Author Archives: FNM Team

How Many Glaciers are there in the World?

We keep on getting news that glaciers are melting because of the global warming and this will contribute to the sea level rise significantly. This sort of information naturally makes us curious about glaciers. We want to know how many glaciers are there in the world and where are they located? Are they any different from ice sheets and from where to get the most authentic information about them. The post tries to provide information about these queries.

Most of the ice in the world is present in the form of ice sheets, ice caps and glaciers. The combined area of these ice shapes is known as total glaciated area.

Most glacial ice sheets are present in Antarctica and Greenland.  More than 90% ice in the earth is present as ice sheets of Antarctica. Ice sheets are dome-shaped and are greater than 50,000 square kilometres.

However, glaciers are not confined in any particular area and are present all across the planet, in all the continents. A glacier is a mass of ice that originates on land, usually having an area larger than one tenth of a square kilometre.

The information in this post focuses on glaciers and excludes ice sheets and ice caps. Glaciers cover 0.5% of the Earth’s land surface.

How many glaciers are there in the world?

The most authentic document that tells us about the glacier distribution across the earth is Randolph Glacier Inventory. It is the first collection of digital outlines of glaciers situated across the globe. These digital outlines of the glaciers have been created with the help of satellite imagery dating from 1999-2010.

The Randolph Glacier Inventory was developed to help Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists improve estimates of sea level rise. This inventory excludes ice sheets and account only for 1.4% of the World’s Total Glaciated area.

As per the Randolph Glacier Inventory there are total 198,000 glaciers in the world.  This is based on the calculations done using a minimum area threshold of 0.1 km2. This means that anything smaller than this was not taken into account to avoid difficulties to distinguish between glaciers and snowpacks. Together, these glaciers cover 726,000 km2.

In addition, there are many small glacierets. Glacierets are very small glaciers or ice masses. If these are included in the list of glaciers their total number goes as high as 400,000.

Where are the glaciers located?

It is the arctic region where maximum glaciers are located. Out of the total glacier covered area of the earth, approximately 44% is present in the arctic region.

How many glaciers are there in the world, Glaciers of the world

Approximate worldwide area covered by glaciers

The Antarctic and Subantarctic region that contain more than 90% of the total ice of the world. However, most of the ice in this part is present as ice sheets. Out of total area in the earth covered with glaciers, 18% is present in this region.

Glacier elevations

Glaciers are present all over the world but at different elevations. The majority of the World’s glaciers are situated in the mid elevation ranges of ~2000 m above sea level. However, in the Antarctic region the glaciers are present at the sea level while in the Arctic Canada North glaciers are present in the higher elevations plateaus.

Most of the glaciers are found above snow line where the conditions are optimum for their existence. For a glacier to exist the region should receive high snowfall in winters and during the summer season the temperature of the region should remain low. Under such conditions, the snow that gets accumulated during the winters is much more than the amount of snow that gets melted during summers. This is why most glaciers are found either in mountainous areas or in the polar-regions.

For a glacier to survive one of the most important factors is the amount of snowfall it receives. There are some cold areas that do not receive enough snowfall such as Siberia and therefore, despite it being a cold region the Siberia has almost no glaciation.

What is the present level of atmospheric carbon dioxide ?

What is the present level of atmospheric carbon dioxide?

On May 9th, 2013, the global atmospheric daily concentration of CO2 crossed 400 ppm level mark.  On that day the recorded CO2 Concentration was 400.03 ppm as per the NASA’s Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. The observatory has been monitoring the atmospheric concentration since last 57 years.

The crossing of 400 ppm mark made news. The scientists from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Scripps Institute of Oceanography both in USA confirmed these observations.

The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere does not remain same throughout the year. In fact, it varies with the changing season.

From springs till later part of the year when the plants grow maximim, the rate of photosynthesis is very high. During this time  the maximum atmospheric CO2 is taken in by the plants. This also reflects as a dip in the global CO2 level in the atmosphere. Recently again the Mauna Loa observatory announced that the global annual minimum has also crossed 400 ppm level mark for the first time in September 2016. And this again made news.

Suggested Read: Minimum Carbon Dioxide Levels in the Atmosphere Crosses 400 ppm Mark

Why 400 ppm CO2 level in the atmosphere is so important?

The level of CO2 in the atmosphere has direct linkages with the increase in the global temperature and therefore with the climate change.

There are some facts one should keep in mind:

  • Since 1961 each successive year the global CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has risen by about 2 ppm.
  • Since 1970, each successive decade has seen about 0.17 °C rise in the average global temperature. 2016 has been the warmest year on record. Since 1880 all the 10 warmest years on earth have occurred post 2000 (only exception is 1998).

