, and about 0.24℃ warmer than the previous five years.
  • This five-year period is on the way to creating a new temperature record across much of the world, including Australia, southern Africa, much of Europe, the Middle East and northern Asia, areas of South America and parts of the United States.
  • Sea levels rose by 3.2 millimetres per year on average over the past 27 years. 
  • The growth is accelerating — sea level rose 4.8 millimetres annually over the past five years, compared to 4.1 millimetres annually for the five years before that
  • The past five years have also seen many extreme events. 
  • These include record-breaking heatwaves in Europe, Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, major bushfires in Australia and elsewhere, prolonged drought in southern Africa and three North Atlantic hurricanes in 2017.

1 in 4 chance of exceeding 1.5°C warming

  • There’s a one-in-four chance the global annual average temperature will exceed 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels for at least one year over the next five years.
  • The chance is relatively small, but still significant and growing. If a major climate anomaly, such as a strong El Niño, occurs in that period, the 1.5℃ threshold is more likely to be crossed. 
  • El Niño events generally bring warmer global temperatures.

Pesticides Management Bill, 2020

  • The Pesticides Management Bill (PMB), 2020 — introduced in the Rajya Sabha to replace The Insecticides Act, 1968 — will have a far-reaching impact on Indian agriculture and famers’ livelihood if it is passed in the current form.
  • The Insecticides Act, 1968 currently governs the registration, manufacturing, export, sale and use of pesticides in India. It will come up for discussion in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament.
  • PMB, 2020 would not allow the manufacture and export of pesticides not registered for use in India even if these are approved in other countries.
  • PMB, 2020 does not reflect the government’s repeated emphasis on the need for doubling farmer’s income by 2022.
  • The demands presented by the Ashok Dalwai Committee, constituted in 2018 to promote domestic and indigenous industries and agricultural exports from India, are missing from PMB, 2020. 
  • The committee had recommended reduction in import and dependence on imported formulations. 
  • The present PMB, however, will increase the import of formulations and will damage the export of agro-chemicals.


 WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020

  • The WWF’s (World Wildlife Fund) Living Planet Report 2020, has found that there has been a reduction of 68 per cent in the global wildlife population between 1970 and 2016. 
  • 75 per cent of the the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and more than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost during this period.
  • The most important direct driver of biodiversity loss in the last several decades has been land-use change, primarily the conversion of pristine habitats into agricultural systems, while much of the oceans have been overfished.
  • The highest biodiversity loss due to land use change globally has been found in Europe and Central Asia at 57.9 per cent, 
  • then in North America at 52.5 per cent, Latin America and Caribbean at 51.2 per cent, Africa at 45.9 per cent and then Asia at 43 per cent.
  • Other factors leading to biodiversity loss include species overexploitation (like overfishing), invasive species and diseases, as well as pollution and climate change.
  • The largest wildlife population loss, according to the Living Planet Index, has been in Latin America at an alarming 94 per cent.
  • One of the most threatened biodiversity globally has been freshwater biodiversity, which has been declining faster than that in oceans or forests. 
  • Almost 90 per cent of global wetlands have been lost since 1700 and global mapping has recently revealed the extent to which humans have altered millions of kilometres of rivers.
  • India, a “megadiverse country” with over 45,000 species of plants in only 2.4 per cent of the world’s land area, 
  • has already lost six plant species to extinction, according to the IUCN Red List. 
  • The report further finds that India has lost nearly one-third of its natural wetlands to urbanisation, agricultural expansion and pollution over the last four decades.
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 that works in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment.
  •  It was formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States.
  • WWF aims to “stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. 
  • The Living Planet Report has been published every two years by WWF since 1998; it is based on a Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation. 
  • In addition, WWF has launched several notable worldwide campaigns, including Earth Hour and Debt-for-Nature Swap, and its current work is organized around these six areas: food, climate, freshwater, wildlife, forests, and oceans.

