Current Affairs, 13 October 2018
G.S Paper 2:
Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Malaysian government decides to abolish capital punishment
What to study?
- For Prelims: About the abolishment.
- For Mains: Capital punishment- concerns, its effectiveness, challenges and need for abolition.
Context: The Malaysian Cabinet has decided to abolish the death penalty for all crimes and halt all pending executions. The government has taken the decision to scrap capital punishment following strong domestic opposition to the practice.
Why is it being abolished?
Activists contended that the death penalty is barbarous, unimaginably cruel and pointless, as it has never been proven to deter serious crimes. They say, once the sentence is scrapped, Malaysia will have the moral authority to fight for the lives of Malaysians facing death sentences abroad.
Capital punishment is currently mandatory in Malaysia for a wide range of crimes including murder, drug trafficking, treason, kidnapping, possession of firearms and acts of terror. The sentence is carried out in the nation by hanging, a legacy which has lived on since the British colonial rule.
Can capital punishment reduce crime rates?
Statistics have not been able to prove or disprove the efficacy of capital punishment as a deterrent. While the U.K. has seen an increase in murders since 1965 when capital punishment for murder was removed from the statute book, Canada has not seen any such impact since it abolished the death penalty in 1976. The underlying socio-economic conditions in a society that cause crimes seem to have as much of an impact on the increase or decrease of crimes as the law does.
Need of the hour:
It is not the severity of the punishment but the certainty and uniformity of it which will reduce crime. Even for capital punishment to work as a deterrent, the fairness of the investigation, the certainty of conviction, and the speed of the trial are vital. With the police and judicial independence being under a cloud, especially after the incidents in Kathua and Unnao, the deterrent value of capital punishment seems diminished unless police reforms and fast-track courts are a part of the package.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: All about NHRC and its role, objectives and significance.
Context: India has been re-elected to UNHRC for a period of three years beginning January 1, 2019, getting 188 votes in the Asia-Pacific category, the highest number of votes among all candidates.
Besides India, the 18 new members were elected by absolute majority through a secret ballot. India had previously been elected to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council for the 2011-2014 and 2014-2017 terms.
- The UN body was established in 2006 with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights around the globe, as well as investigating alleged human rights violations.
- It is made up of 47 member states, which are selected by the UN General Assembly on a staggered basis each year for three-year-long terms.
- Members meet around three times a year to debate human rights issues and pass non-binding resolutions and recommendations by majority vote.
- The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states, which allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations in member states to the attention of the UN.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
100k Genome Asia Project
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: About the project and its significance.
Context: A group of Indian scientists and companies are involved with a 100k GenomeAsia project, led out of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, to sequence the whole genomes of 100k Asians, including 50,000 Indians.
About 100k Genome Asia Project:
- A non-profit consortium called GenomeAsia 100K has announced an ambitious plan to sequence 100,000 Asian individuals in hopes of accelerating precision medicine applications for Asian populations.
- It will also leverage on big data analytics and advances in data science and artificial intelligence. Participants from 12 South Asian countries and at least seven North and East Asian countries will be selected.
- In the first phase, the project will focus on creating phased reference genomes for all major Asian ethnic groups—representing a major step forward in understanding the population history and substructure of the region.
- The sequencing of 100,000 individual genomes will be paired with microbiome, clinical and phenotype information to allow deeper analysis of diseased and healthy individuals in the context of inferred local ancestries.
With recent insights into the genome diversity of Asian ethnicities, it will become possible to understand the biology of disease in the currently under-studied Asian populations that represent 40 percent of humankind.
Furthermore, the unique genetic diversity prevalent in South, North and East Asia provides a valuable source of clinical insights that should enhance our understanding of several rare and inherited diseases, as well as chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in space.
Chandra X-Ray Observatory
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: About the observatory, its objectives and accomplishments.
Context: NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has entered protective “safe mode” due to a malfunction of some soft.