In order to keep the global temperature rise below 2 °C, it is required to keep the total COconcentration in the atmosphere below 450 ppm. The safer would be to aim for keeping the temperature rise below 1.5 °C but for this the CO2 concentration should be brought down below 350 PPM.

The most important global treaty to combat the climate change i.e. the Paris agreement 2015 also aims to limit the global temperature rise in the present century below 2 °C as compared to pre-industrial era. The emphasis is also to drive efforts so that the temperature rise can be limited to 1.5 °C.

It is known that if the global temperature rises beyond 2 °C above the pre-industrial era, the climate change effects would be catastrophic. As we have crossed the 400 ppm mark, it is really challenging to restrain the CO2 concentration from reaching 450 ppm.

Reaching 400 mark also conveys that the world would not be able to limit the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C. In fact the rate at which the CO2 level in the atmosphere is increasing we will be crossing 450 marks much before the 2050.

The 450 ppm CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will have impacts such as global sea level rise, interference in the global climate system, erratic rain fall, drought, melting of the glaciers and acute water crisis to name a few.

Although when consider in terms of percentage the 400 ppm CO2 is only 0.04%, the crossing of 400 ppm  mark is a warning signal to alarm the world to speed up the mitigation efforts by limiting the harmful emissions as well as adapt more and more with the changing climatic conditions to efficiently combat the adverse impacts of climate change. If the world fails in this attempt, get ready to face the consequences

Minimum Carbon Dioxide Levels in the Atmosphere Crosses 400 ppm Mark

Each year during the spring season the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reaches to its minimum. The reason is that during this time the plants get new leaves and they grow maximum. The more the leaves sprout, the more the leaves grow, the more photosynthesis will take place which means enhanced intake of atmospheric CO2 to produce food. This reflects as a dip in the atmospheric concentration of CO2.

During the harsh winters and fall the plants shed their leaves. It is this time that the global CO2 level reaches to its annual high.

As per the NASA’s observations based on the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument, the annual minimum CO2 level across the globe at all locations has crossed 400 ppm mark which is considered as the landmark. Through AIRS instrument it is possible to map CO2 levels in the troposphere on a global scale.  

This much high level of atmospheric carbon dioxide makes the climate change an irreversible process.

How much increase in the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been observed during the past 150 years?

It is important to note that prior to industrial revolution, the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere was stable at around 280 ppm. By 1961, the CO2 level in the atmosphere started increasing at the rate of 2 ppm per year as per the NASA’s monitoring station at the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano. In 2005, the CO2 concentrations reached as high as 380 ppm. The annual average global CO2 level crossed 400 ppm mark in May 2013, and now the annual minimum is also above this mark.

Carbon footprints of an email, a cup of tea & coffee, bags & bananas

Climate damaging effect of the fossil fuels is well known. Fossil fuels release the trapped carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. This and many other greenhouse gases trap the infrared portion of the sunlight after it gets reflected by earth surface. This causes the global warming.

Click here to know more about Carbon Footprints.

The idea behind calculating release of total greenhouse gases from an activity, product or process is to know how much eco-friendly or eco unfriendly it is. Read below to know the carbon footprint of some of the things and activities we never thought to be contributing to the building up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Carbon footprints of an email

Think about the times when you consciously chose to not print an email. Didn’t you get a feeling of gratification? The feeling of an environment saviour! Hold on! Although it is always a commendable act of being cautious while taking out prints, an email received or send in itself is not a carbon neutral process.

The short email that you have just sent, has already released about 4 g of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere. If you work a bit too much through emails than you may treat your last 65 emails equivalent to driving your average sized car a kilometre in terms of carbon emissions.

Now think about that email that carried with it a large attachment. This had added ~50 g gCO2e into the air.

You don’t work too much through mails. But you have an email I.D., you seldom use. Login to that email just to know how many spam mails you have received. Even if you don’t open those spam mails you become part of the global spam system annually emitting as much greenhouse gases as emitted by 3.1 million passenger cars by using 7.6 billion litres of gasoline. A single spam message without your checking it, without your any participation adds 0.3 gCO2e on your behalf to the atmosphere.

And this does not end here.

A simple, seemingly innocuous google search about anything adds 0.2 gCO2e into the air. This data is valid if your laptop is energy efficient. If that simple search was done from an old desktop computer, you have ended up adding 4.5 gCO2e into the atmosphere.

The reason behind this data! The calculation has taken into account the energy your computer uses, the energy internet server has consumed, the emission must have released during the manufacturing and assemblage and transportation of your laptop/computer.

Plastic vs paper

A half-litre plastic water bottle that you just bought has come with an emission tag of 160 gCO2e. Contrary, the same amount of tap water contributes only around 0.14 gCO2e.

