Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Heat waves
- Emergency Response Support System
- MRNA Vaccine
- Law Suit against Delta Airlines
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Heat waves
Context: A team of experts from the Union Health Ministry will visit States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to support them in the public health response to heat-related illnesses, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.
Background of the issue
- Several States have been experiencing severe heat conditions for the past few days, and this underscores the importance of sturdy and timely preparedness through awareness and early actions.
What is Heat Wave?
- Qualitatively, heat wave is a condition of air temperature which becomes fatal to human body when exposed. Quantitatively, it is defined based on the temperature thresholds over a region in terms of actual temperature or its departure from normal.
- According to the IMD, a region has a heat wave if its ambient temperature deviates by at least 4.5-6.4°C from the long-term average. There is also a heat wave if the maximum temperature crosses 45°C (or 37°C at a hill-station).
What is the period of heat wave over India?
- It is occurring mainly during March to June and in some rare cases even in July. The peak month of the heat wave over India is May.
What are favourable conditions for Heat wave?
- Transportation / Prevalence of hot dry air over a region (There should be a region of warm dry air and appropriate flow pattern for transporting hot air over the region).
- Absence of moisture in the upper atmosphere (As the presence of moisture restricts the temperature rise).
- The sky should be practically cloudless (To allow maximum insulation over the region). Large amplitude anti-cyclonic flow over the area.
- Heat waves generally develop over Northwest India and spread gradually eastwards & southwards but not westwards (since the prevailing winds during the season are westerly to northwesterly). But on some occasions, heat wave may also develop over any region in situ under the favorable conditions.
How do heat waves occur?
- Heat waves are formed for one of two reasons — warmer air is flowing in from elsewhere or it is being produced locally. It is a local phenomenon when the air is warmed by higher land surface temperature or because the air sinking down from above is compressed along the way, producing hot air near the surface.
Process contributes to the formation of heat waves
- In spring, India typically has air flowing in from the west-northwest. In the context of climate change, West Asia is warming faster than other regions in latitudes similarly close to the equator and serves as a source of the warm air that blows into India. Likewise, air flowing in from the northwest rolls in over the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some of the compression also happens on the leeward side of these mountains, entering India with a bristling warmth.
- While air flowing in over the oceans is expected to bring cooler air, the Arabian Sea is warming faster than most other ocean regions.
- The strong upper atmospheric westerly winds, that come in from the Atlantic Ocean over to India during spring, control the near-surface winds. Any time winds flow from the west to the east. The energy to run past the earth near the surface, against surface friction, can only come from above. This descending air compresses and warms up to generate some heat waves.
- Lapse rate — the rate at which temperatures cool from the surface to the upper atmosphere — is declining under global warming. In other words, global warming tends to warm the upper atmosphere faster than the air near the surface. This in turn means that the sinking air is warmer due to global warming, and thus produces heat waves as it sinks and compresses.
What causes a heat wave?
- Heat waves are caused by a strong high pressure settling in at 10,000-25,000 ft. and refusing to move. This causes warm air to sink. The result is a dome of hot air that traps the heat near the ground and prevents cooling convection currents from forming clouds.
What are the health Impacts of Heat Waves?
- Very high likelihood of developing heat illness and heat stroke in all ages. Extreme care needed for vulnerable people.
- The health impacts of Heat Waves typically involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.
How does heat affect the body?
- Heat exhaustion happens when the body sweats excessively to keep the core temperature low.
- People with heat exhaustion, however, are unlikely to die. They will recover once they are back in cool areas and take fluids.
- People who come in with heat strokes are the ones to worry about.
- Heat strokes: A heat stroke happens when the ambient temperature is so high that the body is unable to sweat to regulate the core temperature, which shoots up to 40 degree C (or 104 degree F). In these cases, there is a severe imbalance of salts such as sodium and potassium in the body. The high core temperature coupled with salt imbalances disrupts organs, leading to a host of symptoms.
- Symptoms of Heat Strokes- It can affect the brain, making a person foggy, drowsy, and in severe cases may also lead to a person going into a coma. It can lead to kidney and liver damage as well. A cascade of such symptoms leads to death due to heat stroke
What to do to prevent a heat stroke?
- To prevent heat stroke, it is better to avoid stepping out in direct sunlight, especially between noon and 3 pm
- An advisory by the National Disaster Management Authority says that people should try to keep their homes cool by using curtains or shades, and to keep body temperature low by using a damp cloth or taking cold baths frequently.
- Heat action plans that predict heat waves and awareness drives by local governments can bring down mortality due to intense heat.
- Research should be conducted on how to minimise the effect of heatwave on health, with action plans for the short, medium and long terms.