About Chandra X-Ray Observatory:
- The Chandra X-Ray Observatory is a NASA telescope that looks at black holes, quasars, supernovas, and the like – all sources of high energy in the universe. It shows a side of the cosmos that is invisible to the human eye.
- It was previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF).
- After more than a decade in service, the observatory has helped scientists glimpse the universe in action. It has watched galaxies collide, observed a black hole with cosmic hurricane winds, and glimpsed a supernova turning itself inside out after an explosion.
- The telescope is named after the Nobel Prize-winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Disaster and disaster management.
International Day for Disaster Reduction 2018
What to study?
- For Prelims: About the International Day for Disaster Reduction- theme, significance.
- For Mains: All about Sendai framework and its significance.
Context: International Day for Disaster Reduction was observed on October 13th.
Theme: The theme of the 2018 International Day for Disaster Reduction was ‘Reducing Disaster Economic Losses’.
The 2018 theme continues as part of the “Sendai Seven” campaign, centred on the seven targets of the Sendai Framework. This year focuses on Target C of the Sendai Framework, which is, ‘reducing disaster economic losses in relation to global GDP by 2030’.
In 1989, the UN General Assembly through a resolution had designated the second Wednesday of October as International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction.
- Later on December 21, 2009, the Assembly adopted a new resolution on in which it designated 13 October as the date to commemorate the Day and it also changed the day’s name to International Day for Disaster Reduction.
- The main objective of the observance is to raise awareness of how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters.
About Sendai Framework:
The “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” was adopted during the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan in March, 2015.
Key features of the Sendai framework:
- It is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action.
- It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR).
- The Framework is for 15-year. It is a voluntary and non-binding agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.
- The new Framework is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters.
The implementation of the Sendai Framework involves adopting integrated and inclusive institutional measures so as to work towards preventing vulnerability to disaster, increase preparedness for response and recovery and strengthen resilience.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
WORLD EGG DAY 2018- October 12th:
- World Egg Day is celebrated on the second Friday in October. It was founded by the International Egg Commission (IEC) at a conference held in Vienna in 1996.
- The idea behind the day was raising awareness across the world, of the important place eggs have in human nutrition.
- The IEC was formed in 1964 in order to give a global presence to egg producers and to promote and popularize egg consumption as part of a balanced diet.
Alternative Nobel Literature Prize:
Context: Guadeloupean author Maryse Conde has won the New Academy Prize in Literature, an alternative award formed in protest to Nobel Literature Prize.
About New Academy Prize in Literature:
New Academy Prize in Literature was formed by New Academy consisting of more than 100 Swedish writers, artists and journalists in protest to denounce what its founders called bias, arrogance and sexism of Swedish Academy, which selects Nobel laureates. The New Academy Prize is accompanied by one million kronor, or around $112,000.
The world’s most innovative universities- 2018:
What is it? The Reuters’ top 100 World’s Most Innovative University ranking recognises universities from across the world for their work in inventing new technologies, advance science and power new markets and industries. It was first published in 2015, since then there has been no mention of any Indian university in the list.
The 2018 edition:
- For the fourth year running, Stanford University tops Reuters’ ranking of the World’s Most Innovative Universities. No Indian university is in the list.
- In this top 100 list, 48 universities are from North America find mention on the list, 23 Asian universities, 27 from Europe and 2 from the Middle East. The list has no mention of universities from South America, Africa and Oceania countries that include Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
- US dominated the list with 46 universities among the top 100. This year Chinese varsities have increased their presence in this with total five universities. The key factor was this year’s ranking was Geopolitical trends. Stanford University from US has topped this list for four consecutive years. The second and third spots have been held by US’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University respectively.
Editorial: Another warning on warming
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a special report on global warming of 1.5°C over pre-industrial temperatures.
IPCC provides details on how the global response to climate change needs to be strengthened within the broader context of sustainable development and continuing efforts to eradicate poverty.
The impacts of 1.5°C of warming and the possible development pathways by which the world could get there are its main focus.
