Current Affairs for IAS Exams – 23 September 2013

Current Affairs for IAS Exams – 23 September 2013

‘Heads of regulatory bodies should be accountable to Parliament’

  • To make top appointments transparent, the Damodaran Committee has
    recommended that heads of regulatory bodies and their board-level members be
    made accountable to Parliament.
  • This is the first time a committee has talked about making regulatory
    bodies accountable to Parliament.
  • The committee, headed by the former SEBI Chairman, M. Damodaran, was set
    up after a World Bank report ranked India 132nd on the ease of doing
    business in 2012, well below the other countries of BRICS and the South
    Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).
  • The report says India’s regulatory architecture is getting increasingly
    complex with the establishment of new bodies, which, however, are
    inadequately empowered and insufficiently manned. “
  • The committee is of the strong view that before setting up a new
    regulatory organisation, adequate thought should go into the need for such
    an organisation and the ability to man it appropriately and vest it with
    functional autonomy.
  • The regulatory bodies should undertake a self-evaluation once in three
    years and put the outcome in the public domain for informed debate and
  • Referring to the contentious issue of appointment, the committee says
    heads of regulatory bodies should be appointed in a more transparent manner
    than is the case now.
  • The practice of inviting applications from interested candidates and
    subjecting them to interviews by a panel of persons familiar with the
    organisation is the surest way to cause loss of public confidence not only
    in the process but also in the organisation.
  • “The entire process should be transparent and should replicate the
    process followed in some developed countries where the suitability of a
    candidate is the subject of informed public discussions before appointment.
  • To appoint an applicant or a supplicant to head a regulatory
    organisation is to ensure the suboptimal performance of the organisation and
    its resultant loss of credibility.”
  • The committee consisted of ITC Group Chairman Y.C. Deveshwar, ICICI Bank
    non-executive chairman K.V. Kamath, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar
    Mangalam Birla, and Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra.

Dangers of chilling on climate change

  • The forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary
    for Policymakers, it has been reported, states that the rate of global
    warming has slowed over the last 15 years.
  • It also argues that estimates of eventual warming from a doubling of
    carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are lower than was earlier thought.
  • Taken individually, each of these assertions is a partial narration of
    ongoing climate processes. Read together, they carry the danger of fostering
    complacency, both about the current rate of global warming and the urgency
    in avoiding dangerous levels of warming.

Three theories

  • There have been at least three theories in recent climate science
    literature seeking to explain the slowdown, or “hiatus,” in global warming.
  • Global warming is measured by taking an average of near-surface air
    temperatures all over the globe throughout the year, but this does not
    account for the heat trapped by greenhouse gases that is transported into
    the deeper oceans.
  • Warming of the ocean waters below 700 metres has been exceptional in
    recent years. A study in Geophysical Research Letters says that “depths
    below 700 metres have become much more strongly involved in the heat uptake
    after 1998, and subsequently account for 30% of the ocean warming,”
    precisely the period in which surface warming has slowed down.
  • But despite being transported into the deeper oceans, much of this heat
    energy will show up as warming sooner or later.


  • another proposition is that a prolonged La Niña-like cooling in the
    tropical Pacific has lessened the impact of greenhouse gases by 0.15°
    Celsius globally in the recent decade.
  • It is a natural variability and, if this is the cause, the slowdown will
    be temporary, as a recent paper argues (Yu Kosaka and Shang-Ping Xie,
    ‘Recent Global Warming Hiatus Tied to Equatorial Pacific Surface Cooling’,
    Nature , doi: 10.1038/nature12534).
  • A third theory is that near-surface warming is being masked by an
    increased generation of aerosols, caused by greater manufacturing occurring
    in China in this period and, to a lesser degree, India.
  • This particulate pollution is harmful to human health but
    has a cooling effect in climate terms. In the decades after World War II as
    well, aerosols from dirty manufacturing processes — then in the developed
    world — slowed surface warming despite one of the most rapid rates in carbon
    dioxide emissions growth. Unlike CO{-2}though, aerosols have a lifespan of a
    few days; clean up your industrial act, and their cooling effect promptly

  • These varied explanations help form a more complete picture of ongoing
    climate processes.
  • One assumes that this more complex picture would be presented, if not in
    the AR5 Summary for Policymakers, then in the Technical Summary, which in
    IPCC’s AR4 2007 was over four times as long as the former.
  • It would be premature to rush to a definite opinion before seeing what
    these documents say, and hearing independent scientific opinion on them. The
    half has not been told us.
  • The second major revelation is that the lower end of eventual warming
    from a doubling of carbon dioxide levels has been reduced from 2°C in the
    IPCC’s 2007 AR4 report, to 1.5°C.
  • Some have argued, though, that most such estimates do not include slow
    feedbacks. Feedbacks, in the climate context, are ecosystem responses to
    global warming that usually cause further warming.