- India Meteorological Department to issue daily weather forecasts that can be easily interpreted and disseminated.
- Daily surveillance on heat-related illness under the National Programme on Climate Change and Human Health had been ensured in all States and districts on the Integrated Health Information Platform.
- A national action plan on heat-related illness was released in July 2021 outlining the standard operating procedures for surveillance of heat stroke cases and deaths with a preparedness plan before and during the summer.
- Sensitisation of masses is important, but sensitisation and capacity building of medical officers, health staff and grassroots-level workers on heat-related illness, its early recognition and management is also important to prevent heat strokes
2 . Emergency Response Support System
Context: The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry has decided to do away with the concept of NGOs running Childline (a counselling and distress relief helpline for children) which has been attending to children under emergency since 1995.
About the News
- In the first phase, the Ministry has merged the 1098 helpline with the 112 Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) in nine States Union Territories where operations will start by June-end. They are Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli & Daman & Diu, Gujarat, Goa, Ladakh, Mizoram and Puducherry. The others will be on board in a phased manner.
- As a part of One nation, one helpline” Childline (1098) is merged with the ERSS-112.
- The Ministry said that States had to ensure a dedicated 24×7 WCD Control Room which will be integrated with the ERSS.
- Further, at the district level, the Child Helpline (CHL) unit at the District Child Protection Unit will be available round the clock to provide outreach services for children in crisis, linking them to emergency and long-term care and rehabilitation services.
- The Ministry has entrusted the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Kerala as a total solution provider for automation of Child Helpline 1098 and its integration with the ERSS-112.
About Childline Service
- The Ministry, under the erstwhile Child Protection Services Scheme, was supporting the 24×7 helpline Childline service, through Childline India Foundation (CIF) and its partner NGOs.
- Childline was first established as an experimental project in June 1996, by Jeroo Billimoria, a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, at the department of Family and Child Welfare. Subsequently, the Government of India established Childline across India in 1998–99, under Ministry of Women and Child Development, as an umbrella organization to support and monitor services across India, while also serving as link between the ministry and various NGOs working the field and in the year 2021 brought under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The move means that police personnel instead of social workers will handle the calls made to 1098. The action will also help in preserving data sensitivity. The Secretary of the Ministry functions as the chairperson of the Governing Board of the Foundation
- The CIF had been rendering Childline Services in 568 districts, 135 railway stations and 11 bus stands through its network of 1,000-plus units.
What are the reason for the Merger of ERSS with Childline service?
- The response time by the CIF is about 60 minutes to respond to children’s distress calls. The current system, however, lacks interoperability with the police, fire and ambulance services which leads to loss of precious time in distress situations
- The CIF network could cover only 568 districts which had left almost 200 districts uncovered under Childline, which is why the decision of merger of Childline was taken.
About Emergency Response Support System
- Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) is the vision of Govt. of India to launch an integrated emergency response system with a single emergency number 112, to address different emergencies of citizens. ERSS is designed to address all emergency signals received from citizens through voice call, SMS, e-mail, panic SOS signal, ERSS web portal etc.
- 112 India Mobile App- A mobile App called ‘112 India’ is introduced by Govt. of India, to quickly raise a request for help when a person is in emergency, by pressing a button to send alert messages with location data and make emergency call to 112. This facility will aid the concerned service agencies to reach out the requestor quickly.
- The automated facility being setup for this purpose in the capital cities of all States and UTs, called Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), will handle all these emergency signals and provide assistance available to the people in distress within the best possible time with the help of Police, Fire & Rescue, Health services etc.
- ERSS tracks the rescue and service vehicles of all services (Police, Fire , Health etc) in real-time on a digital map of the State/UT and hence it will be possible to direct the right vehicle(s) to reach the service requestor and provide necessary support immediately.
3 . mRNA Vaccine
Context: GEMCOVAC-OM, India’s first indigenous mRNA vaccine for the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, was approved under emergency use guidelines by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI)
What is mRNA Vaccine?
- Vaccines help prevent infection by preparing the body to fight foreign invaders (such as bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens). All vaccines introduce into the body a harmless piece of a particular bacteria or virus, triggering an immune response. Most vaccines contain a weakened or dead bacteria or virus. However, scientists have developed a new type of vaccine that uses a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) rather than part of an actual bacteria or virus.
- Messenger RNA is a type of RNA that is necessary for protein production. Once cells finish making a protein, they quickly break down the mRNA. mRNA from vaccines does not enter the nucleus and does not alter DNA.
How does the mRNA vaccine work?
