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8th September 2022

China’s solar-powered, semi-satellite drone

Context

China’s first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle has successfully completed its maiden test flight with all on-board systems functioning optimally.

About

About the new machine

  • The drone is a large machine powered entirely by solar panels.
  • It has a wingspan of 164-ft.
  • The high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV can stay airborne for long durations.
  • It is named as the Qimingxing-50, or Morning Star-5.
  • This drone flies above 20-km altitude where there is stable airflow with no clouds.
  • This helps these drones to make the maximum use of solar equipment to stay functional for extended durations.
  • In fact, the drone’s chief designer told South China Morning Post that it can operate without a break for months, even years.

  • It is capable of carrying out satellite-like functions.
  • If satellite services are not available for, say, time-sensitive operations or in case of wartime disruption, then near-space UAVs can step in to fill the operational gap.
  • These drones are also referred to as ‘High Altitude Platform Stations’ or pseudo-satellites.
  • China already has this capacity, but the Qimingxing-50’s long-endurance provides an added advantage to make this capability available over a longer period.

Do You Know?

In July 2022, the US Army helped test a solar-powered, near-space Airbus Zephyr S drone that set a new record by being airborne for 42 days.

Climate Reparation

Context

Facing the worst flooding disaster in its history, Pakistan has begun demanding reparations, or compensation, from the rich countries that are mainly responsible for causing climate change.

About
  • The current floods in Pakistan have already claimed over 1,300 lives, and caused economic damage worth billions of dollars.
  • Pakistan’s demand for reparations appears to be a long shot, but the principles being invoked are fairly well-established in environmental jurisprudence.
  • In fact, Pakistan is not alone in making this demand.
  • Almost the entire developing world, particularly the small island states, has for years been insisting on setting up an international mechanism for financial compensation for loss and damage caused by climate disasters.

About Climate reparations:

  • Climate reparations refer to a call for money to be paid by the Global North to the Global South as a means of addressing the historical contributions that the Global North has made (and continues to make) toward climate change.
  • It is important that the Global North own up to that responsibility of paying what they are due to the Global South.
  • Climate reparations are also about the need for acknowledgment and accountability for the loss of land and culture—and how that has affected us in the Global South—as a result of climate change.

Who is Responsible for Climate Change?

  • In the climate change framework, the burden of responsibility falls on those rich countries that have contributed most of the greenhouse gas emissions since 1850, generally considered to be the beginning of the industrial age.
  • The United States and the European Union, including the UK, account for over 50% of all emissions during this time.
  • If Russia, Canada, Japan, and Australia too are included, the combined contribution goes past 65%, or almost two-thirds of all emissions.
  • Historical responsibility is important because carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and it is the cumulative accumulation of carbon dioxide that causes global warming.
  • A country like India, currently the third largest emitter, accounts for only 3% of historical emissions.
  • China, which is the world’s biggest emitter for over 15 years now, has contributed about 11% to total emissions since 1850.

Need of climate reparations:

  • While the impact of climate change is global, it is much more severe on the poorer nations because of their geographical locations and weaker capacity to cope.
  • Countries that have had negligible contributions to historical emissions and have severe limitations of resources are the ones that face the most devastating impacts of climate change.

Ransomware Exercise

Context

India’s National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and the UK Government in collaboration with BAE Systems successfully designed and conducted the Cyber Security Exercise for 26 Countries.

About
  • The exercise has been conducted as part of the International Counter Ransomware Initiative- Resilience Working Group which is being led by India under the leadership of National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC).
  • The exercise has been facilitated by BAE Systems (a British multinational arms, security, and aerospace company) through the Immersive Labs platform.
  • The scenario has been written specifically for the participants based on Threat Intelligence and operational experiences.
  • The theme of the exercise is based on Energy Sector in which the respective National Cyber Crisis Management Teams of the CRI Partner Nations will have to deal with a ransomware attack on multiple electricity distribution companies.
  • The aim to organise this virtual Cyber Exercise on Ransomware Resilience is to simulate a large, wide-spread cyber security incident affecting organisations within a country.

Ransomware attack

  • A ransomware attack is a cyber-attack using malware that encrypts the victim’s files and requires users pay a ransom to decrypt the files.
  • Hackers also added the element of downloading all the data on an enterprise network before encrypting it.
  • The hackers can then threaten to leak the data if the ransom is not paid.

Other terms related to it

  • Virus: Viruses attach themselves to clean files and infect other clean files. They can spread uncontrollably, damaging a system’s core functionality and deleting or corrupting files.
  • Trojans: This kind of malware disguises itself as legitimate software, or is included in legitimate software that has been tampered with. It tends to act discretely and create backdoors in your security to let other malware in.
  • Spyware: It hides in the background and takes notes on what you do online, including your passwords, credit card numbers, surfing habits and more.
  • Worms: Worms infect entire networks of devices, either local or across the internet, by using network interfaces. It uses each consecutive infected machine to infect more.
  • Ransomware: Also called scareware, this kind of malware can lock down computer and threaten to erase everything — unless a ransom is paid to its owner.
  • Adware: Though not always malicious in nature, particularly aggressive advertising software can undermine security just to serve ads — which can give a lot of other malware a way in.
  • Botnets: Botnets are networks of infected computers that are made to work together under the control of an attacker.

