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Hindu Notes from General Studies-01

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Climate change forces Arctic animals to shift feeding habits

News

  • Seals and whales in the Arctic are shifting their feeding patterns as climate change alters their habitats, and the way they do so may determine whether they survive, a new study has found.

Findings

  • Researchers harnessed datasets spanning two decades to examine how two species of Arctic wildlife beluga whales, also known as white whales, and ringed seals are adapting to their changing habitat.
  • The research focused on the area around Svalbard northwest of Norway which is experiencing rapid impacts from climate change and particularly a large collapse in sea-ice conditions in 2006 that has continued to the present day.
  • Both white whales and ringed seals were tagged in Svalbard before this collapse occurred to study their basic ecology. Repeat sampling after the sea-ice collapse occurred thus offered the opportunity for a natural experiment.
  • Both species traditionally hunt for food in areas with sea ice and particularly at so-called tidal glacier fronts, where glaciers meet the ocean. But with climate change melting sea ice and prompting glaciers to retreat, researchers in Norway decided to look at whether and how animals in the affected areas were adapting.
  • With the rapid pace of change rendering genetic adaptation unfeasible, they reasoned that behavioural and dietary changes will likely be the first observable responses within ecosystems.
  • They compared datasets produced by trackers attached to seals and whales over two sets of time periods.
  • For the seals, they compared tracker data from 28 individuals between 1996-2003 and then 2010-2016, and for the whales they looked at data from 18 animals between 1995-2001 and 16 animals from 2013-2016.
  • The data showed that two decades ago, both species spent around half their time foraging at glacier fronts and eating a diet dominated by polar cod.
  • But ringed seals now spend “significantly higher proportions of time near tidal glacier fronts” while the white whales had the opposite response and had moved elsewhere to look for food.
  • The researchers speculated that whales have shifted their diet, taking advantage of the fact that climate change is allowing new fish species to move further north as waters warm.
  • Seals in contrast stuck with their old diet, but appeared to spend more time searching for the food at the glacier fronts.
  • The study points out that beluga whales tend to be dietary generalists compared to ringed seals, and said the “flexible” response of whales would improve their chances of adapting to warming climes.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-02

In charts: U.S. withdrawal of trade concessions to India

News

  • The S. government has decided to withdraw trade concessions granted to India under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

Beyond News

  • The programme, which allows duty-free entry for certain products into the U.S. market, has benefited both countries, as shown by the growing volume of trade over the years.
  • India exported goods worth $6.2 bn in 2018 under the GSP, the highest since 1997. However, the GSP’s share in India’s total exports to the U.S. has come down recently after peaking in the mid-2000s.
  • No other country’s export value under the GSP exceeded India’s in the last two decades cumulatively.
  • Though India has played down the GSP benefits, some sectors such as ‘gem and jewellery’ and ‘apparel’ are bound to take a hit.

At UN, China unlikely to support bid to list JeM chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist

News

  • China signalled that it was not yet prepared to step aside and allow the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to list terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) founder-leader Masood Azhar as an international terrorism.

Beyond News

  • Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Beijing wanted a closure of the issue, based on consensus achieved through dialogue.
  • China’s stand contradicts the position adopted by New Delhi, which is open for talks, following visible and verifiable action against Pakistan-based terror groups that target India.
  • China has, on three occasions, placed a “technical hold” on Azhar’s designation as a global terrorist in the 1267 committee. Yet another attempt on the JeM chief’s designation, led by the United States, France and Britain, has begun following the Pulwama car bomb attack that killed more than 40 CRPF personnel.
  • Analysts say that China has committed itself to high profile “mediation” between India and Pakistan, which comprehensively addresses all the vectors that lock India and Pakistan in an adverse relationship, without being fixated on the issue of listing Azhar alone.
  • Chinese foreign ministry reiterated that Beijing was involved in “mediation” to ease tensions between India and Pakistan. It also took credit for dialing down tensions between the two nuclear-armed states in the subcontinent, based on “extensive and in-depth communication with both parties.”
  • China’s state councilor and foreign minister, for the first time, affirmed that Beijing was engaged in “mediation efforts” to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, following the Pulwama attack.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-03

India successfully test-fires guided rocket system ‘Pinaka’

News

  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation successfully tested-fired the indigenously developed guided rocket system ‘Pinaka’ at Pokhran in Rajasthan.
  • This was the third test conducted by the DRDO since three days. All the three trials were able to meet the mission objectives.

Environment damage behind a quarter of premature deaths, diseases: UN report

News

  • A quarter of all premature deaths and diseases worldwide are due to manmade pollution and environmental damage, the United Nations said.

Findings

  • Deadly emissions, chemicals polluting drinking water, and the accelerating destruction of ecosystems crucial to the livelihoods of billions of people are driving a worldwide epidemic that hampers the global economy.
  • The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) a report six years in the making compiled by 250 scientists from 70 nations depicts a growing chasm between rich and poor countries as rampant overconsumption, pollution and food waste in the developed world leads to hunger, poverty and disease elsewhere.
  • As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise amid a preponderance of droughts, floods and superstorms made worse by climbing sea levels, there is a growing political consensus that climate change poses a future risk to billions.
  • But the health impacts of pollution, deforestation and the mechanised food-chain are less well understood.
  • Nor is there any international agreement for the environment close to covering what the 2015 Paris accord does for climate.
  • It said that poor environmental conditions “cause approximately 25% of global disease and mortality” around 9 million deaths in 2015 alone.
  • Lacking access to clean drinking supplies, 1.4 million people die each year from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and parasites linked to pathogen-riddled water and poor sanitation.
  • Chemicals pumped into the seas cause “potentially multi-generational” adverse health effects, and land degradation through mega-farming and deforestation occurs in areas of Earth home to 3.2 billion people.
  • The report says air pollution causes 6-7 million early deaths annually.
  • The report called for a root-and-branch detoxifying of human behaviour while insisting that the situation is not unassailable.
  • Food waste for instance, which accounts for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions, could be slashed. The world currently throws away a third of all food produced. In richer nations, 56% goes to waste.
  • It also called for a rapid drawdown in greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use to improve air and water quality.

RBI to inject liquidity via forex swaps

News

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to inject rupee liquidity into the system through long-term foreign exchange buy/sell swap a first-of-its-kind instrument used for liquidity management.

Beyond News

  • The RBI would conduct dollar-rupee buy/sell swap auction of $5 billion for a three-year tenor on March 26.
  • In order to meet the durable liquidity needs of the system, the Reserve Bank has decided to augment its liquidity management toolkit and inject rupee liquidity for longer duration through long-term foreign exchange buy/sell swap.
  • According to bankers, the move is seen to lower the dependence on open market operations which have been a significant amount of the overall borrowing. The move would boost RBI’s foreign exchange reserves which were at $401.7 billion for the week ended March 1.
  • Market participants would be required to place their bids in terms of the premium that they were willing to pay to the RBI for the tenor of the swap.
  • RBI said the auction cut-off would be based on the premium and the auction would be a multiple-price based auction.
  • RBI also has raised the trade credit limit under the automatic route to $150 million for oil/gas refining and marketing, airline and shipping firms. For others, the limit is set at $50 million or equivalent per import transaction.
  • At the same time, the revised framework has reduced the all-inclusive cost (all-in-cost) for overseas loans to benchmark rate plus 250 basis points from the earlier 350 bps.

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