The conclusion: The carbon footprint of water that comes in plastic bottle is 1150 times more than the water that come out from the tap water.

Carbon footprint of a cup of tea and coffee

When you boil as much water as you need for your black coffee or tea, the emissions can get as high as 21g CO2e, while adding milk to it takes the emission levels upto 53g CO2e. This extra emissions come when the emissions for raising the cow which produced the milk was also taken into consideration.

When you double the amount of water than what you actually (we don’t really measure that accurately at times!) need and prepare white coffee the emission level reaches up to 71g CO2e. In terms of carbon emission, a large cappuccino costs about 235g CO2e and a large latte about 340g CO2e.

What makes bananas a great fruit? Its Carbon Footprint

Each piece of banana comes with an emission tag of ~80g CO2e. This makes bananas a very good climate friendly fruit. By releasing 80g of CO2e, we get good nutrition including 140 calories, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and dietary fibre.

Bananas own this efficiency in terms of carbon saving to their growth in natural sunlight, no need of packaging and ease of transportation.

Gangotri Glacier is retreating 10-30 metres per year

Gangotri Glacier is retreating 10-30 metres per year

The snout area of the Gangotri Glacier

In July 2016, large chunk of ice of around 3-3.5 feet was washed from the Gangotri glacier into the Bhagirathi River. Scientists of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun said that continuous rainfall, decreased snowfall and changes in the other climatic pattern such as temperature were responsible for this.

The incident again raised the alarm bells. The global warming has been popularly blamed for the degenerating health of the glaciers worldwide. The condition of the Gangotri glacier is no different. The health of this glacier is of immense importance for India. The reason is that it is the source of river Ganges (also called Ganga). It is the most important river for the northern India.

At Gangotri region the river is known as ‘Bhagirathi’. It originates from the outermost extremity of the Gangotri glacier known as ‘Snout’ in scientific  terms. The shape of the snout can be compared with an ice cave. The snout of the Gangotri Glacier from where the river originates is known as Gaumukh. The literal meaning of the term Gaumukh is Cow’s mouth. It is said to resemble the shape of cow’s mouth. It is at snout where the ice-melts & the steady flow start and the river begins.

The concerns regarding the retreating Gangotri glacier and its poor health are not new. It is known that the Gangotri Glacier is retreating 10-30 metres per year over the second half of this century. The snout of the glacier is monitored to know any advancement or recede of the glaciers.

Gangotri Glacier Location

Gangotri Glacier is situated in the Uttarkashi District of Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhad state of India. It is one of the largest glaciers in the Himalayas. Gangotri glacier is approximately 30.2 km long and between 0.5 and 2.5 km wide.

Is Gangotri Glacier really retreating unusually? What science says? How much retreat has been reported

At present the Gangotri Glacier is monitored by many agencies. NASA and ISRO are among them. A few documents of 19th century are also present and scientists try to come to a conclusion.

Although the exact rate of Gangotri Glacier melting can not be calculated, it is certain that the rate of retreat has speeded up post industrial era. This is a cause of concern over the health of the Gangotri glacier. 

According to the information provided by Earth Observatory of NASA, Gangotri has been receding since 1780. The overall rate of retreat is 22 metres per year. But it is a matter of concern as the rate of melt has speeded up after 1971.

According to NASA’s observation, over the last 25 years, a retreat of more than 850 meters have been observed on Gangotri glacier. The rate of retreat was more than 76 meters between 1996 to 1999 alone.

According to Indian Space Research Organisation the Gangotri glacier has receded by 1.5 km in the past 30 years. The rate of retreat has not been uniform. In facts it varies a lot.

High rate of glacier retreat  38 m/y ~was observed in 1970s. The rate of retreat got reduced in 1980s. The rate of retreat was 10 m/y in 2015. In between September 2007 and June 2009 it was practically at a standstill. 

Attempts were made to assess the retreat and advance of glaciers in Himalayas by using multi temporal synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data as well as optical data.

According to a study conducted by IIT Bombay, Gangotri glacier was monitored, along its central line using, Terra SAR-X (TS-X) data of 28th August, 2008 and 30th September, 2008. When the retreat of the glacier was calculated on per day basis Gangotri glacier turns out to be receding at the rate of 4 cm per day or 14.6 m per year.

What GSI says about retreating glaciers?

Geological Survey of India (GSI) says it is normal for glaciers to pass through normal glacial and recessionary periods. At present Gangotri glacier is passing through a normal recessionary trend and this phase will continue for a couple of hundred years now.”