Climate crisis could displace 1.2bn people by 2050

  • More than 1 billion people face being displaced within 30 years as the climate crisis and rapid population growth drive an increase in migration with “huge impacts” for both the developing and developed worlds.
  • The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a thinktank that produces annual global terrorism and peace indexes, said 1.2 billion people lived in 31 countries that are not sufficiently resilient to withstand ecological threats.
  • Nineteen countries facing the highest number of threats, including water and food shortages and greater exposure to natural disasters, are also among the the world’s 40 least peaceful countries.
  • Many of the countries most at risk from ecological threats, including Nigeria, Angola, Burkina Faso and Uganda, are also predicted to experience significant population increases.
  • Ecological threats pose serious challenges to global peace. 
  • Over the next 30 years, lack of access to food and water will only increase without urgent global cooperation. 
  • In the absence of action, civil unrest, riots and conflict will most likely increase.
  • It found that 141 countries faced at least one ecological threat by 2050, with sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa the regions facing the largest number.
  • Some countries, such as India and China, are most threatened by water scarcity, it concluded, while others such as Pakistan, Iran, Kenya, Mozambique and Madagascar face a combination of threats and a growing incapacity to deal with them.
  • Pakistan to be the country with the largest number of people at risk of mass migration, followed by Ethiopia and Iran, 
  • in such countries “even small ecological threats and natural disasters could result in mass population displacement”.
  • 16 countries, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and Iceland, faced no threat.
  • The world had 60% less fresh water available than it did 50 years ago, 
  • while demand for food was predicted to rise by 50% by 2050 and
  •  natural disasters were only likely to increase in frequency because of the climate crisis, 
  • meaning even some stable states would become vulnerable by 2050.

Leaked UN report on biodiversity

  • Positive actions to improve the condition of forests, agriculture, food systems, climate, human health, fisheries, oceans and cities have been suggested by experts to ensure human well-being and save the planet in a United Nations (UN) report.
  • The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report or GBO-5 is to be released on September 15, 2020. 
  • The GBO-5 is an overview of the state of nature. 
  • It is a final report card on the progress made by countries in achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
  • These 20 global biodiversity targets were included in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for the 2011-2020 period adopted by the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity. 
  • But none of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets have been met, the GBO-5 has shown.

The GBO-5 suggested eight types of shift that need to be implemented to achieve the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. These include:

  • Transition within land and forests: The report called the restoration of all forests that had been degraded. It also urged restoring local ecosystems.
  • Sustainable agriculture: Farmers would have to reduce the use of chemicals and instead focus more on agroecological farming practices.
  • Sustainable food systems: The report urged people to eat healthier, plant-based food and less meat. It also called for focussing on the problem of food wastage within the supply chain and household.
  • Climate action: The report called for nature-based solutions to reduce climate change.
  • One health: Agricultural and urban ecosystems, as well as wildlife should be managed in an integrated manner, it said.
  • Sustainable management of fisheries, oceans and freshwater as well as sustainable development of cities and infrastructure were the other areas in which the shift needed to take place

Aichi Biodiversity Targets

  • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
  • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
  • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
  • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

Indian monsoon can be predicted better after volcanic eruptions

  • Large volcanic eruptions can help to forecast monsoons over India. 
  • This seasonal rainfall is key for the country’s agriculture and thus for feeding 1 billion people. 
  • As erratic as they are, volcanic eruptions improve the predictability, an Indian-German research team finds. 
  • What seems to be a paradox is, in fact, due to a stronger coupling between the monsoon over large parts of South and South-East Asia and the El Niño phenomenon after an eruption. 
  • Combining data from meteorological observations, 
  • climate records, computer model simulations and 
  • such geological archives as tree-rings, corals and 
  • ice-cores from past millennia of Earth history, 
  • the researchers found that a synchronization of the monsoon with the strongest mode of natural climate variability, El Niño, makes it easier to anticipate the strength of seasonal rainfall in the Indian subcontinent.
  • The tiny particles and gasses that a large volcano blasts into the air enter into the stratosphere and remain there for a few years. 
  • While the volcanic matter in the stratosphere to some extent blocks sunshine from reaching the Earth’s surface, the reduced solar forcing increases the probability of an El Niño event in the next year.
  • This is because less sunshine means less warmth and hence a change of temperature differences between the Northern and Southern hemisphere, which in turn affects the atmospheric large-scale circulation and precipitation dynamics. 
  • Advanced data analysis now reveals that large volcanic eruptions are more likely to promote the coincidence of warm El Niño events over the Pacific and Indian monsoon droughts—or, in contrast, cool La Niña events over the Pacific and Indian monsoon excess.

