Why is it in the news?
- The United Nations University — Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) recently presented a comprehensive report titled “Interconnected Disaster Risks Report 2023.”
- This pivotal document emphasizes the world’s vulnerability to several impending global tipping points, thereby accentuating the consequences of intertwined global systems and the disasters they can potentiate.
Key Findings of the Report
Disasters and Human Actions:
- The report doesn’t just list disasters; it elaborates on how they are interconnected with human actions. For instance, deforestation might lead to landslides after heavy rainfall.
Risk Tipping Points:
- These are critical junctures when our socio-ecological systems become too overwhelmed to absorb or buffer risks, thus escalating the possibility of widespread catastrophic results.
Approaching Environmental Tipping Points:
- Groundwater, stored in aquifers, sustains over 2 billion people worldwide. A staggering 70% of this resource irrigates our crops.
- In areas like Saudi Arabia, excessive extraction has drained over 80% of its aquifers, compelling them to depend on imported crops for sustenance.
- Similarly, in India’s Punjab, 78% of the wells face overexploitation, predicting a dire situation by 2025 with alarmingly reduced groundwater levels.
Melting Mountain Glaciers:
- The data is concerning as glaciers have shed 267 gigatons of ice every year from 2000-2019. This trajectory suggests that even under moderate global warming scenarios, by 2100, we stand to lose half of the existing glaciers.
- This trend spells disaster for the regions of Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and the Himalayas, as over 870 million people rely on these glaciers for their water needs.
Unbearable Heat (Wet-Bulb Temperature):
- The report identifies a crucial tipping point related to heat and humidity, termed as the “wet-bulb temperature.” When this metric exceeds 35°C for prolonged periods, humans face the risks of serious health repercussions, including potential organ failure.
- In India, the 2023 heatwave witnessed wet-bulb temperatures nearing this threshold at 34°C.
Accelerating Species Extinctions:
- Human activities have expedited species extinction rates, which are now multiple times higher than natural background rates. The cascading effect of one species’ extinction can trigger a domino effect, destabilizing ecosystems.
- The past century alone has seen the demise of over 400 vertebrate species. Alarmingly, a million more species teeter on the brink of extinction.
- The increasing commercial and scientific activities in space have cluttered Earth’s orbit. Of the 34,260 objects in space, a mere 25% are functional satellites. The remainder constitutes potential hazards, including defunct satellites and rocket fragments.
- These debris pose collision threats to operational satellites, jeopardizing global communication, navigation, and scientific operations.
- The financial implications of worsening weather patterns have become evident since the 1970s. In 2022 alone, severe weather led to damages amounting to USD 313 billion.
- The escalating risks have prompted insurance firms to hike their premiums, marking an increase of up to 57% since 2015. Such trends suggest that regions, like parts of Australia, might face insurance unavailability due to high-risk categorizations.
Major Drivers of Increasing Disaster Risks:
- Rapid Urbanization: Urban sprawls often lack adequate infrastructure and planning, making them more susceptible to disasters.
- Insufficient Infrastructure: Poorly designed and maintained infrastructure, like bridges and roads, can result in colossal monetary and human losses during disasters.
- Environmental Degradation: Activities such as pollution, deforestation, and soil erosion degrade natural ecosystems, making them less resilient to disasters.
- Inadequate Land Use Planning: Settlements in high-risk areas, like floodplains or wildfire-prone zones, heighten disaster susceptibility.
- Issues with Water Management: Poor water management exacerbates flooding, droughts, and shortages.
- Global Interconnectedness: A calamity in one part of the world can ripple across, thanks to our global interdependence, magnifying economic and social repercussions.
Recommendations to Mitigate Disaster Risk:
The report proposes a four-category framework:
- Avoid Delay: Implement immediate measures using existing techniques to prevent disasters. E.g., strict building codes.
- Avoid Transform: Introduce foundational changes to prevent disasters. E.g., shifting to renewable energy to counter climate change risks.
- Adapt Delay: Implement measures to buy time during impending disasters. E.g., early warning systems.
- Adapt Transform: Overhaul traditional methods to prepare for the future. E.g., restoring coastal ecosystems to buffer against sea-level rise.
- The report underscores the urgency for proactive interventions, transformative actions, and international collaboration.
- These are imperative for averting or mitigating the potential impacts of identified risk tipping points, ensuring a sustainable future for all.
· Operating as the United Nations’ academic wing, the UNU-EHS, founded in 2003, dedicates its efforts to studying risks and adaptive strategies related to environmental challenges and global changes.
Facts in News
1) 25 by 25 Target
Why is it in the news?
- According to an analysis by Indian Council of Medical Research, India will likely miss reaching the 25 by 25 target.
More about the news
- It was set by World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations in 2013.
- Its goal is to achieve a 25% reduction in premature mortality from four major Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) by 2025 (compared to 2010 levels).
Four Major NCDs Targeted
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
- Chronic Respiratory Diseases (CRD)
Current Status (based on ICMR analysis)
- Expected reduction in premature mortality for these NCDs in India: 13.9% from 2010 to 2025 (instead of the targeted 25%).
2) Reference Fuels
Why is it in the news?
- Recently, the Indian Oil Corporation Limited introduced India’s first gasoline and diesel Reference Fuel (RF).
- India used to import reference fuels.
More about Reference Fuels
- These are premium and high-value products.
- Used for calibration and testing of vehicles.
- Employed by Auto Original Equipment Manufacturers and organizations in automotive testing and certification.
- RF requirements are stricter than commercial gasoline and diesel.
Advantages of Indigenous RF
- Meets Automotive Industry Standard specifications.
- Offered at a competitive price.
- Reduced lead time for availability.
3) Vajra Mushti Kalaga
- A distinct form of wrestling that deviates from traditional grappling techniques.
- Fighters are known as “jettys.”
- Wrestler’s use “Vajramushti,” which are knuckle-dusters embellished with diamonds.
- The first to draw blood from the opponent’s head is proclaimed the winner.
- Celebrated on the ninth day of Navaratri at the Mysuru Palace in Mysore, Karnataka.
- First cited in “Manasollasa,” a warfare manual from the reign of King Someshwara III of the Chalukya dynasty (1124–1138).
- The Portuguese traveller, Fernano Nuniz, documented witnessing this unique wrestling form during his visit to the Vijayanagar empire.