According to a discussion paper from Ministry of Environment, Forests and climate Change, Government of India on the snout of the Gangotri glacier, was first time mapped in detail in 1935. Glacial advances and retreats are natural cyclical phenomena. Glacial period is always followed by an inter-glacial period. The world is now in an inter-glacial warm phase. The last glacial advancement occurred during the last phase of the last glacial period (15th-19th century). This period has been named. “The Little Ice Age”. Since then, as a result of the subsequent warming phase, all glaciers have been retreating.

The rate of retreat in recent times has, however, been much more rapid than the gradual retreat expected in an inter-glacial warming phase. This, glaciologists and climatologists believe, is due to global warming. This climatic change brought about by human or anthropogenic activity in the post-industrialisation period has already resulted in a global increase in the average surface temperature by 0.6 o C. A natural consequence of this is increased melt from ice caps and glaciers.

Roopkund, Yarsagumba, Bugyals and the High Altitude Pass Called Junargali

We could feel nothing but thrill when we landed in Roopkund. This filled our bodies wrapped under many layers of jackets, caps and gloves with the necessary warmth. It was an early morning of May 2016.

It is not allowed to stay up there in Roopkund for more than 15-20 minutes. What you really see there is a very small ‘pond’ like lake. Roopkund appeared like a half frozen bottom of an oval tub pushed fit in the high reaches of the mountains.

mysterious Roopkund

Roopkund

Of-course we could locate a few skeletons there.

The weather was fast changing and within minutes of our landing it felt as if very soon the clouds and fog would engulf the lake situated at a height of 15700 ft feet in the Chamoli district of Garhwal Himalayas (India).

It was an early summer (as per the conditions there) pre monsoon visit. The route to Roopkund from the last basecamp ‘Bagwabasa’ was snow covered and appeared pretty adventurous. During this time the thick snow that engulfs the region in winters starts melting. It makes moving onto it quite difficult.  the sight of others slipping over ice a little too frequently was frightening. Without proper protection it is not at all suitable to try this last stretch.

So many hardships one endures for a not so picturesque sight of Roopkund.

By the time one is back to the base camp at ‘Bagwabasa’ he or she is completely exhausted. You still have a long way to cover on foot to reach to the last motor head. Chances are pretty high that by this time you will find yourself in a hurry to reach to a place with proper food and toilet. You have managed without these necessities for about 6 days and you wish to take a bath and be back to the normal routine.

So what are the main takeaways form this 60 km trek?

It really took a while to reconcile with the learnings of this trek which starts from Lohajung and ends at the Wan village.

I tried to summarize a few facts about Roopkund trek that caught my attention there and continued to linger in my memory even today.

1. Roopkund trek can provide you a chance to know what Yarsagumba is!

Have you ever heard about Yarsagumba? If not, it may amaze knowing that ‘Yarsagumba’ is at present the costliest bio resource on earth. It is costlier than the gold.

Yarsagumba, Keeda Jadi, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, caterpillar fungus

Yarsagumba

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Locals travelling in search of Yarsagumba

Yarsagumba is used to boost the strength of the body and has earned namw as the Himalayan Viagra.

To my surprize the trek to Roopkund passed through one of the ‘Yarsagumba’ producer areas.

Interesting part about this Himalayan herb is its body which is half fungus and half insect.

The fungus part start growing is on Caterpillar and ultimately takes away all its nutrients. Caterpillar dies and remains buried in the soil beneath the snow cover. It is the fungal part that pops up from the soil when snow starts melting making it conspicuous to its seekers.

If you go to this trek pre-monsoon, you have fair chances of spotting locals moving up in search of 5-7 cm long caterpillar fungus. But as they say, nothing great comes easily. It is arduous and risky task to dig out this small herb that is changing their economic and social conditions. It requires a harvester spend their days in freezing temperatures over a steep mountain of high altitudes in search of it.

The nights of the harvesters are not easier either as they need to put up a tent and spend nights away from their homes in the areas where the herb grows.

Yarsagumba is their natural resource and they are happy digging it. And why they should not? They can make out ~5-8 lakh/ kg in a season through Yarsagumba.

It was a sudden revelation for the locals that they have something in their area that can make them rich. The positive side effect is that up to some extent Yarsagumba has checked their out migration for livelihood.

But money, as they say, is not a very good thing. It brings along lust, crime and what not. If you are not already well versed with the buzzword ‘sustainable’, a trek to Roopkund can be a great opportunity to learn that.

Exhaustive harvesting of Yarsagumba is leading a steady decline in its production. It is said that the changing climatic patterns are also affecting the production of this over-expensive medicine in the region.

