Current Affairs August 8 and 9

Atlantic, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)


  • A major current in the Atlantic, the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) may be near a tipping point.
  • A study published in Nature Climate Change shows that it may have become unstable over the last century.
  • AMOC maintains temperature equilibrium of Europe and influences world weather.
  • The Gulf Stream is a part of AMOC.
  • The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a large system of ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropics northwards into the North Atlantic.


How does the AMOC work?

  • The AMOC is a large system of ocean currents, like a conveyor belt, driven by differences in temperature and salt content – the water’s density. As warm water flows northwards it cools and some evaporation occurs, which increases the amount of salt.
  • Low temperature and a high salt content make the water denser, and this dense water sinks deep into the ocean.
  • The cold, dense water slowly spreads southwards, several kilometres below the surface.
  • Eventually, it gets pulled back to the surface and warms in a process called “upwelling” and the circulation is complete.
  • This global process makes sure that the world’s oceans are continually mixed, and that heat and energy are distributed around the earth

Climate change

  • Climate models suggest that the AMOC will weaken over the 21st Century as greenhouse gases increase.
  • This is because as the atmosphere warms, the surface ocean beneath it retains more of its heat.
  • Meanwhile increases in rainfall and ice melt mean it gets fresher too. All these changes make the ocean water lighter and so reduce the sinking in the ‘conveyor belt’, leading to a weaker AMOC



Ancient viruses



  • Scientists have found viruses in the glaciers of China’s Tibetan Plateau that are over 15,000 years old.
  • These survived by remaining remained frozen.
  • The study, published in Microbiome, analysed the genetic codes of 33 such viruses of which some 28 were completely new.
  • They further deduced that the viruses must have originated with soils or plants and not with humans or animals.



Jupiter heating



  • An international team of researchers has found the mechanism behind Jupiter’s atmospheric heating.
  • Jupiter’s powerful aurorae are responsible for heating the planet.
  • Using the Keck telescope, the researchers found that temperatures start very high within the aurora, and despite their taking up less than 10% of the area of the planet, appear to heat the whole planet



  • An aurora, sometimes referred to as polar lights, northern lights, or southern lights, is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions.
  • Auroras are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind.




Ladakh Glacier Retreat


  • The Pensilungpa Glacier located in Ladakh’s Zanskar Valley is retreating due to increase in temperature and decrease in precipitation during winters, a recent study has found. Since 2015, the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) at Dehradun.
  • the melting would increase, and it is possible that the precipitation of summer periods at higher altitudes will change from snow to rain, and that may influence the summer and winter pattern.


Glacier retreat

  • Glaciers may retreat when their ice melts or ablates more quickly than snowfall can accumulate and form new glacial ice.
  • Higher temperatures and less snowfall have been causing many glaciers around the world to retreat recently



Aging Coal plants



  • In Union Budget address for 2020-21, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, said that the shutting down of old coal power plants, which are major contributors to emissions, will aid the achievement of India’s Nationally Determined Contributions,
  • It is argued that the availability of under-utilised newer (and presumably more efficient) coal based capacity means that shutting down older inefficient plants would lead to improved efficiencies, reduced coal usage, and hence, cost savings.
  • Indeed, our analysis suggests that the total savings in generation cost from shutting down plants older than 25 years would be less than ₹5,000 crore annually, which is just 2% of the total power generation cost.
  • These savings may not be sufficient to even pay for the fixed costs (such as debt repayment) that would have to be paid anyway, even if the plants are prematurely retired.
  • The argument about older plants finding it uneconomical to install pollution control equipment to meet environmental norms is a stronger one, as all coal plants should indeed reduce emissions.



Sovereign right to tax


  • An important bill introduced in Parliament last week aims to nullify the regressive 2012 amendment in the Income Tax Act.
  • The 2012 amendment overturned the Supreme Court’s decision in Vodafone International Holdings v. Union of India and made the income tax law retroactively applicable on indirect transfer of Indian assets.
  • The retroactive amendment resulted in Vodafone and Cairn Energy suing India before Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunals of India-Netherlands and India-U.K. bilateral investment treaties (BITs).
  • Both the tribunals held that India’s retroactive amendment of tax laws breached the fair and equitable treatment provision of the two BITs.
  • taxation is an intrinsic element of the state’s sovereign power
  • Notwithstanding the state’s sovereign right to impose taxes and the presumption about the validity of taxation measures, there are certain limits on the exercise of this public power.
  • The two most used BIT provisions to challenge a state’s taxation measures are expropriation and the fair and equitable treatment provision.
  • Expropriation –the action by the state or an authority of taking property from its owner for public use or benefit
  • A state’s tax measures would amount to an expropriation of foreign investment if the tax law is extraordinary, punitive in amount, or arbitrary in incidence.
  • India’s right to tax in the public interest should be balanced with the investor’s interest of legal certainty.



Hurdles faced by international students



  • Ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian students already studying overseas as well as those seeking to go abroad have faced several challenges.
  • First, most Indian students were forced to delay their plans in 2020 due to the imposition of lockdowns, disruption of flights, and embassies not issuing student visas.
  • This led to a drop in the number of Indian students going abroad to study in 2020.
  • many countries have closed their borders and/or restricted flights from India. As a result, students have to look for circuitous routes and end up paying higher air fares.
  • The second problem is that of vaccination. As universities abroad open up for international students and begin allowing in-person classes from fall 2021, many require students to get vaccinated before they go. Covaxin and Sputnik V are yet to be recognised by the World Health Organization.
  • Third, due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, students overseas are finding it difficult to get jobs.



Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill



  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman introduced the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha to nullify the tax clause provision that allows the government to levy taxes retrospectively.
  • The Bill proposes to do away with retrospective taxation on the sale of assets in India by foreign entities executed before May 2012, with a caveat — the companies that will benefit from the amendment must withdraw all legal cases against the government and forfeit interest, costs and any damages.
  • The government, on its part, is willing to refund any tax dues it may have collected or seized.


Why Amendment?

  • Vodafone got a favourable ruling in September 2020 at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in the ₹22,000-crore case.
  • In December, an Arbitral Tribunal ruled in favour of Cairn, awarding it $1.2 billion plus interest and costs in damages, which came to $1.7 billion in total. India has appealed against both rulings.
  • This year, Cairn had applied in courts in the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Mauritius and the Netherlands for seizure of Indian assets such as the state-owned national carrier Air India’s aircraft.
  • It also obtained a legal order in France freezing some real estate assets owned by India in Paris, valued at about $24 million.



  • Prospective investors, however, may take heart from the fact that the government has shown the intent not to claim tax retrospectively and demonstrated a willingness to undo a measure that was seen as hurting the inflow of foreign investment.