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CWA # 539, 24 August 2021
Vol.1, No. 7, 24 August 2021
Vol.1, No. 7, 24 August 2021
by Lokendra Sharma, Akriti Sharma, Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok
Climate Change and Energy Options for a Sustainable Future
An Interview with Prof Dinesh Kumar Srivastava and Prof V S Ramamurthy
Recently, Prof Dinesh Kumar Srivastava, Homi Bhabha Chair Professor at NIAS, and Prof V S Ramamurthy, a well-known Indian nuclear physicist and former NIAS Director, authored a book entitled “Climate Change and Energy Options for a Sustainable Future”. The book explains global warming, climate change as well as various energy pathways like nuclear, solar and wind in an easily understandable language and uses more than 200 illustrations for this purpose. Primarily addressing the youth, the book is an important contribution to the developing scholarly discourse on climate change, energy, and sustainability. In a wide-ranging interview, we ask them questions ranging from ecology to the Himalayas, from extreme weather events to renewable energy sources, from Fukushima to the global energy grid.
Natural disasters in the past have caused huge damage to the ecosystem but the planet has coped and recovered on its own. But can earth recover the same way from the damages inflicted during the Anthropocene Epoch?
Dinesh Kumar Srivastava (DKS): Nature will recover on its own. Dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 140 million years, but they went extinct. Earth recovered and got populated with other living species. Earth will recover and revive slowly with time. Humans have no special place in nature’s lap. We are just one of the living species present on the planet.
V S Ramamurthy (VSR): The question is whether humans will be present on the planet or not when this revival happens. We have not inherited but borrowed the planet from our coming generations. So, the damage inflicted by humans on the planet is going to haunt the future generations but is not completely irreversible.
What is the ecological impact of wars/military conflict on the environment?
DKS: Wars have inflicted huge damage to the earth’s environment. For example, Romans soldiers used to sprinkle salt in their enemy’s field, so that the land could become barren, and no vegetation could grow. Mongols also destroyed a large number of forests because of which some land is barren even today. They completely butchered both humans and trees in large quantities; some of the tree species could not survive and got extinct. During the Vietnam war, the US used chemical warfare which had huge environmental implications. The US sprayed millions of litres of Agent Orange (a toxic compound) to target the crops and vegetation. Its ecological impacts are felt even today. Similarly, the Iraq war also had ecological implications. In the history of mankind, there are many examples where wars have inflicted huge destruction on the planet’s ecosystem.
In the present times, the meat industry has been inflicting a significant amount of damage to the ecology. In Latin America deforestation is a concern. In Brazil and Argentina, the trees have been cut down to raise cows for meat export. In Indonesia, rain forests have been cleared to plant Palm for oil export. Therefore, politics and business have also played a huge role in inflicting damage to the ecology. Politics can help in reducing the ecological damage, but at the same time, it can also inflict damage.
VSR: Political and business interests are driven by short-term goals. Climate change has a long-term impact. To reduce the impact of climate change, planning has to be long-term. There is a clear contradiction between the political, business and environmental goals. We have to manage the contradictions and youth will play a significant role in addressing it. There has to be a comprehensive and balanced approach.
What is the importance of the Himalayas for South Asia and the world? Climate change has had a huge impact on the Himalayas. Do you think regional cooperation is necessary for addressing the adverse impacts? What should be the role of epistemic communities?
DKS: The Himalayas shape the climate of India and China, two of the most populous countries of the world. Indian monsoons are dependent on the Himalayas. The mountains are the water towers of Asia and include rivers such as the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, and many other tributaries that are spread over in different countries including India, China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan. The livelihood of people from not just South Asia but also South-East Asia depend on the Himalayas. If the Ganges dries up completely, the livelihood of 400 million people will be affected. Similarly, if the Brahmaputra dries up, it will affect the livelihood of three countries — India, China and Bangladesh.
Himalayan glaciers are, particularly at risk. The glaciers reflect the sunlight away from the earth keeping the climate of the planet mild. If the glaciers melt, the increased exposed areas will absorb additional heat from the sun and will further lead to global warming. Climate is global and the impact of climate change is transboundary. Cooperation among the countries to address the impact of climate change is necessary. A single country cannot mitigate the impacts. The least developed countries have contributed least to climate change whereas the developed countries have been a major contributor to the same. Despite this, it is the former which are affected the most, and unlike the latter, do not have the advantage of economic or technological wherewithal. For example, in the recent heatwave in Canada, the cooling centres were activated for people to take refuge, something that poor countries in Africa can only imagine.
VSR: The Himalayas are significant because it controls the weather and the monsoons. Erratic monsoons would be very troublesome for millions of farmers in South Asia. While some issues have a local impact such as water management, some issues are global in scope and hence require a global effort. If the temperature rises up by a degree or two, we cannot hold any single country responsible. While the degree may differ, all are responsible, and all will be affected. A large continental power like the US will be impacted by it as much as a small island state like the Maldives. The rise of sea level will impact the Maldives whether or not it is responsible for it. Therefore, some issues can be locally addressed whereas some need cooperation. Climate change belongs to the latter category.
As far as the epistemic community (primarily, scientists) is concerned, their role is huge but limited. The scientific community discovered that coal was destructive to the planet's atmosphere about a hundred years ago. Scientists kept discussing the science of coal and its usage. So, while so much was known about coal, about emissions and about global warming, the action was taken only much later. Scientists are not policymakers. They are not the drivers of the country, politicians are. Politicians are the action-takers. There was a lack of dialogue between the two communities for a long. The first such serious dialogue between them happened in the 1970s. But despite decades of dialogue, and undeniable evidence produced by the scientific community, politicians still think worldwide that they can get away with current emissions levels and other status-quo policies.
