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1.Rising heat threats (Live Mint)

2.Climate change spirit at Bonn (Business standard)

3.Failing air quality (The Hindu)

1.Rising heat threats (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on how rising heat is impacting the productivity. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently, many flights out of Phoenix airport were cancelled. It was too hot for the planes to safely take off. Higher temperatures cause thinner air, making it harder for the aircraft to take off and stay aloft. Could a similar situation apply to human beings in the workplace?

Rising temperatures: a threat to workplace

  • A fundamental question stands as how long can people continue working safely as temperatures rise? And what about those who have little choice regarding the job they hold?
  • If current trends hold, it will become so hot that parts of West Asia will become inhospitable to human life by the end of the century. In the region’s hottest area northern India, southern Pakistan and Bangladesh where 1.5 billion people live, the vast majority of people make a living in jobs that involve heavy manual labour.
  • Agriculture alone represents one in three of the world’s workers, most of them in the tropics. And it’s not just West Asia that’s heating up. Heatwaves are occurring with alarming frequency, including in parts of the US, coastal Australia and the African Sahel.

Wide implications of heat?

  • Regardless of geographic region, manual labour is not only physically demanding but also often involves close proximity to heat. Even simple jobs like driving a bus or an auto rickshaw involve continuous exposure to a machine generating high temperatures. Industrial processes such as glass melting or working in brick kilns intensify the exposure to high heat.
  • Researchers have developed heat indices that measure how hot the body feels when relative humidity is factored in with the air temperature. These indices can be used to calculate when and for how long someone can work in the heat. For example, a heat index (used by the National Weather Service) indicates that 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 100% relative humidity is perceived by the body as 132 degrees Fahrenheit representing “extreme danger” and imminent heat stroke.
  • Working outdoors on construction sites, laying roads, or firing and transporting bricks can be especially gruelling. Construction workers in western India regularly toil in conditions far exceeding the recommended heat index in summer and winter, according to research.
  • At places, men, women and many times children, many of them undernourished already, work non-stop, carrying loads of newly formed bricks on their heads all day. Death from heatstroke is a distinct possibility. Yet many construction tasks must proceed in clockwork once the brick kiln is fired the work cannot stop. Cargo must be unloaded for the next barge to dock.
  • The numbers of workers facing deadly heat conditions is expected to grow. As the developing world urbanizes, the ranks of construction workers will increase as temperatures rise. A recent global construction forecast notes that India is expected to be the world’s fastest-growing construction market, driven by rapid population growth and urbanization, including a government commitment to connect 70,000 villages with roads.

Health threats

  • Heat also can cause chronic health problems and affect mental health. Psychologists have documented how high heat can compromise mental health by increasing irritability and impairing decision-making, for starters.
  • Among outdoor workers, chronic kidney disease is an emerging public health heat crisis that has been called the “silent massacre”. Affecting almost a quarter of the population of some countries, it has been documented in Latin America, Sri Lanka and India. Observed in men working long hours in extreme heat, the current hypothesis links the condition to heat stress.
  • Fertility reductions, too, have been documented from prolonged high temperature exposures.

Way ahead

  • Technology can offer some solutions to heat in the workplace—such as better insulating workers from the heat or scheduling hours for cooler times of the day. For instance, those who labour on farms could start working the fields in the early morning to avoid the afternoon heat. Given rapid advances in robotics and Artificial Intelligence, machines could also be increasingly be used for physically arduous jobs.
  • But such changes may be slow to come to developing countries, and bring with them the corresponding challenge of what to do with the displaced workers.
  • Climate change is here. Future extreme heat waves are a given and will likely grow in intensity, geographic reach and duration. Plans need to be made now to ensure survival of the poorest, to protect outdoor workers and to adapt economic planning to what is increasingly becoming a hotter planet.

Question–  How climate change is held responsible for rising heat that is spreading its economic implication?

 

2.Climate change spirit at Bonn (Business standard)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent developments taking place at Bonn. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The 23rd conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change under way in Bonnfaces the challenge of raising the ambition of the world’s leaders, and giving practical form to the provisions of the Paris Agreement.

