Daily Current Affairs : 3rd and 4th December 2023

Topics Covered

  1. Exoplanet
  2. World Malaria Report, 2023
  3. Global Stocktake (GST)
  4. Health COP
  5. Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, BCG Vaccination, Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) eCODE initiative, Indigen

1 . Exoplanets


Context Six exoplanets orbiting around a nearby bright star (HD 110067) in the Coma Berenices constellation has been discovered. The planets have radii between that of Earth and Neptune. A study published inNaturehas calculated the orbit details, along with estimates of their masses and densities, which offer clues about the formation of the system and compositions of the planets’ atmospheres.

About Exoplanets

  • Exoplanets are planets that orbit other stars and are beyond our solar system. According to NASA, to date, more than 5,000 exoplanets have been discovered. Scientists believe that there are more planets than stars as each star has at least one planet orbiting it.
  • Exoplanets come in a host of different sizes. They can be gas giants bigger than Jupiter or as small and rocky as Earth. They are also known to have different kinds of temperatures — boiling hot to freezing cold.
  •  If an exoplanet is too close to the star, it might be too hot to sustain liquid water. If it’s too far, it might only have frozen water. When a planet is at a distance that enables it to have liquid water, it is said to be in the “Goldilocks zone”.
  • With the launch of the Webb telescope, scientists believe that they would now be able to better study exoplanets as it is the only telescope that is capable of characterising the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars.

About the findings

  • Planets with radii between that of the Earth and Neptune (referred to as ‘sub-Neptunes’) are found in close-in orbits around more than half of all Sun-like stars, but details of their composition, formation and evolution are not well understood.
  • HD 110067 is a bright star in the Coma Berenices constellation (around 100 light-years away), which is visible from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. Observations of HD 110067 made by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in 2020 and 2022 revealed several dips in the star’s brightness, and with additional observations from the ‘CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite’ (CHEOPS) the signals were interpreted as six planets passing in front of the star,
  • By studying the three innermost planets, the authors calculated the orbits of all six planets, ranging from around nine days for the innermost planet to around 54 days for the outermost planet.
  • The authors have calculated the masses of the planets and estimate the densities, which are relatively low; the authors suggest that the low densities could be explained by large, hydrogen-rich atmospheres. All six planets are in resonant orbits, in which the planets exert regular forces on each other as they orbit. This feature suggests that the system remains practically unchanged since its birth, at least four billion years ago.
  • HD 110067 is the brightest star found to host more than four transiting exoplanets to date, the authors note, and add that more planets may exist within or beyond the temperate zone, although such observations have not been made so far. They conclude that the HD 110067 system offers a chance to learn more about sub-Neptunes and how systems in this configuration might form.

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

  • The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA-sponsored Astrophysics Explorer-class mission that is performing an all-sky survey to search for planets transiting nearby stars.
  • The primary goal of TESS is to discover planets smaller than Neptune that transit stars bright enough to enable follow-up spectroscopic observations that can provide planet masses and atmospheric compositions.

Overview

  • TESS launched on April 18, 2018 and after a series of maneuvers was placed in a highly-elliptical 13.7 day orbit around the Earth.
  • TESS began regular science operations on July 25, 2018. In its 2-year prime mission, TESS will monitor about 200,000 main-sequence dwarf stars with four wide-field optical CCD cameras to detect periodic drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Photometry of these pre-selected targets will be recorded every 2 minutes.
  • TESS will also obtain full-frame images (FFIs) of the entire, four camera field-of-view (24 x 96 degrees) at a cadence of 30 minutes to facilitate additional science.

CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite’ (CHEOPS)

  • Cheops is ESA’s CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite. It is the first space mission dedicated to studying bright, nearby stars that are already known to host exoplanets, in order to make high-precision observations of the planet’s size as it passes in front of its host star.
  • It focuses on planets in the super-Earth to Neptune size range, with its data enabling the bulk density of the planets to be derived – a first-step characterisation towards understanding these alien worlds.

2 . Global stocktake


Context : The BASIC grouping of Brazil, India, South Africa and China has said during the COP-28 here that the Global Stocktake should also account for the failures of the developed nations, sources said.