Melting in the Arctic

  • What is really worrying is the complacency that these two points — that
    warming is slowing and CO{-2}is less potent — read together may engender.
  • As it is, sections of the Indian political class are not exactly known
    for their alacrity in responding to crises faced by the poor.
  • Making them respond with greater urgency becomes all the more difficult
    if complacency about global warming spreads among political organisations
    and members of the public at large

Wasted food a matter of concern

  • That one-third of the food produced annually for human
    consumption is wasted is in itself unconscionable in a world where 870
    million, or one in eight people, go hungry every day.

  • A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation report now says that
    this high volume of wastage that occurs right through the food supply chain
    exerts an adverse impact on land, water, biodiversity and climate change.
  • This impact is in addition to the green house gas emissions that are
    known to result from current patterns of food production, processing,
    marketing and consumption associated with global commercial flows.
  • The report focuses on factors that contribute to the decrease in mass
    and nutritional value of food caused by poor infrastructure, logistics and
  • It also sheds light on multiple costs from food wastage that result from
    natural disasters, excessive supply, distributional bottlenecks and eating
    habits of consumers.
  • In Asia, the already high carbon footprint from the cultivation of
    cereals is compounded by huge volumes of wastage owing to inadequate storage
  • The carbon footprint of wasted meat in high income regions is to the
    extent of 67 per cent. Not to mention losses from perishables such as fruit
    and vegetables.
  • Cumulatively, food ranks as the third emitter after the United States
    and China.
  • Moreover, food that is produced, but not eaten, occupies close to 30 per
    cent of the world’s agricultural land, says the report.
  • Such an extremely unproductive use of land is hard even to contemplate
    given the current scramble for fertile and wet lands in Africa and parts of
    Asia. Multinational corporations that have resorted to such means to shore
    up food grain supplies in the aftermath of the global food crisis have
    encountered hostile resistance from native populations.
  • Clearly, the judicious use of available food ought to be a critical
    global priority.
  • This is especially the case since studies have estimated that
    agricultural output would have to increase by 60 per cent by 2050 to cope
    with the demands of a growing population.
  • The world is still reeling under the combined impact of
    the recent rise in food grain prices, commodity speculation and the havoc
    from freak weather patterns. Rich nations must endeavour to mitigate further
    economic and environmental cost through aggressive deployment of scientific
    know-how and technology transfers to poor countries. Under-nourishment and
    hunger remain the biggest risks to health today, greater than malaria,
    HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis combined. As with these diseases, they too can be
    tackled with the requisite means and, above all, political will. The time is

Road to efficiency

  • Producing cars and other light duty vehicles with higher fuel efficiency
    in a major market such as India is an imperative that cannot be delayed.
  • The sharp growth in demand for petrol and diesel, and the rising burden
    of oil imports make that a priority.
  • Countries with major manufacturing capacities are working to achieve
    higher average efficiency in their vehicles, with the twin goals of
    conserving fuel and reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse
  • Last year, the U.S. administration presented new average efficiency
    standards for vehicles that will be sold in 2025, of 54.5 miles per gallon
    of petrol.
  • That metric would nearly double the efficiency of new vehicles compared
    to those currently being sold.
  • The European Union also has a target of 4.1 litres of petrol and 3.6
    litres of diesel per 100 km for 2020. China has been following a policy of
    mandated performance levels for each vehicle coming under specific weight
  • India cannot afford to delay its own programme on the wrong premise that
    it will affect the growth of the automotive industry.
  • If anything, vehicle manufacturers should welcome the Power Ministry’s
    notification on fuel efficiency norms and its 2017 deadline — already pushed
    back from 2015 — for compliance, as it enables long-term planning.
  • China moved to implement new vehicle efficiency standards from 2005 to
    conserve oil and, in parallel, to encourage the industry to bring in better
  • As the Global Fuel Economy Initiative of the U.N. Environment Programme
    points out, a major manufacturing country can afford to set clear standards
    in advance to facilitate suitable long term investments by industry.
  • Globalisation should make it possible for industry to shift better
    technologies to market quickly and ensure compliance with higher standards
    even by 2015.

Sources: Various News Papers & PIB

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