Arctic sea ice is being increasingly melted from below by warming Atlantic water

  • What’s causing this decline in minimum sea ice extent? 
  • The short answer is our changing climate. 
  • But the more specific answer is that Arctic sea ice is increasingly being thinned not just by warm air from above but by ever-warmer waters from below.
  • The influence of heat from the interior of the ocean has now overtaken the influence of the atmosphere.
  • While atmospheric heat is the dominant reason for melting in the summer, it has little influence during the cold dark polar winter. 
  • However, the ocean warms the ice from below year-round.
  • This warm water, sometimes referred to as the “heat blob,” 
  • originates in the Atlantic and heads northwards via an extension of the Gulf Stream, 
  • entering the Arctic Ocean around Svalbard, an archipelago halfway between Norway and the North Pole. 
  • The blob has already resulted in the disappearance of winter sea ice off the northern coast of Norway and north-west Russia.

Ocean acidification risks deep-sea reef collapse

  • Deep-sea coral reefs face challenges as changes to ocean chemistry triggered by climate change may cause their foundations to become brittle.
  • The underlying structures of the reefs—which are home to a multitude of aquatic life—could fracture as a result of increasing ocean acidity caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide.
  • Hundreds of metres below the surface of the ocean in Southern California, researchers measured the lowest—therefore the most acidic—pH level ever recorded on living coral reefs. 
  • The corals were then raised in the lab for one year under the same conditions.
  • Scientists observed that the skeletons of dead corals, which support and hold up living corals, had become porous due to ocean acidification and rapidly become too fragile to bear the weight of the reef above them.
  • Previous research has shown that ocean acidification can impact coral growth, but the new study demonstrates that porosity in corals—known as coralporosis—leads to weakening of their structure at critical locations.

Discovery of a new mass extinction

  • An international team has identified a major extinction of life 233 million years ago that triggered the dinosaur takeover of the world. 
  • The crisis has been called the Carnian Pluvial Episode.
  • The cause was most likely massive volcanic eruptions in the Wrangellia Province of western Canada, where huge volumes of volcanic basalt was poured out and forms much of the western coast of North America.
  • The eruptions were so huge, they pumped vast amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and there were spikes of global warming”.

  • The warming was associated with increased rainfall, and this had been detected back in the 1980s by geologists Mike Simms and Alastair Ruffell as a humid episode lasting about 1 million years in all. 
  • The climate change caused major biodiversity loss in the ocean and on land, but just after the extinction event new groups took over, forming more modern-like ecosystems. 
  • he shifts in climate encouraged growth of plant life, and the expansion of modern conifer forests.


  • It wasn’t just dinosaurs, but also many modern groups of plants and animals also appeared at this time, including some of the first turtles, crocodiles, lizards, and the first mammals.
  • It marks the start of modern-style coral reefs, as well as many of the modern groups of plankton, suggesting profound changes in the ocean chemistry and carbonate cycle.

