Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report
- National Security Act
- Conference on Buddhist Heritage
- Facts for Prelims
1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report
Context: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health and there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report.
About the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change report
- The IPCC prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about knowledge on climate change, its causes, potential impacts and response options.
- Between 1990 and 2022, the IPCC has published six comprehensive assessment reports reviewing the latest climate science. The IPCC has also produced 14 special reports on particular topics. Each assessment report has four parts. These are a contribution from each of the three working groups, plus a synthesis report: Working Group I (which evaluated the physical science basis of climate change), Working Group II (impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) and Working Group III (mitigation, or reducing future greenhouse gas emissions). The synthesis report integrates the working group contributions. It also integrates any special reports produced in that assessment cycle.
- The IPCC does not carry out its own research. It does not monitor climate-related data. The reports by IPCC assess scientific papers and independent results from other scientific bodies.
- The IPCC sets a deadline for publications of scientific papers that a report will cover. That report will not include new information that emerges after this deadline. However, there is a steady evolution of key findings and levels of scientific confidence from one assessment report to the next. Each IPCC report notes areas where the science has improved since the previous report. It also notes areas that would benefit from further research.
Key findings and impacts of the Assessment Reports
Assessment reports one to five (1990 to 2014)
- First Assessment report – The IPCC’s First Assessment Report (FAR) appeared in 1990. The report gave a broad overview of climate change science. It discussed uncertainties and provided evidence of warming. The authors said they are certain that greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere because of human activity. This is resulting in more warming of the Earth’s surface. The report led to the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- The Second Assessment Report (SAR)– It was published in 1995. It strengthened the findings of the First Assessment Report. The evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on the global climate, it said. The Second Assessment Report provided important material for the negotiations leading to the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol.
- The Third Assessment Report (TAR) was completed in 2001. It found more evidence that most of the global warming seen over the previous 50 years was due to human activity. The report includes a graph reconstructing global temperature since the year 1000. The sharp rise in temperature in recent years gave it the name “hockey stick”. This became a powerful image of how temperature is soaring with climate change. The report also shows how adaptation to the effects of climate change can reduce some of its ill effects.
- The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was published in 2007. It gives much greater certainty about climate change. It states: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal. The report helped make people around the world aware of climate change. The IPCC shared the Nobel Peace Prize in the year of the report’s publication for this work.
- The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) was published in 2013 and 2014. This report again stated the fact of climate change. It warned of the dangerous risks. And it emphasized how the world can counter climate change. Three key findings were for example: Firstly, human influence on the climate system is clear. Secondly, the more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts. And thirdly, we have the means to limit climate change and build a more prosperous, sustainable future. The report’s findings were the scientific foundation of the UNFCCC’s 2015 Paris Agreement.
Sixth assessment report (2021/2022)
- The IPCC’s most recent report is the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). The first three instalments of AR6 appeared in 2021 and 2022.
- The IPCC published the Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, in August 2021. It confirms that the climate is already changing in every region. Many of these changes have not been seen in thousands of years. Many of them such as sea-level rise are irreversible over hundreds of thousands of years. Strong reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would limit climate change. But it could take 20-30 years for the climate to stabilize. This report attracted enormous media and public attention. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described it as “code red for humanity”.
- The IPCC published the Working Group II report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, in February 2022. Climate change due to human activities is already affecting the lives of billions of people, it said. It is disrupting nature. The world faces unavoidable hazards over the next two decades even with global warming of 1.5ºC, it said.
- The IPCC published the Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, in April 2022. It will be impossible to limit warming to 1.5ºC without immediate and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. It is still possible to halve emissions by 2050, it said.
About the current IPCC report
- This is the final report of the sixth assessment cycle of the UN panel. The current report does not weigh in on new scientific evidence but synthesises findings from three working groups: Working Group I (which evaluated the physical science basis of climate change), Working Group II (impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) and Working Group III (mitigation, or reducing future greenhouse gas emissions).
- It also integrates evidence from three special reports during the sixth assessment cycle: Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (October 2018), Special Report on Climate Change and Land (August 2019), and Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (September 2019).
- According to the report overshooting 1.5°C will result in irreversible adverse impacts on certain ecosystems with low resilience, such as polar, mountain, and coastal ecosystems, impacted by ice sheet, glacier melt, or by accelerating and higher committed sea level rise. It also added that certain future changes are “unavoidable and/or irreversible but could be limited by deep, rapid and sustained global greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
- The report said that the mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, it will also provide wider benefits.
- This synthesis report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.
- One of the most significant implications of the report for India is the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. These events could have dire consequences for agriculture, the economy, and public health. The report highlights the need for policymakers to prioritise investments in disaster risk reduction, including early warning systems, evacuation plans, and infrastructure development to protect vulnerable populations.
International Panel for climate change
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations charged with advancing scientific knowledge about anthropogenic climate change. It was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and endorsed by the UN later that year. It has a secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, hosted by the WMO, and is governed by 195 member states.