What is Global Stocktake

  • The Global Stocktake (GST) is a comprehensive assessment of the world’s progress on climate action.
  • Anchored in Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, it is intended to inform Parties to the Agreement on their progress against its goals, including but not limited to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

What does the Global Stocktake measure?

  • The GST evaluates progress against the three long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, listed under Article 2:
    • Drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperature rise below 2°C and ideally 1.5°C (Article 2.1.a)
    • Build resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts (Article 2.1.b)
    • Secure finance and support for low-carbon and climate-resilient development (Article 2.1.c).
  • The GST also assesses collective progress on additional cross-cutting issues in the Paris Agreement. An example is loss and damage, for which additional finance is needed, particularly in developing countries, to address the impacts of climate change that cannot be averted by mitigation or adaptation efforts.

Who carries out and oversees the GST?

  • Overall responsibility to conduct the GST lies with the ‘Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement’ (the CMA), which is the governing body that oversees the implementation of the Paris Agreement and consists of the representatives of country signatories. The CMA meets once a year at the sessions of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • However, the most significant part of the work required to complete the GST is carried out by supporting groups within the UNFCCC. Of particular importance are the two Subsidiary Bodies (SBs). The SB for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) focuses on the data gathering and technical components of the GST. The SB for Implementation (SBI) provides vital assistance to the final implementation phase. Together, the Chairs of the SBSTA and SBI form a Joint Contact Group that supports two co-facilitators of the technical dialogue with guiding questions.

How does the GST work?

  • In 2015, the Paris Agreement prescribed that the first GST would take place in 2023, and then every five years. The process takes two years and comprises data gathering, technical and political phases:
    • The ‘information collection and preparation’ phase gathers and summarises information in preparation for the technical component. Key sources include the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR6) and the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Adaptation Gap Report. A non-exhaustive list of sources and information used is provided in a 2018 addendum to the Paris Agreement, and further sources were agreed by the SBs before the start of the first GST. The information and collection preparation phase of the first GST concluded with the publication of four synthesis reports on: the state of greenhouse gas emissions; the state of adaptation efforts; the overall effect of nationally determined contributions (NDCs); and finance flows.
    • Through the technical assessment, Parties and non-Party stakeholders – such as experts, NGOs and civil society, industry representatives and coalitions – contribute, discuss and add further sources and information to be considered in the GST. Several calls for submissions were released for the first GST, resulting in nearly 900 inputs from Party and non-Party stakeholders. The technical assessment process is facilitated by technical dialogues and in-person workshops.
    • The political phase involves the ‘Consideration of Outputs’ at the COP sessions, where the implications of the findings are presented to Parties, who discuss them at three high-level events. Countries will collectively agree on key political messages, which will formalise the commitments that all countries need to adopt to meet the Paris goals.
  • When the first GST has been completed, a two-year process to 2025 will begin, during which countries will be required to update their NDCs. The same will then happen after each round of the GST.

3 . World Malaria Report, 2023


Context : In 2022, India accounted for 66% of malaria cases in the WHO Southeast Asia Region, noted the World Malaria Report, 2023, published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Key Findings of the Report

  • Report highlights that despite strides in expanding access to insecticide-treated nets and medicines to help prevent malaria in young children and pregnant women, more people were getting sick with malaria.
  • The WHO Southeast Asia Region accounted for about 2% of malaria cases globally, while malaria cases declined by 76% from 23 million in 2000 to about five million in 2022.
  • Malaria case incidence in this region decreased by 83%, from about 18 cases per 1,000 population at risk in 2000 to about three cases per 1,000 population at risk in 2022
  • Giving the global picture and trends in malaria, the report stated that in 2022, there were an estimated 249 million cases globally, exceeding the pre-pandemic level of 233 million in 2019 by 16 million cases.
  • The changing climate poses a substantial risk to progress against malaria, particularly in vulnerable regions

4 . Health COP


Context : On December 3, for the first time in 28 years of climate change negotiations, the climate-health nexus will take centre stage at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP-28) summit in the UAE.

‘Health Day’ at the summit

  • The ‘groundbreaking Health Day at COP-28’, is expected to pose two questions:
    • How public health can become resilient to climate change, and who will finance this transformation.
  • India also highlighted the intricate link between climate change and public health during the health talks held under its G-20 presidency this year.
  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognises the health impacts of climate change.
  • Health events have been held at COP for several years, including at the WHO Health Pavilion, but this is the first time there has been an official ‘Health Day’,
  • This is also the first time there will be a health inter-ministerial meeting, with ministers of health, environment, finance and other types of ministries joining in.