Decreasing wildfires observed over Central Africa

  • Referred to as the “fire continent” by NASA, Africa is surprisingly a crucial hot spot for blazes. 
  • lobal satellite images have shown that on an average August day, it is home to at least 70 percent of the 10,000 wildfires burning worldwide and 50 percent of fire-related carbon emissions.
  • However, a new observational study has revealed a decreasing burned area trend that could impact African ecosystems.
  • Total decline in burned area by about 1.3 percent per year. 
  • The decline, both in fire frequency and size, occurred mostly in tropical savannas and grasslands. 
  • Wildfires can be hugely destructive, particularly to forest ecosystems, but also play a crucial role in maintaining ecological function and health.
  • Naturally occurring fires are important for controlling vegetation growth and patterns for grasslands, savannas, and shrublands, and are integral for the maintenance of these ecosystems and supporting a large range of endemic species.


Nobel chemistry prize 

  • Two women have been awarded the 2020 Nobel prize in chemistry for the discovery of the CRISPR genetic scissors used to edit the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision.
  • Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A Doudna will share the 10m Swedish kronor (£870,000) prize announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm – the first time that two women have shared the prize.
  • The researchers won the prize for “for the development of a method for genome editing”.

2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

  • Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 for discovering one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.
  • Using components of the CRISPR system, researchers can add, remove, or even alter specific DNA sequences. 
  • This technology has introduced new opportunities in cancer therapies, curing inherited diseases and also in plant inbreeding.


How did the researchers develop the scissors?

  • Emmanuelle Charpentier who was studying a bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes, noticed a previously unknown molecule called tracrRNA. 
  • Further studies revealed that this tracrRNA was part of the bacteria’s immune system and it helps the bacteria destroy viral DNA. 
  • She published this discovery in 2011.
  • The same year, along with Jennifer Doudnathey, she succeeded in recreating the bacteria’s scissors and reprogramming it. 
  • Charpentier and Doudna then proved that they can now use these scissors to cut any DNA molecule at a required site.

Why the name CRISPR/Cas?

  • CRISPR is an abbreviation for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.
  • These sequences are a part of the bacteria’s immune system. 
  • Bacteria that have survived a virus infection add a piece of the genetic code of the virus into its genome as a memory of the infection. 
  • In addition to these CRISPR sequences, researchers discovered special genes called CRISPR-associated, abbreviated as cas.


What was the controversy on CRISPR-Cas9 technology?

  • In 2018, a geneticist from China, He Jiankui claimed that he altered the genes of twin girls born this month to create the first gene-edited babies. 
  • He said that he used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to edit the genes of twin girls. The editing process, which he calls gene surgery, “worked safely as intended” and the girls are “as healthy as any other babies”.

SMART test

  • Recently, India successfully conducted the flight test of a Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

What is SMART system?

  • Torpedoes, self-propelled weapons that travel underwater to hit a target, are limited by their range. In the mid-2010s, DRDO undertook a project to build capacity to launch torpedoes assisted by missiles; recent test was the first known flight test of the system.
  • This SMART system comprises a mechanism by which the torpedo is launched from a supersonic missile system with modifications that would take the torpedo to a far longer range than its own. 
  • For example, a torpedo with a range of a few kilometres can be sent a distance to the tune of 1000 km by the missile system from where the torpedo is launched.
  • A number of DRDO laboratories including Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) and Research Centre Imarat (RCI), both in Hyderabad; 
  • Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE) in Agra; and 
  • Naval Science and Technology Laboratory (NSTL) Visakhapatnam have developed the technologies required for SMART.

What happened at the test?

  • It was conducted from Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha.
  •  An anti-submarine torpedo of the lightweight category was used.
  • The test follows another crucial test two days ago of the nuclear-capable Shaurya missile. Shaurya is a land-based parallel of the submarine-launched K-15 missile.

Why is it significant?

  • SMART is a game-changing technology demonstration in anti-submarine warfare. India’s anti-submarine warfare capacity building is crucial in light of China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capability got a boost in June after the conclusion of a contract for Advanced Torpedo Decoy System Maareech, capable of being fired from all frontline warships. 
  • The capability of launching nuclear weapons from submarine platforms has great strategic importance in light of the “no first use” policy of India. 
  • These submarines can not only survive a first strike by an adversary but also can launch a strike in retaliation. 
  • The nuclear-powered Arihant submarine and its class members in the pipeline are assets capable of launching missiles with nuclear warheads.