- The IPCC informs governments about the state of knowledge on climate change, including possible response options and the natural, economic, and social impacts and risks. It does not conduct original research but undertakes periodic and systematic reviews of all relevant scientific publications by enlisting thousands of volunteer scientists and experts; observers have described this work as the biggest peer review process in the scientific community. Key findings are compiled into periodic “Assessment Reports” for policymakers and the general public. The Fifth Assessment Report influenced the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015. The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for contributions to the understanding of climate change
2 . National Security Act
Context: The Punjab Police said it has invoked the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against five people linked to radical preacher Amritpal Singh’s ‘Waris Punjab De’.
What is National Security Act (NSA)?
- The National Security Act was passed by the Parliament in 1980 and has been amended several times since then. NSA “empowers the state to detain a person without a formal charge and without trial”.
- Under the Act, a person is taken into custody to prevent them from acting in any manner prejudicial to “the security of the state” or for “maintenance of the public order”. It is an administrative order passed either by the Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate (DM) – and not detention ordered by police based on specific allegations or for a specific violation of the law.
- Even if a person is in police custody, the District Magistrate can slap NSA against them. Or, if a person has been granted bail by a trial court, they can be immediately detained under the NSA. If the person has been acquitted by the court, the same person can be detained under the NSA. The law takes away an individual’s constitutional right to be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours, as is the case when the accused is in police custody. The detained person also does not have the right to move a bail application before a criminal court.
What are the grounds for detention?
- NSA can be invoked to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, relations of India with foreign powers or the security of India. Among others, it can also be applied to prevent a person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supply and services essential to the community.
- An individual can be detained without a charge for a maximum period of 12 months.
- The detained person can be held for 10 to 12 days in special circumstances without being told the charges against them.
What is the protection available under the Act?
- The Indian Constitution allows both preventive detention and the right of protection against arrest and detention in certain cases, enshrined under Article 22 of the Constitution. However, Article 22(3) provides that the rights available to an arrested person will not be applicable in case of preventive detention, thus an exception is carved out.
- One crucial procedural safeguard under the NSA is granted under Article 22(5), where all the detained persons have the right to make an effective representation before an independent advisory board, which consists of three members; and the board is chaired by a member who is, or has been, a judge of a high court.
- The DM who passes the detention order is protected under the Act: no prosecution or any legal proceeding can be initiated against the official who carries out the orders. Therefore, the writ of habeas corpus is the available remedy under the Constitution against the state’s power of taking people into custody under the NSA
What the top court says
- The Supreme Court in earlier cases had held that to prevent “misuse of this potentially dangerous power, the law of preventive detention has to be strictly construed”, and “meticulous compliance with the procedural safeguards” has to be ensured.
What is the criticism against NSA?
- Human rights groups have said in the past that the Act vitiates Article 22 of the Constitution and various provisions under the CrPC that safeguard the interest of an arrested person, namely that the arrested person should be informed regarding the ground of arrest and his right to consult a legal practitioner.
- Further, under the CrPC, the arrested person has to be produced before the nearest Magistrate within 24 hours, but the NSA carves out an exception. Some human rights groups argue that it is often misused by authorities to silence political opponents or those who are critical of the government. There have been calls for the Act to be repealed or amended to prevent its abuse.
3 . Conference on Buddhist Heritage
Context: In a first-of-its-kind event, India hosted a conference on ‘Shared Buddhist Heritage’ under the ambit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) which saw the participation of scholars and experts from Russia, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Bahrain, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, and Kazakhstan.
About the conference on Buddhist Heritage
- An international conference on “Shared Buddhist Heritage” was held in New Delhi with focus on India’s civilizational connect with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) nations 2023.
- The event, a first of its kind, under India’s leadership of SCO will bring together Central Asian, East Asian, South Asian and Arab countries on a common platform to discuss “Shared Buddhist Heritage”.
- The SCO countries comprise of Member States, Observer States and Dialogue Partners, including China, Russia and Mongolia. More than 15 scholars – delegates will be presenting research papers on the topic. These experts are from Dunhuang Research Academy, China; Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnology, Kyrgyzstan; State Museum of the History of Religion, Russia; National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan; Belarusian State University and International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Myanmar, to mention a few.
- The two-day programme is being organized by the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of External Affairs and the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC-as a grantee body of the Ministry of Culture). A number of Indian scholars of Buddhism will also participate in the event. Participants will also have the opportunity to tour some of the historical sites of Delhi.
- The aim of the Conference is to re-establish trans-cultural links, seek out commonalities, between Buddhist art of Central Asia, art styles, archaeological sites and antiquity in various museums’ collections of the SCO countries.
- One of the natural marvels in this world is the evolution and spread of ideas, since times immemorial. Crossing effortlessly, formidable mountains, vast oceans and national boundaries; ideas that find a home in distant lands; getting enriched with the existing cultures. So is the uniqueness of Buddha’s appeal.