Environment-driven taxes

Context

The question of designing and imposing environmental taxes with specific objectives remains challenging due to the complexities involved.

  • Recently, there has been growing awareness of the imposition of environmental taxes, and a very large basket has already been designed in different countries.
About

Ecotax

  • An ecotax is a tax whose tax base is defined so as to internalise the negative externality generated either from the production/consumption/extraction behavior in an economy.
  • The basis of such taxes is aimed at capturing elements of externalities.
    • Such taxes are intended to discourage the overuse of natural resources that damage the ecology.
  • Countries like China also impose various taxes like "ecotax" on land use (1984), vehicles (2001), consumption of ecologically harmful products (1994), farmland occupation tax (1987), and pollution levy system (1982).
  • According to the OECD (2006), there are about 375 environmentally related taxes in the OECD countries.
    • The evolution of these taxes has shown that most revenue comes from energy, motor vehicle and transport taxes.

Fiscal instruments to support ecological issues

Carbon taxes are the most contentious fiscal instruments widely discussed which serve the dual purpose of acting as deterrent and raising resources from activities that impact sustainable economic development.

Some of the other taxes in this area which have also been explored globally are:

  • Taxes on plastic bags in Ireland were introduced in 2002. The use of plastic bags in the litter was reduced from 5% to 0.13% in 2015.
  • Deposit refund packaging scheme in Finland was first introduced in 1950, where a refund was provided on the deposit of used beverage packaging. Similar schemes are also in place in the UK and the USA.
  • Landfill tax in the UK was introduced in 1996 to reduce the amount of waste sent for landfilling and boost waste recycling.
  • Tax on nitrogen emissions in Sweden was introduced in 1992 to discourage activities with nitrogen emissions.
    • This resulted in a reduction in nitrogen emissions by 30-40%.
  • Fishing license in Ireland was introduced in 2007, primarily due to declining stocks of salmon and overfishing in the area.
    • License fees were doubled, resulting in the stabilisation of salmon stock, generated revenues with a significant impact on the river banks and restoration of riparian zones.

Ecotax in India:

Some examples of "ecotax" in India at a regional level are

  • Clean energy tax by the Government of India introduced in 2010, imposed on coal, peat and lignite
  • Gujarat Green Cess imposed on electricity, presently stayed by the courts.
  • Vehicle entry tax introduced in Himachal Pradesh in 2004
  • Tax on old vehicles introduced by 6 States in India for discouraging old vehicles which impact ecological balance.
  • Cess on non-biodegradable substances, introduced by Sikkim State in 2005
  • Goa Green Cess imposed by Goa in 2013.

International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies

Context

Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change organized 3rd International Day of Clean Air for blue skies as ‘Swachh Vayu Diwas (“Swachh Vayu Neel Gagan”)’ to raise awareness and facilitate actions to improve air quality under National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

About

International Day of Clean Air for blue skies:

  • In 2019, UN General Assembly decided to designate 7 September as the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, to be observed starting in 2020.
  • The resolution also prompted the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote the day’s observance in collaboration with other appropriate stakeholders.
  • The 2022 theme of “The Air We Share” focuses on the transboundary nature of air pollution, stressing the need for collective accountability and action.
  • It also highlights the need for immediate and strategic international and regional cooperation for more efficient implementation of mitigation policies and actions to tackle air pollution.

India:

  • National Clean Air Programme aims at improving air quality by reducing Particulate Matter concentrations by 20-30% in 131 cities in the country.
  • It includes 123 Non-Attainment Cities (NAC) which exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for 5 consecutive years and 42 Million Plus Population Cities/Urban Agglomerations. 34 cities are common in both categories.
  • During the event on Swachh Vayu Diwas, MoEFCC has released the following:
    • Guidelines on Capacity Building and Outreach programmes to be conducted at National, State and City level, help in mobilising stakeholders at all levels to promote actions to improve air quality.
    • Guidelines for release and utilization of funds under NCAP;
    • XV Finance Commission Operational guidelines for implementation of recommendations for air quality component
    • Best Practices and success stories of 8 cities under NCAP:
      1. Srinagar (All Hands on Board),
      2. Varanasi (Nothing goes to waste),
      3. Bengaluru (Clean Road, Clean City),
      4. Pune (The Right Drive),
      5. Hyderabad (The Green Way),
      6. Akola (Water Woes),
      7. Thootukudi (Treasure from Trash) and
      8. Lucknow (Under Control)

Physicist Eugene Parker

Context

Eugene Parker, a physicist who theorized the existence of solar wind and became the first person to witness the launch of a spacecraft bearing his name, has died early this year.