 Keto Diet

  • Actor Mishti Mukherjee, 27, who had worked in Bangla, Telugu and some Hindi films, died on October 2 in a hospital in Bengaluru. 
  • Her family said Mukherjee suffered from kidney failure as she had been following a ketogenic diet.

What is a ketogenic, or ‘keto’ diet, and when can it turn unhealthy?

  • The ketogenic diet is one of the most popular weight loss diets the world over. 
  • It is a high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carb diet that helps in weight loss by achieving ketosis — a metabolic state where the liver burns body fat and provides fuel for the body, as there is limited access to glucose.

What constitutes a keto diet?

  • A classic keto requires that 90 per cent of a person’s calories come from fat, six per cent from protein and four per cent from carbs. 
  • But there are many versions doing the round, since this one was designed for children suffering from epilepsy to gain control over their seizures. 
  • Typically, popular ketogenic diets suggest an average of 70-80 per cent fat, 5-10 per cent carbohydrate, and 10-20 per cent protein.
  • Many versions of ketogenic diets exist, but all ban carb-rich foods. 


What are the food items that make the diet?

  • One can have eggs, chicken and turkey in poultry, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, full-fat dairy, nuts and seeds like Macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts and flaxseeds.
  • There is also nut butter like natural peanut, almond and cashew butters. 
  • It also consists of healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut butter and sesame oil. 
  • There are Avocados, and non-starchy vegetables like the greens, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers.

How does keto impact the body?

  • If we starve the body of carbohydrate, after burning out the glucose, the liver starts breaking down fats for energy. 
  • Ketosis is common in all kinds of fasting, but in a keto diet, when one is feeding it by giving a lot of fats from outside without carbs, it can become mildly toxic.
  • It may lead to many nutrient deficiencies such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins (especially vitamin A, D, E, & K) and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, sodium. 
  • These are essential food groups, and their absence in the diet can be the cause of numerous deficiency diseases.
  • Extreme carbohydrate restriction can lead to hunger, fatigue, low mood, irritability, constipation, headaches, and brain fog, which may last days to weeks.

What impact does it have on our kidneys?

  • Even the moderate increase in protein needs to be carefully monitored, especially in those who are already suffering from a chronic kidney disease, as it could lead to kidney failure.
  • This diet could lead to increased stress on the kidneys and result in kidney stones, as they are made to work overtime.


How did the Keto diet become popular?

  • Keto had become popular as a therapy for pediatric epilepsy in the 1920s and 30s. 
  • But it gained considerable attention as a potential weight loss strategy when the low-carb diet craze started in the 1970s with the Atkins diet (a very low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, which was a commercial success and popularised low-carb diets to a new level).

Why is it so popular? 

  • Because it has turned out to be one of the quickest ways of losing weight. 
  • In the first few days after starting the diet, one experiences a significant loss of water weight, and to the average person, the diet appears to be working.

Air pollution particles in young brains linked to Alzheimer’s damage

  • Tiny air pollution particles have been revealed in the brain stems of young people and are intimately associated with molecular damage linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  • If the groundbreaking discovery is confirmed by future research, it would have worldwide implications because 90% of the global population live with unsafe air. 
  • While the nanoparticles are a likely cause of the damage, whether this leads to disease later in life remains to be seen.
  • Higher exposure to air pollution increases rates of neurodegenerative diseases, but the significance of the new study is that it shows a possible physical mechanism by which the damage is done.
  • The nanoparticles were closely associated with abnormal proteins that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease. 
  • The research found the nanoparticles in the substantia nigra, a key brain area in Parkinson’s disease. 
  •  Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world.
  • Air pollution is linked to many adverse health conditions and a growing body of evidence suggests this includes our risk of developing dementia. 
  • Proteins do build up in the brain years before we see visible dementia symptoms, but more research is needed before we can suggest air pollution drives brain changes associated with disease in children.