- Its universality crossed both time and space. Its humanistic approach permeated art, architecture, sculpture and subtle attributes of human personality; finding expression in compassion, co-existence, sustainable living and personal growth.
- The Conference is a unique meeting of the minds, where countries from different geographical regions but with a common thread connecting them based on a shared civilization legacy, strengthened by Buddhist missionaries who played a major role in integrating various cultures, communities and regions in the entire Indian subcontinent and Asia will discuss for two days’ various themes, chalking out ways to continue the age-old bonds into the future.
4 . Facts for Prelims
- The Cook Islands is a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean free association with New Zealand.
- The islands were formed by volcanic activity
- The 15 volcanic islands and coral atolls of the Cook Islands are scattered over 770,000 square miles of the South Pacific, between American Samoa to the west and French Polynesia to the east.
- Named after Captain Cook, who explored them in 1773, the islands were once autonomous, home to tribes of mixed Polynesian ancestry.
- Its economy centres on tourism; the territory’s natural assets include fine beaches and volcanic mountains.
- Black pearls are the chief export. Agriculture, the sale of fishing licences to foreign fleets and offshore finance are also key revenue earners.
- In September 2022, US President Joe Biden recognized the Cook Islands and Niue as “sovereign states” in line with a new Pacific plan that will pump $1.4bn into the region.
- The international Group of Seven (G7) is an intergovernmental political forum consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States; additionally, the European Union (EU) is a “non-enumerated member”.
- G7 is officially organized around shared values of pluralism and representative government, with members making up the world’s largest IMF advanced economies and liberal democracies.
- Russia belonged to the forum from 1998 through 2014, when the bloc was known as the Group of Eight (G8), but it was suspended following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
- Members are great powers in global affairs and maintain mutually close political, economic, diplomatic, and military relations.
- Originating from an ad hoc gathering of finance ministers in 1973, the G7 has since become a formal, high-profile venue for discussing and coordinating solutions to major global issues, especially in the areas of trade, security, economics, and climate change.
- The G7 is not based on a treaty and has no permanent secretariat or office. It is organized through a presidency that rotates annually among the member states, with the presiding state setting the group’s priorities and hosting and organizing its summit; Germany currently presides for 2022.
- The G7’s future has been challenged by continued tensions with Russia and, increasingly, China, as well as by internal disagreements over trade and climate policies. In a sign of renewed cooperation, the G7 reached a historic agreement ahead of its 2021 summit to overhaul the global rules for corporate taxation.
- More recently, the G7 has imposed coordinated sanctions on Russia in response to its war in Ukraine. The group also launched a major global infrastructure program to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Moscow and Beijing, along with climate change, rising inflation and energy prices, and the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, led the agenda at the 2022 summit in Schloss Elmau, Germany. However, the group has been criticized by observers for its allegedly outdated and limited membership, narrow global representation, and ineffectualness.
XBB 1.16 variant
- XBB.1.16 is a recombinant lineage of the virus and is a descendent of the XBB lineage of Covid-19.
- This new variant is being seen as a threat as it is highly contagious and the speed at which it is spreading.
- Various health experts pointed out that XBB.1.16, a mutant strain of SARS CoV 2, mainly of Omicron, can escape the immunity smartly. Even, the Omicron variant has been known for its high transmission rate ever since it emerged in late 2021.
- Symptoms- At present, XBB.1.16 variant does not seem to be causing serious health issues. Symptoms generally include upper respiratory issues like blocked nose, headache and sore throat, along with fever and myalgia or muscle pain which lasts for three to four days.
Letter of Comfort (LoCs)
- A letter of comfort is a support document issued to a borrower that adds some strength to the transaction when giving loans. A Letter of comfort is usually issued by a third party or a stakeholder in the transaction. For instance, a holding company can give a letter of comfort on behalf of its subsidiary, or a government can issue a letter of comfort for public sector enterprises. The letter of comfort can also be issued by banks, NBFCs and auditors
- The letter of comfort is not legally binding or an obligation by the holding company to repay the loans. It is just an assurance to the lender that the holding company is aware of the transaction, the policies of the subsidiary and its intentions in seeking a loan. This provides some comfort to the financial institution to lend money for short term or long term. One can say that the letter of comfort could become a moral obligation and not a legal one.
- In some cases, the letter of comfort can become legally binding. Sometimes, the wording used in the letter could be interpreted in a way to force legal obligations and hence those issuing it are doubly careful.
- A letter of comfort is different from a letter of guarantee. As spelled out in the name, the letter of guarantee acts as a commitment to the lender that the issuing company is taking responsibility for the repayment. It is also legally binding, and the transaction becomes an obligation for the guarantor. Holding companies usually give letters of comfort when they are unable or unwilling to give letters of guarantees.