Current Affairs (21th July 2021)
Extreme weather events
- Even as countries are grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change remains one of the biggest threats. This year, people around the world have been doubly hit by the pandemic and extreme weather events which experts say have been fuelled by climate change.
- Extreme weather events have hit several parts of the world in the last few weeks: Europe and Asia have been ravaged by floods, North America by heat wave and Africa by drought.
- According to a new research by University of California, extreme precipitation has been increasing globally due to human-induced climate change.
- At least 40 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, Oceania, and Africa have been hit by the devastating extreme natural disasters such as floods, storms, heat wave, wildfires, and drought.
- There are growing scientific evidences attributing these to climate crisis aggravated by human actions. Such extreme weather events are likely to be more frequent and severe, cautioned World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
- The frequency and strength of such weather disasters around the world have raised fresh concerns regarding climate change, with scientists detecting a stronger link between global warming and changing weather patterns.
- While there can be many other reasons for intense weather events, the trajectory is clear — climate change remains the most significant contributing factor that is causing more powerful heat waves, droughts and bigger storm surges.
- The rise in average global temperature is linked with widespread changes in weather patterns. Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events like heat waves and extreme rainfall are likely to become more frequent or more intense with rising anthropogenic climate change.
- The other important point of concern remains that temperatures at the Earth’s poles are rising at two to three times the temperature at the equator.
Extreme rains, floods, and heat wave in Europe
- The floods due to extreme rain events in Western Europe — said to be the worst in a century — have claimed at least 188 human lives.
- Countries such as Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands had received up to two months’ rain in two days on 14-15 July, on ground that was “already near saturation”.
- In contrast, the Scandinavian countries in Northern Europe continued to bear the brunt of scorching heat waves. Finland has been experiencing unusually warm weather for almost a month when the temperature was over 25 degrees Celsius in most parts of the country.
- At least 25.1°C is defined as extreme heat in Finland. Several parts of south Finland are likely to be extremely hot this week too.
- Unusually high temperature in Russia attributed to man-made climate crisis have been said to be behind the widespread forest fires, according to a research released in May 2021.
- With over 216 active fires, Sakha-Yakutia region in northeastern Siberia has been the worst affected.
Floods in Asia triggered by extreme rainfall
- Floods have been reported across several Asian countries in China, India, and Indonesia. Heavy monsoon in Indian states of Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and cloudbursts in Uttarakhand resulted in flooding and landslides across these states.
- At least 33 people died due to floods caused by heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai. The city recorded 864.9 millimetre rain as of July 19. This is more than the average July rainfall of around 827 mm.
- At least 65 people were reported killed by lightning strikes and thunderstorms in northern states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Children lost a parent to Covid
- The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an estimated 1.5 million (15 lakh) children facing the loss of a parent or a caregiver (a grandparent or other older relative in their home), including over a million who lost one or both parents, according to a global study to be published in The Lancet.
- In India, an estimated 1.19 lakh children lost a primary caregiver — one or both parents, or one or both custodial grandparents. Among them, 1.16 lakh lost one or both parents.
The global numbers
- Globally, from March 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021, the study estimates that 11.34 lakh children lost a primary caregiver (at least one parent or custodial grandparent).
- Including other co-residing grandparents (or other older relatives), the total is 15.62 lakh children, of whom over 1 million (10.42 lakh) lost one or both parents.
- Up to five times more children lost their fathers than lost their mothers.
Children in India, elsewhere
- The estimates for India indicate an 8.5-fold increase in the numbers of children newly orphaned in April 2021 (43,139) compared to March (5,091).
- Mexico (1.41 lakh) and Brazil (1.30 lakh) have the highest number of children who have lost a primary caregiver, followed by India.
- The USA is another country where over a lakh children have lost a primary caregiver.
The way forward
- We need to vaccinate caregivers of children – especially grandparent caregivers. And we need to respond fast because every 12 seconds a child loses their caregiver to Covid-19.
- The hidden pandemic of orphanhood is a global emergency, and we can ill afford to wait until tomorrow to act. We urgently need to identify the children behind these numbers and strengthen monitoring systems, so that every child can be given the support they need to thrive.
- There is an urgent need to set up special task forces at state and district levels to look into various dimensions including the vulnerabilities these children may face, like psycho-social risks and developmental delays. There is no clear policy on these issues.
Monkey B Virus (BV)
- China has reported the first human infection case with Monkey B virus (BV) after a Beijing-based veterinarian was confirmed with the same a month after he dissected two dead monkeys in early March. Till date, only one case has been documented of an infected person spreading B virus to another person.
- The virus, initially isolated in 1932, is an alphaherpesvirus enzootic in macaques of the genus Macaca. B virus is the only identified old-world-monkey herpesvirus that displays severe pathogenicity in humans.
- The infection can be transmitted via direct contact and exchange of bodily secretions of monkeys and has a fatality rate of 70 per cent to 80 per cent.
- Macaque monkeys commonly have this virus, and it can be found in their saliva, feces (poop), urine (pee), or brain or spinal cord tissue. The virus may also be found in cells coming from an infected monkey in a lab.
- Humans can get infected if they are bitten or scratched by an infected monkey; get an infected monkey’s tissue or fluid on broken skin or in eyes, nose, or mouth; scratch or cut oneself on a contaminated cage or other sharp-edged surface or get exposed to the brain (especially), spinal cord, or skull of an infected monkey.
- Symptoms: The first indications of B virus infection are typically flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, muscle ache, fatigue and headache, following which an infection person may develop small blisters in the wound or area on the body that came in contact with the monkey.
- Currently, there are no vaccines that can protect against B virus infection.
Global Peace Index 2021
- The 15th edition of Global Peace Index 2021 has been released.
- The Global Peace Index is released by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), an international think tank.
- Aim: The index presents the most comprehensive analysis of trends in peace. It ranks countries according to their levels of peacefulness and identifies potential determinants of peace.
- Coverage: The index measures the peacefulness of 163 countries and territories. It covers 99.7% of the world’s population.
- Parameters: The index is composed of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources. These indicators are grouped into three key domains:ongoing conflict, safety and security andmilitarization.
- Iceland has topped the peace index. It was followed by New Zealand, Denmark, and Portugal.
- Out of the 10 most peaceful countries in the world, 8 are from Europe.
- Afghanistan is the least peaceful country in the world for the fourth consecutive year.
- Only three out of nine regions in the world improved in the peace index. The largest improvement took place in the Middle East and North Africa.
- The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2020 was $14.96 trillion in purchasing power parity(PPP) terms. It is equivalent to 11.6% of the world’s economic activity.
- There was an increase in military expenditure as a percentage of GDP for the second straight year. This indicator has deteriorated in 105 countries.
- Moreover, the average level of global peacefulness deteriorated by 0.07% in the Index. This is the ninth time in the last 13 years that global peacefulness has deteriorated.
India and its neighbours:
- India has been ranked 135th in the 2021 Global Peace Index.
- Bhutan and Nepal are the first and second most peaceful in the South Asia region. India is the 5th most peaceful country in this region.
- Bangladesh was 91st out of 163 countries across the world, while it was at 3rd place in South Asia.
- Pakistan witnessed the most improvement in peacefulness, with 150th rank globally and 6th in the South Asia region.