2. Roopkund provides a chance to see the divine place where treeline ends and meadows prosper

The trek route goes through the lush green forests. The sharp changes in the plants varieties are attractive. A visit in April-May and you will find yourself lost in the booming crimson red forests of Rhododendrons.

The forests try to grow tolerating the dip in the temperature as much as they can. But ultimately a height comes when the plants with the most survival instincts don’t have any option but to stop themselves.

Ali bugyal

Ali Bugyal

Whether or not you are a lover of the wonders of the natural world, the sight of Ali bugyal where treeline ends sharply, as if somebody has drawn a line of control for them, leaving the way for the meadows to prosper, will fill you with awe for the precision of the unknown and the omnipresent.

View from Ali Bugyal

View from Ali Bugyal en route Roopkund

Ali bugyal is a grand Himalayan Meadow and the route to Roopkund passes through it. It is huge green carpet spread across to the top of the mountain. In the local dialect ‘Bugyal’ means alpine meadow. The campsite at Ali Bugyal is one of the best places in the region to spend an evening. It offers the Himalayan views that can linger in your eyes for the rest of the life.

3. India is a place of caring good people

The locals offer you everything they can for the 7 days in the skin penetrating cold. Towards the end the craving of better food and sleep will make you salute your guides, mule owners and cooks. Their hospitality will make you feel invited. They welcome you as if this is all their responsibility to make sure you are back safely.

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On the way back from Roopkund

On our way back to the base camp at Bagwabasa from Roopkund, we became the spectator of something we least wanted to happen. A fellow trekker, who was repeatedly refusing to follow instructions, started slipping down fast over a steep stretch covered with thick ice.

It could have become the tragic accident and everybody, for a second, thought for the worst.

Heartbeats stopped in anticipation!

What we saw was an unbelievable sight of human courage. Our guide ‘Birbal’ took risk on his own life and ran over slippery ice with the speed at least double of the speed at which this fellow was sliding to catch hold of him. The fellow had a narrow escape for his and our relief.

We learnt our lesson of respecting the local wisdom in an unknown terrain.

Birbal remained humble as ever post his glorifying lifesaving act.

4. We can make anyplace hell

When we see something beautiful, something precious we tend to become possessive. Sadly we don’t become possessive for the sensitive amazing Himalayan landscape.

The campsites of Ali & Dayara Bugyal, Pattarnachni and Bugwabasa all are carrying the burden of all sorts of filth, bottles, polybags, napkins, rappers and whatnot apart our excreta.

Garbage at Bagwabasa

Garbage at Bagwabasa

This will remain buried under thick snow for more than half of the year.  Nature will take millions of years to clean it up.

It reminded the recent attempt of the army  to clean up Mount Everest.

Overhearing a group of locals discussing their pain of seeing the deterioration of what they regard as their personal property was heart wrenching.

We definitely need very strict laws and enforcement of the laws on anybody trying to pollute it. Its carrying capacity should be identified and the movement of people beyond that capacity should be restricted.

5. A chance to feel Victorious at Junargali

Treks, shorter or longer, end with a sense of accomplishment. Roopkund too is not an exception. The last day’s trek to Roopkund starts around 2:30 am. Fun part was moving up while it is still dark. This is necessary to avoid the chances of getting slipped when the ice starts melting in the sunlight. Darkness does not let one see much but just about a foot’s distance. Net result is that while coming down you will wonder if this is the same scary route you took while climbing up!

Roopkund is located more than a km below the summit. In case, weather is in your favour you can further move up to Junargali which is a high altitude pass. The pass is famous as much celebrated Nanda Raj-Jat (Jat means journey) passes through Junargali on its way to Homekund.

View from Junargali

View from Junargali, a high altitude pass situated at the height of 16200 feet

Junargali is also a place to get a close view of the Trishul peaks. The same mighty ‘Trishul’ peaks that attract many to Ranikhet, Kausani and many other popular tourist destinations in Kumaun Himalaya.

To a casual trekker with a wish to climb Mount Everest, Junargali (16200 ft) can be a good option. While climbing a steep mountain holding on to a rope with your shoes and submerged in the ice, the stop-overs take the breath away. It is one of those moments when you don’t even want to take deep breath fearing it may affect your balance, forget about looking back towards the others who are held together by the common rope.

The higher the risk the better is the reward!

At the summit you are overjoyed because of the beauty that lies ahead, but also because of the memory you succeeded in creating. It is one of those places where while posing for photos your fingers automatically make V.

A trek to Roopkund is a rich experience. You end up receiving much more than what you could have imagined and surely different than what you wanted initially.

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The strangest thing about this trek is the mysterious force that keeps pulling you to revisit the memory lane of this trek.