What can we expect from the Health talks?

  • The COP-28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health includes dialogue on mitigating emissions, health sector adaptation to climate change, mainstreaming of health into climate policies and the sticky question of climate financing for health.
  • The Declaration, however, doesn’t mention fossil fuels. It recognizes the need for climate mitigation, “strengthening research on the linkages between environmental and climatic factors and antimicrobial resistance”; and “intensifying efforts for the early detection of zoonotic spill-overs” to prevent future pandemics. It does not mention pollution-related harms or identify ‘fossil fuels’ — coal, oil and gas — as a driver of health threats, or emphasize the need to end fossil fuel dependence. Fossil fuels are seen as the largest contributor to global climate change.
  • A commitment to phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy would be an important health outcome. If we move from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we reduce preventable deaths of air pollution as well as reduce the risk of dangerous climate change.”

What are the concerns?

  • Most G-20 countries, including wealthy industrialised nations responsible for the majority of historic greenhouse gas emissions, have failed to centre health in their climate action, as per a 2023 analysis by the GCHA.
  • Low-and middle-income countries like Burundi and Congo were found to be better at engaging with health concerns in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This is likely to reflect the undeniable links between health and environment — and disease and climate change — which cannot be ignored in these countries whose populations are enduring the most severe health impacts of climate change
  • Changing weather patterns and rising temperatures are altering the life cycle of vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria, which disproportionately impact poorer, marginalised groups (the spread of dengue has increased in India over the last two decades, research shows).
  • Health crises triggered by warming climate are expected to chart a financial toll of around $2-4 billion annually by 2030. Another estimate shows that 40% of climate-related poverty would be due to direct health impacts, as people’s income, productivity and health costs would soar. private financial institutions to plug this need and “contribute generously” to the Green Climate Fund.

Where does India stand?

  • In India, particulate air pollution is said to be the “greatest threat to human health”, and heat-related deaths may kill an additional 10 lakh people annually by 2090.
  • India scored 2/15 points in the 2023 GCHA scorecard that assessed India’s inclusion of clean air in its national climate commitments.
  • India’s NDCs thus far have focused on reducing emissions intensity, transitioning to non-fossil fuel sources and creating additional carbon sinks.

5 . Facts for Prelims


Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge

  • The Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, signed at COP28, commits to tripling worldwide installed renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11,000 GW and to double global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements to more than 4% by 2030

Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN)

  • Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education is aimed at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs internationally to encourage their engagement with the institutes of Higher Education in India so as to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate India’s scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.
  • GIAN is envisaged to catalyse higher education institutions in the country, and that it will initially include all IITs, IIMs, Central Universities, IISc Bangalore, IISERs, NITs and IIITs subsequently cover good State Universities where the spinoff is vast.
  • GIAN is an evolving scheme which will initially include participation of foreign faculty in Institutes as Distinguished / Adjunct / Visiting faculty / Professors of Practice, etc., to participate in delivering Short or Semester-long Courses. Other activities will be included in due course.

BCG Vaccination

  • Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is the live attenuated vaccine form of Mycobacterium bovis used to prevent tuberculosis and other mycobacterial infections.
  • The vaccine was developed by Calmette and Guérin and was first administered to human beings in 1921. BCG is the only vaccine against tuberculosi

deCODE initiative

  • deCODE initiative is an early effort to use large-scale population genetic studies
  • It was initiated in Iceland by deCODE genomics in 1996, with most of the Icelandic population enrolling for genetic studies in around a decade’s time.
  • The initiative, along with the democratisation of sequencing technologies, provided the initial impetus for programmes that wished to use population-scale genomic data for precision medicine and public health.

Indigen

  • Indigen was a pilot programme for population genomes in Ind
  • It provided an early view of more than a thousand genomes of individuals from cosmopolitan areas in India. It also yielded some clues to the landscape of many treatable genetic diseases and variants of clinical significance, including the efficacy and toxicity of drugs and the prevalence of rare disorders.
  • A larger programme to sequence 10,000 whole genomes from diverse population groups is in the works under the GenomeIndia initiative.

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