14 million tonnes of microplastics on sea floor

  • The world’s sea floor is littered with an estimated 14 million tonnes of microplastics, broken down from the masses of rubbish entering the oceans every year, according to Australia’s national science agency.
  • The quantity of the tiny pollutants was 25 times greater than previous localised studies had shown, calling it the first global estimate of sea-floor microplastics.
  • Researchers at the agency, known as CSIRO, used a robotic submarine to collect samples from sites up to 3,000 metres deep, off the South Australian coast.


What are microplastics?

  • Microplastics are small pieces of plastic 5mm wide or less, that mostly come from larger plastic items breaking apart into smaller pieces. Microplastics can be harmful to sealife.



ICG Vigraha

  • The seventh offshore patrol vessel of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), ‘Vigraha’ was formally unveiled at Kattupalli.

  • The vessel built by Larsen and Toubro, is the last in the series of seven OPVs contracted to the company by the Ministry of Defence in 2015. 

  • It was for the first time a private sector shipyard has undertaken the design and construction of offshore patrol vessel class of ships. 

  • It can attain a sustained speed of upto 26 knots.

  • Offshore Patrol Vessels are long range surface ships, capable of operation in maritime zones of the country including island territories with helicopter operation capabilities.

  • Some of the roles undertaken by the OPVs include coastal and offshore patrol, policing maritime zones of the country, surveillance, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations.

  • Larsen and Toubro has already designed and built ICGS ‘Vikram’, ICGS ‘Vijaya’ ICGS ‘Veera’, ICGS ‘Varaha’, ICGS ‘Varad’, ICGS ‘Vajra’. 


PARAM Siddhi – AI

  • NVIDIA said that the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) will commission India’s largest HPC-AI supercomputer, ‘PARAM Siddhi – AI’.
  • This initiative will put India among the top countries in global AI supercomputing research and innovation.
  • The initiative has been spearheaded by Abhishek Das, Scientist and Program Director (HPC-AI Infrastructure Development) at C-DAC, who conceived the idea and designed the architecture for the largest HPC-AI infrastructure in India.
  • The supercomputer will have 210 AI Petaflops (6.5 Petaflops Peak DP) and will be based on the NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD reference architecture.
  • It will play a pivotal role in developing a vibrant ecosystem for research and innovation in science and engineering. 
  • With three decades of expertise in AI and augmenting the AI and Language Computing Mission Mode Program of C-DAC, 
  • this infrastructure will accelerate experiments and outcomes for India specific grand challenge problems in Health Care, Education, Energy, Cyber Security, Space, Automotive and Agriculture. 

Novel Coronavirus Reverses The Sensation Of Pain

  • The novel coronavirus can relieve pain, according to a new study published in PAIN, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain. 
  • The finding, the researchers say, may explain why so many people who get Covid-19 show few or no symptoms, although they are able to spread the disease.
  • It is well-known that SARS-CoV-2 spike protein uses the ACE2 receptor to enter the body. 
  • But in June, two papers pointed to neuropilin-1 as a second receptor for SARS-CoV-2.
  • One of the biological processes through which the body feels pain, one is through a protein named VEGF-A19. 
  • When VEGF-A binds to neuropilin, it initiates a series of events resulting in the hyper-excitability of neurons, which leads to pain.
  • The research team found that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein binds to neuropilin in exactly the same location as VEGF-A. 
  • The team used VEGF-A as a trigger to excite neurons, which creates pain, then they added the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
  • The spike protein completely reversed the VEGF-induced pain signalling. It didn’t matter if we used very high doses of spike or extremely low doses – it reversed the pain completely.
  • Scientist will examine neuropilin as a new target for non-opioid pain relief.
  • the researchers tested existing neuropilin inhibitors developed to suppress tumour growth in certain cancers, and found they provided the same pain relief as the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein when binding to neuropilin.