- mRNA vaccines work by introducing a piece of mRNA that corresponds to a viral protein, usually a small piece of a protein found on the virus’s outer membrane. (Individuals who get an mRNA vaccine are not exposed to the virus, nor can they become infected with the virus by the vaccine.)
- By using this mRNA, cells can produce the viral protein. As part of a normal immune response, the immune system recognizes that the protein is foreign and produces specialized proteins called antibodies.
- Antibodies help protect the body against infection by recognizing individual viruses or other pathogens, attaching to them, and marking the pathogens for destruction.
- Once produced, antibodies remain in the body, even after the body has rid itself of the pathogen, so that the immune system can quickly respond if exposed again.
- If a person is exposed to a virus after receiving mRNA vaccination for it, antibodies can quickly recognize it, attach to it, and mark it for destruction before it can cause serious illness.
mRNA Vaccines Vs DNA Vaccine
- DNA and RNA vaccines both instruct cells in the body to produce a protein that induces an immune response. Unlike RNA vaccines, DNA vaccines require an electrical impulse to push the genetic message into the cell. And while mRNA vaccines cannot affect the genes, this is a potential risk with DNA vaccines.
mRNA vaccine vs Traditional Vaccine
- Traditional vaccines make use of a weakened or inactive part of a particular pathogen, or in this case, SARS-COV-2 virus, mRNA vaccines use a molecule called messenger RNA (or mRNA), rather than the actual pathogen to train the immune system.
Advantages of mRNA Vaccine
- Safety: Unlike live-attenuated or viral-vectored vaccines, mRNA is non-infectious and poses no concern for DNA integration—mainly because it cannot enter the nucleus which contains DNA. Other strategies such as protein-based or inactivated vaccines also require chemicals and cell cultures to produce. mRNA is made through a cell-independent process and does not require inactivation; thus, it poses no safety concerns due to contamination with toxic agents.
- Efficacy: mRNA is rapidly degraded in the body, and cells don’t readily take up foreign mRNA. Recent technology has modified the mRNA molecule to make it more stable and packaged the molecules in fats (called lipids), increasing cell delivery efficiency. These advances increase the amount of spike protein produced on cells, thereby stimulating a more effective immune response.
- Production: mRNA can be quickly designed and scaled up, if necessary. The manufacturing is sequence-independent, which makes it highly adaptable to different pathogens. The cost is also lower than other platforms and will continue to decrease as the technology expands.
4 . Lawsuit against delta Airlines
Context: A consumer class action lawsuit filed claims Delta Air Lines inaccurately billed itself as the world’s “first carbon-neutral airline” and should pay damages. The complaint in federal court in California alleges the airline relied on carbon offsets that were largely bogus.
What does the lawsuit say?
- The lawsuit accuses Delta of misleading customers with its sustainability pledges.
- Delta Carbon offsetting ways- Delta relied on “carbon offsetting”, shorthand for a slew of ways companies can reduce or remove carbon emissions from the environment. Activities like planting trees, shifting to cleaner fuel and funding carbon capture techniques in theory balance out a company’s carbon emissions.
- All the customers must pay extra to participate in “green flying”. Delta’s carbon offset portfolio consists of “half renewables, mostly wind and solar projects in India.
- According to Delta’s latest ESG report, it was responsible for roughly 43.2 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2022 — almost seven times Botswana’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry in 2021. The lawsuit against Delta is based on reports that have found glaring loopholes in the carbon offsetting process.
What are the Criticisms put forth against Delta Airlines carbon offset policy?
- Criticism against Delta Airlines includes “inaccurate accounting” of projects where reductions would have occurred regardless of carbon market involvement; failure to immediately offset emissions; relying on impermanent solutions such as building projects (like forests) that may be destroyed by natural hazards.
- Other examples- A Dutch court heard a “greenwashing” case against the Netherlands-based airline KLM. Rights group Fossil Fuel alleged that KLM’s advertisements suggest flying with the airline is not directly hazardous to the environment, which violates Europe’s consumer laws by misleading customers about sustainability initiatives.
- A June 2022 Greenpeace report found that seven of the biggest European airlines — including KLM and Lufthansa — were committing “quite offensive” levels of greenwashing. Another study which examined 37 airlines’ claims on carbon offsets found that 44% of these airlines mislead customers and profited from “green” assertions.
- Greenwashing is a term used to describe a false, misleading or untrue action or set of claims made by an organization about the positive impact that a company, product or service has on the environment
- How does it work?- Greenwashing happens when a company makes an environmental claim about something the organization is doing that is intended to promote a sense of environmental impact that doesn’t exist.
