Monday, November 15 2021

Dive In


He came across a very heated and abusive debate on the handle @GappistanRadio. He tweeted the abusive comment in the heat of the moment, thinking it is okay to do so… We have not retrieved his earlier tweets, but it is clear that he did not think there will be any consequences for his abusive tweet till it became viral.

That’s the Mumbai police explaining why an IIT graduate thought it was okay to issue a rape threat against Virat Kohli’s nine month old baby. FYI: @GappistanRadio is the Twitter handle of an OpIndia writer—and has since been deleted. It’s yet another example of how Twitter “normalises” vicious rhetoric on its platform. The Quint has more on the Mumbai police investigation. A related read: The Swaddle on the class bias in the coverage of his arrest.

Big Story

COP26: Did we put the brakes on global warming?

The TLDR: 190 countries met in Glasgow amid a great sense of urgency about the future of a rapidly warming planet. After two weeks of haggling and compromises, we have an agreement—which offers a far better chance of real change, but without guarantees that it will happen.


Editor’s note: We offered detailed context on this summit in our previous explainer. Do check it out if you haven’t been following COP26 coverage.


First, a quick refresher

What is COP26: COP is shorthand for the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change—an annual meeting of countries which meet to craft a shared strategy to save the planet. One such meeting—COP21—resulted in the Paris Agreement—which was the first to set the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C. 


Why it matters: A number of big reports released this year show that the world is on a catastrophic path. Right now—given the current pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions—we are on track for an average 2.7°C temperature rise this century! So there was immense pressure on this conference to come up with a plan for immediate and drastic action.


NDCs defined: This shared strategy requires each country to define and commit to their Nationally Determined Contributions—their individual national plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Paris Agreement goals.


Aiming for net zero: The term ‘net zero’ refers to the difference between the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when what we add is equal to what we take out. And if the world hits that target by 2050, we can restrict global warming to 1.5°C.


First, how warm will it get?

Before the summit, the planet was on track to warm by 2.7°C by 2100. The pledges to cut emissions made in the Paris agreement were far too modest to meet the target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. And most of the countries did not meet their commitments. 


The good news: Thanks to the fresh set of climate pledges—including commitments to achieve net zero—we are now on course to warm by roughly 1.8°C.


Big upside to note: Every fraction of a degree counts when it comes to averting climate change—since even the smallest increase implies more extreme weather and higher sea levels. As a Maldives minister put it, “The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us.” 


And the COP26 agreement keeps that goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C alive—despite fierce resistance from oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia:


“The Glasgow pact ‘resolves to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C’ and ‘recognizes that limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.’ It’s still not an official target, but the greater emphasis on it means that NDCs and other climate goals put forward by countries will be evaluated based on how close they hew to this goal.”


The not-so-good news: The current plans allow emissions to rise 13% by 2030 compared with 2010. Scientists say they must fall 45% to hit the 1.5 degree target. And as this Climate Action Tracker chart makes clear, even the 1.8°C projection is the most optimistic scenario:


Next, let's talk about coal

The good news: World leaders have discussed climate change 26 times since the 1990s, but issuing a call to reduce the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas remained a big no-no. For the first time, the agreement makes it explicit that fossil fuels have to go. 


The India intervention: The initial draft called on countries to “accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” But India took objection to the language and refused to sign on—until it was changed to “phase down.” The reason offered by the Environment Minister:


“How can anyone expect that developing countries can make promises about phasing out fossil fuel and coal subsidies? Developing countries still have to deal with their development agenda and poverty eradication.”


As a result, a number of other countries and climate change activists are unhappy with New Delhi: “India’s last-minute change to the language... is quite shocking. India has long been a blocker on climate action, but I have never seen it done so publicly.”


OTOH, Indian representatives gave the example of subsidies for LPG cylinders to low-income households: “This subsidy has been of great help in almost eliminating biomass burning for cooking and improved health from reduction in indoor air pollution.”


Finally, where is the money?


Headlines that matter

A big campaign against meat

The municipal authorities in Vadodara, Gujarat, are on a warpath against any kind of ‘non-veg’. They have issued instructions—verbal but not in an official notice—that ban the “public display” of meat in street stalls and restaurants because it hurts “religious sentiments.” Officials insist the move is “for hygiene reasons” and to avoid “traffic snarls.” But then added this:


“It has to do with our religious sentiments… It may have been the practice for years to sell non-vegetarian food on full display, but the time has come to correct it. The non-vegetarian food should not be seen.” 


The latest development: Divya Bhaskar reports that the local officials have seized and destroyed all fish from vendors because “they were selling fish openly without covering them up.” (Indian Express)


Other places to censor meat: Disney+ Hotstar. Dubbed versions of the Marvel film ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ have carefully scrubbed references to beef. And the process of censorship is mind-numbingly complex based on what language you pick:


“In the original scene from the film, Shang Chi (Simu Liu) and his friend Katy (Awkwafina) are offered a choice between a vegetarian and beef meal on board a flight. However, in the Hindi dubbed version, the dialogue has been changed to ‘non-veg’ or ‘veg’ and then veg biryani. The Malayalam version has bread omlette and vegetarian, since the chicken is over. The Tamil options are veg biryani or upma since chicken biryani is over. In the Telugu dubbed version, both the characters have chicken since vegetarian options aren't available, and in Kannada the choice is between chicken and paneer.”

Sex on the beach? Hmm, maybe not

Yeah, sex in exotic places is exactly what the relationship counselor ordered. But a new research paper shows that couples getting down and dirty are endangering protected Spanish dunes—which are one of the last remaining shifting dune systems in Europe, and provide a resting spot for birds migrating between Africa and Europe. The humans getting it on at the 56 “sex spots” literally kill animals:


“Tourists trample over the vegetation, remove plants and sand, make their own ‘nests’—even fencing them off—and dump waste including cigarettes, condoms, toilet paper, wipes and cans… What’s more, Gran Canaria giant lizards—a popular sight in the Canary islands—have ‘died after eating condoms left behind by pleasure seekers.’”


In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • A familiar ad for Iceland tourism—or ‘Icelandverse’


Smart & Curious

  • Essays on the eccentricities of Britishness
  • What if Xi Jinping just isn't that competent?
  • What will happen to dogs if human beings go extinct?
  • Why the stock market is booming when the economy isn’t.

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