The most natural lock at Didna Village en route Roopkund

The most natural lock at Didna Village en route Roopkund

And that is when you realize how this 60 km trek has enhanced your understanding of the natural and human world around. You know the nature of so many things.

With much more to cherish and love for the rest of the life you now know more and appreciate much more.

Necrotizing fasciitis: The Flesh Eating Disease Fact Sheet

Necrotizing fasciitis is the scientific name of the disease known as ‘Flesh Eating Disease‘ among the masses.

‘Necrosis’ means ‘death’ while the meaning of the word ‘fascia’ means subcutaneous tissues. The name therefore implies the death of the tissues situated beneath the skin.  Necrotizing fasciitis  is a soft-tissue infection.

The disease is caused by infections by a different types of bacteria belonging to Type A Streptococcus. The bacterial agent of the disease does not depend on oxygen for their growth and are anaerobic or facultative anaerobic in nature.

Once infected, the disease causing bacteria starts releasing toxins in the bloodstream and tissues. The disease spreads very quickly leaving the infected with very short time for treatment. The spread of the disease can be as fast as 5 cm an hour. The disease may become deadly within 24 hours. The short time is behind the high curiosity of people to know about it.

The streptococcal bacteria can enter into the body through small openings in the skin caused by bruises and blisters. Once infected by the deadly bacteria, It is difficult to identify the disease in the early stage as the symptoms of the disease are similar to the common flu.

The initial treatment involves antibiotics and surgical treatments to remove the affected tissues. If failed in stopping the spread of the disease sometimes amputation is required. The disease has a morbidity rate of over 30%.

Statistics of the infection is not very clear. According to report since 2010,   in the USA ~700- 1,100 cases per year of necrotizing fasciitis infection by group A strep have been appearing per year.

Efforts are on to make a vaccine against Strep A infection.

Necrotizing fasciitis has been reported from almost all parts of the world. 

What is Carbon Footprint? Definition and Explanation

Carbon Footprint Definition

In strict terms Carbon footprint is defined as “The total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation or product. It is expressed as CO2 equivalent”

In more general terms ‘Carbon’ in carbon footprint’ refers to all the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming and ‘footprint’ means ‘total impact’.

The term Carbon footprint reflects the total impact of all the greenhouse gases produced.

This term is used usually in connection with climate change. In this context carbon footprint refers to the total impact of Greenhouse gas emissions towards climate change.

What is Carbon Footprint – Explained

All the things we can sense in this world have some carbon footprints. As the term is used mostly in relation to climate change, we may perceive it negatively. But all the good things as well, for example, the crops that provide grains that we eat & the life savior medicines all have their carbon footprints.

In addition to carbon dioxide gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons etc also contribute towards global warming. However, the warming causing potential of all the gases is different. A molecule of methane has the potential to cause 20 times more warming than a molecule of CO2. Similarly Nitrous oxide causes 300 times more warming while the warming potential of chlorofluorocarbons is thousands of times more heat than CO2.

A product, an organization or an individual emits different greenhouse gases. For the sake of ease of expression, the total impact of the it towards global warming is expressed in terms of equivalent carbon dioxide.

It means that based on the amount of net GHG’s released, the total CO2 equivalent required to produce the same impact is calculated. This makes the carbon footprint expressed in terms of CO2e.

For example if one wants to calculate carbon footprints of a food item made from rice, the GHG’s released at various steps of its production needs to be taken into account. Paddy cultivation is a big source of methane. The irrigation system is CO2 intensive as it requires electricity and/or fuel for pumping water. Post harvesting processing of paddy, transportation, its shelf life in the market and cooking all release CO2 and other GHG’s. Left over waste of paddy cultivation is used in various ways releasing GHG’s at various steps. The calculation to know carbon footprint would require converting all the GHG’s released in the life cycle of the food item from growing to final consumption by the end user to their CO2 e.

Similarly, carbon footprint of a simple cotton dress requires calculating GHG’s released during cotton cultivation to harvesting, its transportation, manufacturing and finally its marketing.

Click here to know more about Total COEmissions and Sectors Responsible.

All our activities throughout the day, releases Greenhouse gases directly or indirectly. A person’s lifestyle, therefore, determines how much carbon he consumes which in other words mean person’s carbon footprint.

Carbon Footprints of Most Polluter Countries

Carbon Footprints of a country is total CO2 equivalents emitted by it.

Carbon emissions of a country are expressed in terms of million tons of CO2 and per capita emission.

Carbon footprint of the world estimated for the year 2014 (total emission of the world) was 35.7 billion tons. Out of the total, the share of the biggest polluters were: China (30%), United States (15%), European Union (EU-28) (9.6%), India (6.6%), Russian Federation (5.0%) and Japan (3.6%).