It was in 2015, at the Paris climate conference, that the global community made a pact to pursue efforts to limit warming to within 1.5°C — half a degree below the previous target of 2°C.
With the increase in extreme events and the very survival of small islands at stake, the lower limit was greeted then with surprise and enthusiasm.
Why there is so much concern between 1.5°C and 2°C:
- For most people, the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C may seem trivial when daily temperatures fluctuate much more widely.
- However, the reference here is to global average temperatures. Different regions of the earth will warm at different rates. For instance, the Arctic is already experiencing warming that is many times higher than the global average.
- As per those reports, if the temperature goes beyond 2°C, then, the impacts of climate change could be irreversible and catastrophic.
- Mainly, small island nations and least developed nations are likely to suffer the most and hence, they asked for the goal to restrict the temperature rise to even within 1.5°C.
- The sea levels are expected to rise on an average by about 50 cms by 2100, when the World is warmer by 2°C.
- But, beyond 2100, the overall propensity for much higher sea level rise is greater in 2°C World.
- The risks to food security, health, fresh water, human security, livelihoods and economic growth are already on the rise and will be worse in a 2°C World.
- The number of people exposed to complex and compounded risks will also increase, mostly poorer countries in Asia and Africa will suffer the worst.
- This requires massive deployment of financial and technological resources.
- If nations do not mount a strenuous response against climate change, average global temperatures, which have already crossed 1°C, are likely to cross the 1.5°C mark around 2040.
- The window of opportunity to take action is very small and closing fast.
Several mitigation pathways to achieve these reductions and all of them incorporate different levels of CO2 removal:
There are many synergies between achieving mitigation targets and fulfilling Sustainable Development Goals.
To stay below 1.5°C, the transitions required by energy systems and human societies, in land use, transport, and infrastructure, would have to be rapid and on an unprecedented scale with deep emission reductions.
How is the remaining carbon budget, that is the room available in the atmosphere to safely contain more CO2, going to be shared among different countries?
This is a difficult question to address. The U.S. also reiterated its intent to pull out of the Paris Agreement. It has been reported, for instance, that the U.S. has been obstructionist in the deliberations at the recent meeting to determine the final text of this IPCC report.
Contributions from the U.S. and other rich countries to the Green Climate Fund and other funding mechanisms for the purpose of mitigation and adaptation are vital even to reach the goals of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) commitments that each country made prior to the Paris conference.
Even if all the NDCs are implemented, the world is expected to warm by over 3°C.
Pathways and polices in Way Ahead:
The IPCC report identifies two main strategies.
- The first stabilises global temperature around the 5°C mark with limited overshoot and
- The second permits temperatures to exceed 1.5°C temporarily before coming back down. The consequences of the temporary overshoot would cause worse impacts than the first approach.
To limit warming to around 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot, global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissionsneed to decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero around mid-century.
To limit warming to the lower temperature goal, the world needs “rapid and far-reaching” changes in energy systems, land use, city and industrial design, transportation and building use.
Emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, also will have to drop. Switching away rapidly from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to do this could be three to four times more expensive than the less ambitious goal, but it would clean the air of other pollutants.
And that would have the side benefit of avoiding more than 100 million premature deaths through this century, the IPCC report mentioned this also.
In comparison, to limit warming to just below 2°C, the reductions needed are about 20% by 2030 and reach net zero around 2075.
The IPCC report stated that Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.
Disputes over the implementation of the Paris Agreement at numerous meetings depict the deep dividesamong rich countries, emerging economies and least developed countries.
For scientists there is a bit of “wishful thinking” that the report will spur governments and people to act quickly and strongly, one of the panel’s leaders, German biologist Hans-Otto Portner, said, “If action is not taken it will take the planet into an unprecedented climate future.”
This special report (IPCC report) poses options for the global community of nations, which they will have to contend with in Poland, the next Conference of the Parties.
Each will have to decide whether to play politics on a global scale for one’s own interests or to collaborate to protect the world and its ecosystems as a whole. The path forward offers no simple or easy solutions.