The plan ahead

  • Although 169 countries have ratified the accord, and there is tremendous support for greener, low-risk pathways to growth worldwide, the Trump administration in the U.S., one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), hasannounced it will withdraw from the pact.
  • Even if it will take until 2020 to achieve an actual withdrawal, the U.S. action reverses the overall momentum achieved in Paris in 2015, and negates President Barack Obama’s legacy of regulations designed to reduce America’s GHG emissions, especially from the use of coal.
  • It is heartening that China, which has achieved rapid economic growth and leads in GHG emissions, is firmly behind the pactto reduce the risk of climate change.

Need of renewables

  • There is steady progress in the growth of renewable energy sources as they become cheaper and the efficiency of solar, wind and energy storage technologies improves. As UNFCCC Executive Secretary has said, the time is now to firm up the tasks set out in the agreement reached in Paris, notably on funds to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  • The Agreement has a benchmark of raising $100 billion a year by 2020.
  • Major risks from climate change, such as extreme weather phenomena, loss of agriculture, water stress and harm to human health, pose a threat to millions around the world. For some countries, such as Fiji, which holds the presidency of the Bonn conference, and other small island-states, the future is deeply worrying because of the fear that sea levels may rise sharply due to climate change.
  • The recent Emissions Gap Report from the UN underscores the terrible mismatch between the voluntary pledges made by countries for the Paris Agreement and what is necessary to keep a rise in global average temperature below 2º C, preferably 1.5º C. All major countries, especially those that have depleted the global carbon budget by releasing massive amounts of GHGs since the Industrial Revolution, have to respond with stronger caps in their updated pledges under the Paris Agreement.
  • India’s emissions have been rising overall, but it has committed itself to lowering the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from the 2005 level. By some estimates, India has been awarded among the highest levels of multilateral climate funding at $745 million since 2013.

Way ahead

  • Securing funds for mitigation and adaptation is a high priority for India, but it must ensure that States acquire the capacity to absorb such assistance efficiently.
  • While the emphasis on a giant renewable energy programme has won global acclaim, the focus is equally on India’s readiness to embrace green technologies across the spectrum of activity, including buildings and transport.

Question– What should be relevant strategy in the present context to be adopted to stop the temperature rise beyond 1.5 degrees ?

 

3.Failing air quality (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent air pollution that has grappled the entire north India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Delhi’s air quality deteriorates with unfailing regularityat this time of the year, with large swathes of north India in the grip of a suffocating smog, but the State governments that can make it easier for millions to breathe do not act with any sense of urgency.

Air pollution crisis

  • Air pollution has turned into a public health emergency in the capital, with the air quality index touching extremely hazardous levels in some parts, necessitating the closure of primary schools, has further lowered its standing.
  • It is unconscionable for governments, through indifference and inaction, to subject citizens to such toxic air, and cause extreme suffering especially among people with respiratory ailments and impaired lung function.

Reasons of pollution

  • The smog that envelops the region is exacerbated by the burning of biomass in Punjab and Haryana, and the winter atmosphere is marked by weak ventilation. An analysis of local sources by IIT-Kanpur last year pointed to construction dust, vehicular pollution, and domestic and industrial emissions as other major factors.
  • Clearly, the burden of such chronic problems has outweighed the benefits conferred by measures such as the ban on Deepavali crackers, and in the past, the shift to compressed natural gas for commercial vehicles and restricting car use to odd and even number plates on alternate days.
  • A comprehensive solution demands that the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, assisted by the Centre, address farm residue burning and construction dust.
  • The post-monsoon as opposed to pre-monsoon burning of rice and wheat residue releases maximum aerosols that contribute to the volume of PM2.5, which gets embedded in the lungs. Automation of farm operations leaves root-bound crop waste after machine harvesting, running to millions of tonnes, requiring a solution of scale.

Way ahead

  • Sustainable residue removal cannot be achieved by the farmers alone, and requires help from the state machinery.
  • The national capital needs a major greening effort. Unpaved surfaces raise dust levels as in all Indian cities, but civic agencies ignore the problem. There is every reason to think that even the Ministry of Environment’s orders issued in 2015 under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 to comprehensively green Delhi’s road margins and open spaces were not pursued seriously. Shifting more of the city’s travel to comfortable public transport can cut fine particulates in congested areas and improve the air for residents.
  • Many such initiatives were taken up by China in its cities to reduce exposure to PM2.5 that produces morbidity from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and leads to premature death. Only a determined response to the crisis can spare Delhi of its infamous tag as one of the most polluted cities on the planet.

Question– What strategy should be adopted by the centre and state govt. to fight with the rising air pollution?