Where do Tar Balls on the Beaches come from ?

In the pre-monsoon and during monsoon seasons (May to October) the brown, sticky and foul smelling tar balls reaches the sea shores. Many beaches across the world have been facing this acute problem.

Tar balls pollute beaches and disturbs marine ecosystem. 

What are Tar balls?

Tar balls or globs are oil residues made up of hydrocarbons.

The type of hydrocarbons found in tar globs is same as that of the ones present in crude oil and petroleum products. . Their size typically ranges from as small as a small coin to as big as 30 cm. Their reaching the shore makes the site of the serene beaches extremely unpleasant and filthy.

Tar ball pollution is a matter of concern not just because of the aesthetic point of view. Instead because their constituent chemicals ‘hydrocarbons’ are a threat to sensitive marine ecosystem such as  molluscs and shrimps.

Loss of these organisms may adversely affect fish that feed on them and may disturb the entire food chain. Tar globs harmful for the biodiversity of the marine ecosystem.

Tar balls washed up on the beaches in Goa (India)

In India tar balls come to the beaches on west coast of India during the southwest monsoon. Since 1970 the tar globs have been seen regularly in the pristine beaches of Goa.

Similarly since last seven years the unusual tar globs are been reported from the Juhu beach of Mumbai (India) .

Where do Tar Balls on the Beaches come from?

The reason behind this annual phenomenon could be the washing of the tanks of the ships and boats in the sea a few kilometres offshore.

The untreated oil coagulates in sea and forms tar balls. During the monsoon season some of it may reach to the shore due to monsoon winds. However, this is not the only reason behind the tar globs.

Suneel and his associates tried to find out the origin of tar balls reaching the west coast of India since 2012. They are associated with National Institute of Oceanography (Goa). The results of the study were published in the Journal ‘Science of The Total Environment’ in 2015. They collected tar ball samples from as many as 9 beaches of Goa along with crude oil samples from various oil fields such as from Bombay High and grounded ships. The technique used to identify the source of the oil in the tar globs was ‘Multi-marker fingerprint technique’.

The study suggests that Tanker-wash is not the only source of tar balls deposited on the beaches of Goa. It says that the tar balls have their origin in Bombay High oil field. The oil released from Bombay high oil fields in the Month of April took South western direction and took approx 1 month to reach the Goa coast due to monsoon circulations.

Reasons behind Tar balls reaching beaches in California (USA)

In April 2016 tar balls were reported on various beaches of California (USA). Similarly in 2015 tar globs were reported on the Los Angeles-area of southern California.

Later laboratory testing of the tar globs confirmed their source. The source of some of the globs was spilled crude oil from a ruptured pipeline approx. 100 miles away along the Santa Barbara coast.

According to the reports Four-Mile Stretch of Long Beach Coastline had to be closed due to tar balls cleanup in southern California’s beaches.

After a week tar balls were again washed up in Long Beach area a little farther than the previous one. Samples of the tar balls were collected. It turned out that while some samples matched with the oil spilled from the pipeline operated by Plains All American Pipeline, some other matched with the naturally occurring fissures in the seabed along the Santa Barbara coastline.

Paris Agreement on Climate Change – Summary

What is Paris Agreement on Climate Change ?

Paris agreement on Climate Change is a global treaty under international law to combat climate change. It was agreed (adopted) by 195 nations in Paris during the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on December 12, 2015. Some of its provisions are legally binding. 

Key Points of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Goal

At the core to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is to limit the global temperature rise below 2°Celsius as compared to pre-industrial era in the present century. The agreement also emphasizes to drive efforts so that the temperature rise can be limited to 1.5 °C.

Why limiting temperature rise below 2 °C is so important?

Temperature rise of 2 °C is a critical limit. The reason is that if the temperature rises beyond this limit its impact will be catastrophic. If the global average temperature rises beyond 2°Celsius, it would become impossible to go back to the previous normal. 

Long Term Emissions Goals of Paris Agreement

Paris Agreement sets two important emission goals.

  • One of the goals is with regard to the Peaking Year. Peaking year means the year when the emissions of the country will reach to its maximum levels. The emissions start declining from the next year onward. Paris agreement states that Emission Peaking Year be reached as soon as possible. At the same time it recognizes the fact that the developing countries may take longer in reaching their peaking year.
  • The second goal to be reached by countries is Greenhouse Gas Neutrality. This means that the countries are required to become able to remove as much GHGs by sinks as are emitted by anthropogenic activities by source. 

Mechanisms and Approach of Paris Agreement on Climate Change for Successful Implementation

1. Nationally Determined Contributors (NDC)

In the run up to the Paris climate change conference each country was asked to communicate their pledges related to climate actions and emission reductions targets they intend to take up. This was supposed to be done voluntarily and decided within the country through discussions. This was called Intended Nationally Determined Contributors (INDC’s).