- The green claim is typically about some form of positive effect on the environment. It could have some elements of truth but fails to consider the total impact. For example, a car vendor claims that a vehicle is eco-friendly because it is more fuel-efficient, while failing to mention or consider the larger industrial impact of vehicle manufacturing on the environment
- Effects of greenwashing- When a company, product or service is caught or discovered to be greenwashing, there is a general sense of distrust that occurs. Consumers will no longer trust the brand or product in question and might also begin to question other claims.
- How to avoid or prevent greenwashing?– Be specific, Use data, Avoid misleading images, be truthful
What are the reasons for the controversy?
- The offset market has been criticised for appealing to climate consciousness without real effort or impact.
- Another concern hints at the moral problem of greenwashing, where big polluters continue to use fossil fuels and opt for a cheaper route to cutting emissions by way of offsets, all while middle- and low-income nations struggle with climate realities.
- Offset programs work only when they remove or reduce carbon emissions that wouldn’t have been eliminated otherwise, what is called “additionality”. Paying to conserve rainforests that no one was planning to cut, doesn’t amount to offsetting carbon emissions. Proving additionality is a structural challenge, for it is hard to track the genuine progress of activities on the ground.
- Airlines should focus on decarbonising commercial aviation, with the help of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), hydrogen, and full-electric propulsion techniques. But these avenues are predicted to face obstacles as air traffic continues to grow and innovative decarbonising technologies are far in the distance.
5 . Facts for Prelims
- The Assam Rifles (AR) is an Indian government-controlled paramilitary force responsible for border security, counterinsurgency, and maintaining law and order in Northeast India. It guards the Indo–Myanmar border.
- The AR is one of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) which are administered by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The Indian Army maintains operational control of the Assam Rifles. Around 80 percent of its officers come from the Army, with the remaining portion coming from the AR cadre.
- The AR is commanded by the Director General of the Assam Rifles (DG AR) who is appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- History- The AR is nicknamed “Sentinels of the Northeast” and “Friends of the Hill People”. It is the oldest paramilitary force in India, originally raised in 1835 as Cachar Levy, a militia to protect tea gardens and the fertile plains of Assam against unruly tribes.
- Its scope increased with the expansion of British Raj in Northeast India, and it was used against insurgencies in the region. The force was redesignated as Assam Frontier Police in 1883, Assam Military Police in 1891, and East Bengal and Assam Military Police in 1913. It got its present name in 1917. After independence, the AR functioned under the Ministry of External Affairs. Its operational control was transferred to the Indian Army after the Sino-Indian War of 1962. It came under the administration of Ministry of Home Affairs in 1965, with the Army retaining operational control.
- Role and functions- perform many roles including upholding internal security under the control of the army through the conduct of counterinsurgency and border security operations, provision of aid to civilians in times of emergency, and the facilitation of communications, medical assistance and education in remote areas.
Blue Ocean Event
- An “ice-free” Arctic Ocean, sometimes referred to as a “Blue Ocean Event”, is often defined as “having less than 1 million square kilometers of sea ice”, because it is very difficult to melt the thick ice around the Canadian Arctic Archipelago
- A BOE is when the Arctic Ocean changes from being covered in ice year-round and reflecting most of the sunlight that impacts it back into space to being mostly ice-free blue water for a period of time during the warm season (May through October), which will cause it to absorb most of the sunlight that impacts it.
- Once a BOE occurs during a warm season, the Arctic Ocean water will refreeze during the following cold season.
- However, since the water will be slightly warmer each year, longer Blue Ocean Events are expected with each passing warm season, causing extensive impacts to the global climate and human habitat.
National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NABFID)
- The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NaBFID) is a specialized Development Finance Institution in India aimed at supporting the country’s infrastructure sector, which can significantly gain from an enabling credit flow by means of attractive instruments and channelized investment.
- NaBFID was set up in 2021, by an Act of the Parliament (The National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development Act, 2021), with the essential objectives of addressing the gaps in long-term non-recourse finance for infrastructure development, strengthening the development of bonds and derivatives markets in India, and sustainably boosting the country’s economy.
- NABFID has been primarily established to support the development of long-term infrastructure financing in India including the development of the bonds and derivatives markets necessary for infrastructure financing.
- The entity will be regulated and supervised as an All India Financial Institution (AIFI) by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), making it the fifth sector-specific AIFI in the country.
- The constitution of the entity’s board, as stated in the NABFID Act, is as follows –
- Chairman appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the RBI
- Managing Director appointed by the board
- Up to three Deputy Managing Directors appointed by the board
- Two directors from the Central Government
- Up to three directors appointed by the shareholders
- Up to three Independent Directors
- NBFID will be set up as a corporate body with authorised share capital of one lakh crore rupees