About

About Physicist Eugene Parker:

  • He is hailed as a visionary in his field of heliophysics, focused on the study of the sun and other stars.
  • He is best known for his 1958 theory of the existence of solar wind — a supersonic flow of particles off the sun's surface.
  • He was vindicated in 1962 when a NASA spacecraft mission to Venus (NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft) confirmed his theory and solar wind's effect on the solar system, including occasional disruptions of communications systems on Earth.
  • NASA honoured Mr. Parker's scientific contributions in 2018 by naming a spacecraft after him that was destined to travel straight into the sun's crown.
  • Thus, he became the first person to witness the launch of a spacecraft bearing his name, NASA's Parker Solar Probe.

About Solar wind:

  • The surface of the sun is blisteringly hot at 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit—but its atmosphere, called the corona, is more than a thousand times hotter.
  • The corona is so hot that the sun’s gravity can’t hold it, so particles are flung off into space and travel throughout the solar system in every direction.
  • As the sun spins, burns and burps, it creates complex swirls and eddies of particles.
  • These particles, mostly protons and electrons, are traveling about a million miles per hour as they pass Earth.
  • This flow of particles, called the “solar wind”.


Effects of solar wind – Aurora

  • An aurora is a natural light display in the sky, predominantly seen in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions. (This is due to magnetic field lines of earth and solar wind)
  • Auroras are caused by charged particles, mainly electrons and protons, entering the atmosphere from above causing ionisation and excitation of atmospheric constituents, and consequent optical emissions.

Impact on Earth:

Solar wind has an enormous impact on our lives.

  • The solar wind magnetically blankets the solar system, protecting life on Earth from even higher-energy particles coming from elsewhere in the galaxy.
  • But the effects of storms on the sun’s surface can also affect our telecommunications networks.
  • The wind would also pose a threat to astronauts traveling through space.

Bhupen Hazarika

Context

Google recently paid tribute to Assamese playback singer Dr Bhupen Hazarika with a doodle on his 96th birth anniversary.

About

Bhupen Hazarika:

  • He was born in Assam’s Tinsukia district on September 8, 1926 and died at 85 in Mumbai.
  • He was also a poet, music composer, actor, journalist, author and film-maker.
  • He is also remembered as the ‘Bard of Brahmaputra’.
  • Hazarika was also one of northeast India’s leading socio-cultural reformers, whose creations and compositions are known to have united people from all walks of life.
  • Hazarika, while studying at Columbia University, was greatly influenced by Paul Robeson who was a civil rights activist, following which he composed the famous songs ‘Bistirno Parore’ and ‘Ganga Behti Ho Kyun’ based on the imagery and theme of Robeson’s ‘Ol Man River’.
  • His songs narrated people’s stories about happiness and grief, of unity and courage, romance and loneliness, and even strife and determination.
  • He even served as chairman and director of numerous boards and associations, including India’s National Film Development Corporation.
  • Hazarika made several award-winning films like ‘Shakuntala Sur’ and ‘Pratidhwani’.
  • In 1993, he won the ‘Best Music Director National Award’ for Rudaali, which features the famous song ‘Dil Hoom Hoom Kare’.

Awards won:

  • The legendary artist won several prestigious awards like the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, for his outstanding contribution to music and culture.
  • He was honoured posthumously with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in

Editorial

Have Room, Must Spend

Context:

Prevailing circumstance has brightened the outlook for capital expenditures by state governments.

Positive Developments:

  • Union government has stepped up tax devolution during July-August.
  • The interest-free Capex loan scheme for states has seen a sharp pickup in off-take in July.
  • The norms for the adjustment of off-budget borrowings for the current fiscal have been eased.

What can be expected?

  • The Centre has stepped up the amount of tax devolution to states. But that’s not enough, tax devolution will need to be as high as Rs 9.3 lakh crore this year, overshooting the budget estimates by more than Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • Therefore, the amount left to be disbursed to the states in the remainder of the year is quite substantial.
  • Stepping up interest-free loans to states: This amount will be given to the states as a loan.
  • More time to plan and execute capital projects: The Centre must consider sharing with states the likely amount of devolution before the start of each quarter in order to enable states to plan their capital spending, given the lead time required to plan and execute capital projects.
  • More Accurate Market Assessment: It may also result in more accurate assessments of their quarterly market borrowings.
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ThinkQ

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QUIZ - 8th September 2022

Mains Question:

Q1. “Development in a sustainable environment is a desirable objective but entails discipline and dynamic real-time responses to emerging technological, social and economic challenges”. Analyze the impact of unsustainable growth in India, citing specific examples. (150 words)

Approach 

  • Introduction- brief about Economic growth vs. sustainable development
  • Discuss important issues related to environment
    • carbon emissions in the atmosphere
    • concerns of soil erosion and deforestation
    • water management including rising sea levels
    • mining and conservation of natural resources
    • use of ecologically harmful products like plastics or chemicals in food
    • cryptocurrency mining
  • Give recent examples
    • Floods in Bangalore
  • Required measures 
  • Conclude accordingly 

Verifying, please be patient.

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