Once a country formally joins the Paris Agreement, it commits itself to work towards the implementation of the communicated pledges. At this stage the pledges it made earlier are called ‘Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs)’ and the word “intended” is dropped.

Each country is required to communicate new and successively more and more ambitious NDC’s in every 5 years. Providing NDCs is a binding commitment under Paris Agreement. However, the implementation of NDCs domestically is not a legally binding commitment. The Paris agreement commits parties to drive efforts domestically to achieve the pledges they made for emission reductions (NDC).

2. Carbon Market

  • The Paris agreement approves ‘Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes’ to fulfill nationwide pledges of emission reduction (NDC’s). With reference to climate change, the word ‘Mitigation’ refers to the efforts one takes to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases.
  • Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes means that a country can make efforts to reduce GHG emissions (mitigation) in other countries. The emission reduction it achieves else where in the word will be counted towards its own emission reduction targets. The accounting guidelines for these mitigation efforts are yet to be developed.
  • To make Clean Development Mechanism of Kyoto Protocol successful a new mechanism will also be developed.

 3. Through NDCs countries have communicated their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When all the NDC’s are collected, it provides an idea of how much total global emission reductions the global community is targeting  over a period of time. It is found, however, that the collective efforts would not be sufficient to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degree C by the end of the century. Therefore, countries are required to progressively increase their emission reduction targets.

To promote it, the Paris agreement establishes two processes; (i) Global Stocktake, and (ii) Submission of the New Commitments/ Pledges called new NDCs by countries.

  • Global Stocktake and Submission of the New NDC’s

Global Stocktake: The purpose of the global stocktake is to assess and track progress made towards achieving the goals of the agreement. The first Stocktake will happen in 2023.

New NDC’s: The ultimate goal of Paris Agreement on Climate Change is to keep the global temperature rise below 2 °C. Stocktake will tell the required increase in the emission reduction targets to achieve the goals. It will be beneficial for directing countries to increase their emission reduction targets successively. The new national pledges (NDCs) submitted by the countries should be reflecting the outcomes of the stocktake. 

4. Transparency

To make the countries accountable, Paris Agreement sets a new transparency system with binding commitments from all the countries.

Emission Inventories:  In order to track the progress made by the countries towards achieving their NDC’s possible, all the countries are required to submit Emission Inventories and the other necessary information. The necessary information includes their adaptation efforts; support extended by the developed countries and received by the developing countries should also be reported. This information will be reviewed by the experts.

Except small island countries and least developed countries, rest of the countries needed to submit the inventories after every 2 years.

In order to make the developing countries able for such sort of transparency requirement, support will be provided to build their capacities.

The details of the transparency system will be negotiated by 2018.

5. Implementation/ Compliance

To promote compliance and support implementation, there will be a committee of experts. The committee will report to COP annually. The details are yet to be decided.

6. Finance

Funding climate change has always been a contentious issue between rich and poor countries. Under the convention, developed countries are bound to provide support of 100 billion$ per year to developing countries every year till 2020 through Green Climate Fund. Paris Agreement extends the 100 billion$ per year support by rich nations till 2025. For the period post 2025 a new higher financial goal will be set. With regard to financial support, for the first time in any international agreement, developing countries are also encouraged to come forward voluntarily to contribute financially.

7. Loss and damage

Warsaw international mechanism was established to address Loss and Damage due to climate change. The mechanism has been charged to develop approaches to help vulnerable countries better cope with extreme weather events and slow onset events such as sea level rise. Paris agreement extends the existing Warsaw mechanism. This is especially useful for the countries highly vulnerable to climate change such as small island countries.

Way Forward

In order to enter into force, Paris agreement required ratification (approval) by at least 55 countries responsible for 55% of GHG emissions worldwide by submitting their instruments of ratification.

On April 22, 2016, the agreement was opened for signature by States and regional economic integration organizations that are Parties to the UNFCCC at the UN Headquarters in New York. So far (5 may 2017) 146 Parties have ratified out of 197 Parties to the Convention (also called acceptance or approval). 

On 5 October 2016, the requirement for Paris Agreement to enter into the force was achieved. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.

With this, the COP begins meeting as ‘Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA)’. The first CMA 1 took place in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016.

‘Coming into force’ does not mean commencement of emission reduction obligations. Emission reduction obligations will only start in 2020.

Paris agreement is basically post 2020 agreement. The agreement will replace the first international treaty on climate change i.e. the Kyoto protocol after its second commitment period (2013-2020) ends on 31 January 2020.