Businesses step up bid to pull GHGs from the air. It’s a gamble.

Paper:

Mains: G.S. III Environment and Ecology

Context of the news?

Using technology to suck carbon dioxide out of the sky has long been dismissed as an impractical way to fight climate change.

Key details

  • It is physically possible but far too expensive to be of much use.
  • A surge of corporate money could soon transform carbon removal from science fiction to reality.
  • As the GHG emissions is on rise continuously, large companies face pressure to act on climate front.
  • So this idea of using technology to suck carbon dioxide by the help of technologies is gaining support from large companies.
  • A growing number of corporations are putting money into so called engineered carbon removal – for example using giant fans to pull carbon dioxide from the air and trap it.
  • Occidental Petroleum and United Airlines are investing in a large direct air capture plant in Texas that will use fans and chemical agents to scrub carbon dioxide from the sky and inject it underground.
  • Stripe and Shopify, two e-commerce companies, have each begun spending at least $1 million per year on start-ups working on carbon removal techniques.
  • The UN-backed IPCC has said nations may need to remove between 100 billion and 1 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to avert the worst effects of climate change.
  • As more companies pledge to zero down their emissions by 2050, some experts warn that they could hide behind the uncertain promise of removing carbon later to avoid cutting emissions deeply today.

India, China may take lead in Asia’s Covid vaccination plans

Paper:

Mains: G.S. II & III Social Justice and Economy

Why in news?

Moody’s Analytics said in a note that India and China will lead in driving Asia’s vaccination plans.

Key details

  • India and China are expected to take the lead in driving Asia’s vaccination plans efforts, even as third waves of infections and stringent measures to curb fresh COVID-19 cases in Japan, South Korea and some South-East Asian Nations remain a dampener for Asia’s uneven economic recovery.
  • India’s beginning of the vaccination programme is of ‘crucial development’ for Asia.
  • The firm said that the country’s advances on this front would soften the severity of the pandemic in Asia, especially as India is the second most-impacted country after the U.S.
  • As the largest producer of vaccines in the world, with 60% of the global share, India is well-positioned to use its existing manufacturing capabilities to contribute to mass vaccine production and distribution needs for other countries in addition to meeting its domestic requirements.
  • With exports of the COVID-19 vaccines expected to begin soon, India along with China look set to take the lead in driving the region’s distribution efforts in the months ahead.
  • Indonesia’s approval of China’s COVID-19 vaccine Sinovac for emergency use, the first country outside China to do so, could open the door for other Asian economies to follow suit.
  • However, mixed reports on the vaccine’s effectiveness have set back vaccination plans in countries considering its use.

may raise import duties by 5-10%

Paper:

Mains: G.S. III Issues related to the economy

Why in news?

Budget to increase import duty on dozens of items by 5 -10%, said report.

Key details

  • The government is considering a 5-10 percent hike in import duties on more than 50 items, including smartphones, electronic devices and devices, in the upcoming budget, with three government sources privy to the discussions, Reuters reported.
  • The move to raise import duties is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s self-reliant India campaign, which aims to promote and support domestic manufacturing.
  • The government wanted to target an additional revenue of around Rs 20,000-21,000 crore from the moves, as it has led to a rise in revenue amid an epidemic-driven recession affecting the economy.
  • The duty hike could affect furniture and electric vehicles, possibly hurting the likes of Swedish furniture makers IKEA and Tesla, which plans to launch their cars in India this year. Both IKEA and Tesla executives have already expressed concern about the already steep duty structure of their products in India.
  • The list of items is likely to attract styler duties, including appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners.
  • The government has taken several such steps in recent years which industry officials say discriminate against foreign companies. Government officials say such taxes are necessary to promote India as a destination for local manufacturing and to support domestic businesses.

New monsoon forecast models on the anvil

Paper:

Mains: G.S. I Geography of India

Why in news?

The Indian Meteorological Department may introduce new monsoon models this year to better forecast changes in rainfall.

Key details

  • Discussions took place on the accuracy of the existing models, emerging weather models and their strengths and weaknesses in capturing the vagaries of the monsoon and the extent to which they were effective, over varying time-scales, in forecasting heavy rain or an extended dry patch.
  • The monsoon that concluded in 2020 was unique, in that with monsoon 2019, it was only the third time in a century that India saw back-to-back years of above normal rainfall.
  • In both years — and monsoon 2019 was a 25-year high — the IMD failed to forecast the magnitude of the excess and only indicated that monsoon would be “above normal”.
  • There are three different models that could be tested this year. Two of them were dynamical models and one a statistical model.
  • In the former, the climate on any particular day is simulated on supercomputers and meteorologists observe the changing daily output — much like a computer simulation of an event is allowed to unfold over time. The other is the traditional statistical model that equates relationships of physical parameters, such as for instance sea surface temperatures, snowfall, the temperature of landmass etc with the actual observed rainfall in the past.
  • The trend in meteorology is towards dynamical models and though India uses several of them, the official forecasts rely on the outputs of statistical models.
  • Their chief limitation is that they don’t account for changes in weather, once the monsoon has commenced, that might influence its future performance.

S. China spar over the origins of novel coronavirus

Paper:

Mains: G.S. II International Relations

Why in news?

Beijing slams US after it pointed a finger at Wuhan lab.

Key details

  • In recent weeks, Washington and Beijing have clashed over trade issues, the sanctioning of Chinese companies, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
  • S. and China now sparred over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the latest in a growing list of tensions that have left relations strained as President Donald Trump leaves office.
  • The latest spat followed the U.S. State Department releasing a “fact-sheet” linking the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, which brought another sharp response from Beijing.
  • The fact-sheet said while the U.S. does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus — known as SARS-CoV-2 — was transmitted initially to humans, it had “not determined whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.”
  • Chinese Communist Party’s deadly obsession with secrecy and control comes at the expense of public health in China and around the world.
  • The U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.
  • China’s Foreign Ministry reacted sharply to the claim, with spokesperson Hua Chunying on Monday calling Mr. Pompeo “Mr. Liar”.
  • This is also the final madness staged by Pompeo, this Mr. Liar, Ms. Hua said.