DNA barcoding

  • The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister was apprised of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in June, 2020 between 
  • Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), a subordinate organization under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and 
  • International Barcode of Life (iBOL), a Canadian not-for-profit corporation.
  • DNA barcoding, a methodology for rapidly and accurately identifying species by sequencing a short segment of standardized gene regions and comparing individual sequences to a reference database.  
  •  iBOL is a research alliance involving nations that have committed both human and financial resources 
  • to enable expansion of the global reference database, 
  • the development of informatics platforms, and/or 
  • the analytical protocols needed to use the reference library to inventory, assess, and describe biodiversity.  
  • The MoU will enable ZSI to participate at the Global level programmes like Bioscan and Planetary Biodiversity Mission.


 Seven Persistent Organic Pollutants

  • The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the Ratification of seven (7) chemicals listed under Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). 
  • The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and environment from POPs, 
  • which are identified chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate in living organisms, adversely affect human health/ environment and have the property of long-range environmental transport (LRET).
  • Exposure to POPs can lead to cancer, damage to central & peripheral nervous systems, diseases of immune system, reproductive disorders and interference with normal infant and child development. 
  • POPs are listed in various Annexes to the Stockholm Convention after thorough scientific research, deliberations and negotiations among member countries.
  • India had ratified the Stockholm Convention on January 13, 2006 as per Article 25(4), which enabled it to keep itself in a default “opt-out” position.
  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had notified the ‘Regulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants Rules, on March 5, 2018 under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. 
  • The regulation inter alia prohibited the manufacture, trade, use, import and export seven chemicals namely 

(i) Chlordecone, 

(ii) Hexabromobiphenyl, 

(iii) Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenylether (Commercial octa-BDE), 

(iv) Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether (Commercial penta-BDE), 

(v) Pentachlorobenzene, 

(vi) Hexabromocyclododecane, and 

(vii) Hexachlorobutadiene, which were already listed as POPs under Stockholm Convention.

The ratification process would enable India to access Global Environment Facility (GEF) financial resources in updating the National Implementation Plan (NIP).

‘Natural Gas Marketing Reforms’

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister has approved ‘Natural Gas Marketing Reforms’, taking another significant step to move towards gas based economy.
  • The objective of the policy is to prescribe standard procedure to discover market price of gas to be sold in the market by gas producers, 
  • through a transparent and competitive process, permit Affiliates to participate in bidding process for sale of gas and 
  • allow marketing freedom to certain Field Development Plans (FDPs) where Production Sharing Contracts already provide pricing freedom.
  • The policy aims to provide standard procedure for sale of natural gas in a transparent and competitive manner to discover market price by issuing guidelines for sale by contractor through e-bidding. 
  • This will bring uniformity in the bidding process across the various contractual regimes and policies to avoid ambiguity and contribute towards ease of doing business.
  • The policy has also permitted Affiliate companies to participate in the bidding process in view of the open, transparent and electronic bidding. 


These reforms in gas sector will further deepen and spur the economic activities in the following areas:

  • The whole eco-system of policies relating to production, infrastructure and marketing of natural gas has been made more transparent with a focus on ease of doing business.
  • These reforms will prove very significant for Atmanirbhar Bharat by encouraging investments in the domestic production of natural gas and reducing import dependence.
  • These reforms will prove to be another milestone in moving towards a gas based economy by encouraging investments.
  • The increased gas production consumption will help in improvement of environment.
  • These reforms will also help in creating employment opportunities in the gas consuming sectors including MSMEs.
  • The domestic production will further help in increasing investment in the downstream industries such as City Gas Distribution and related industries.
  • The domestic gas production has complete marketing and pricing freedom. All discoveries and field development plans approved after 28 Feb, 2019 have complete market and pricing freedom.