The intensity, frequency and duration of extreme weather events are increasing. Climate change has a huge role to play in it, according to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. How can these extreme weather events be managed?
DKS: We cannot manage extreme weather events. We can only survive them. The force in a cyclone and floods is so profound that we cannot manage it. We can only predict and survive. Even if we stop all the emissions today, it will take thousands of years for the sea level to decrease. In the case of cyclones, we have an efficient early warning system. We have succeeded in reducing the human costs of cyclones, but we have not yet succeeded in making our infrastructure and cities cyclones resilient. If such events continue to rise, we can predict and prepare for the same in a better way.
Energy consumption plays a very major role in the Human Development Index (HDI). But some countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have significant resources, have a very poor HDI. While countries that have comparatively fewer resources score high on HDI. Why is it so?
VSR: Yes, Congo is rich in resources, but those resources are taken away by the developed countries, with very little going back. The Western countries bribe the politicians and the rulers in such countries while the common man does not get his share of the resources. So, business interests, exploiting the resources of an underdeveloped country like Congo because of poor quality political leadership, is responsible for this. But this will not continue forever. People of Congo, with time, will become more organised, more capable of utilizing their own resources. The example of China is also very instructive in this regard. China, from being an underdeveloped country whose resources were exploited by the Western powers in the past, today controls over 90 per cent of the rare earth supply chain. Not just that, you pick any sector like electronics or even renewables, China is sitting at the top. The thing that helped them and will help others in Africa is strategizing and planning.
Non-conventional sources of energy are expensive. While countries want to move towards sustainability, how would they manage the cost factor?
VSR: Renewable energy is not expensive. For the simple reason that the costing is done by business houses. Let us consider a coal power station. Those running such plants do not factor the cost of pollution into the cost of electricity. Who is paying the cost? Normal people are paying it through their health. Is this the right way to do it? We should, therefore, not get carried away by the arguments that this source is some paisa cheap or some paisa costly than others. I also ask, what is the cost of my grandson's life? We cannot put a cost on that. So, when we are considering the future, the cost cannot be a criterion. For a company, the cost may matter, but for humanity, it does not. What is more important is the question of feasibility. While renewables like solar and wind have literally unlimited fuel, they have their challenges, especially in storage. Batteries are dirty, expensive and have a large requirement of resources. And these resources, primarily lithium, are sources from countries like Congo and Nigeria. So, while there are many pressing issues associated with renewables, the cost is certainly not among them.
In one of the chapters in the book, you have explained different types of hydrogen — green, blue, grey, turquoise. If green hydrogen, produced from renewable sources, is such a promising solution to a lot of problems, like storage of energy and emissions, why are countries not working with that ferociousness on it as they are for solar and wind?
VSR: Hydrogen is more an energy carrier than a source of energy; it cannot be harnessed directly like others. It is the most abundant element in the universe and is present on earth in various forms. Hydrogen has to be first separated from other elements, and for this process, energy is required. If this energy is sourced from coal or fossil fuels in general, it is unhelpful. But if renewable energy is used for processing, then it is called green hydrogen and it solves a lot of problems. However, converting renewable energy like solar into electricity and then using that electricity to obtain hydrogen from water is not very efficient as some energy is lost at every step.
While hydrogen will play a very important role in the global energy landscape, our assessment is that not every sector will be able to benefit and even in, let's say a few decades from now, the share of hydrogen in the total energy mix would be no more than a few per cent. Subsequently, it may rise. And talking about the present, hydrogen technologies are not mature enough to completely take over from other energy sources. There are national programs on hydrogen, which have a lot of fanfare, and they will continue with fanfare without much substance.
The nuclear industry has been declining globally after the Fukushima accident and the utilization of thorium still remains a dream. Given this, where do you think the global nuclear power sector is headed? Do you think it will see a revival in future?
VSR: The revival will happen for sure. But before looking into the present or the future, it would be useful to look into the past. I believe that had the world continued with nuclear energy the way it was planned in the 1950s, climate change would not have assumed the kind of enormous proportion that it has today. But, three things happened in the second half of the 20th century which stifled these dreams. First, the US and USSR decided that the spread of nuclear technology was dangerous owing to proliferation concerns. While they exported reactors to developing countries for civilian energy purposes, they were careful to not share the technology. Nevertheless, China became a nuclear weapons state in the 1960s and India did a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion in the 1970s. Apart from the p-5, four other states have nuclear capabilities now. So while they could not effectively stop the percolation of weapons technology, the efforts of the US and USSR did stymie the civilian sector. Second, in the 1990s, they became concerned about terrorist organisations like the Taliban getting their hands on uranium and this concern further stymied the spread of nuclear technology and materials. While one can steal a vial of a virus from any laboratory, it is extremely difficult to steal even little quantities of uranium.
The US has not built a single reactor for the last 20 years. European countries like Germany, which had companies manufacturing important components for nuclear power plants, are today making primarily consumer goods. US companies that used to design and build nuclear reactors have gone bankrupt. In my view, the US and Europe have willingly given away their leadership positions in nuclear technology. Now, who will take their place? China, India and South Korea will be the beneficiaries. China has ambitious expansion plans to become a world leader in energy.
Third, nuclear accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima have also played their role. Chernobyl was part of the USSR and even though USSR was a member of the IAEA, this reactor was not part of any international supervision. There was a design fault in the reactors at Chernobyl. Why were reactors with design faults allowed to continue? For political reasons! There’s no other rationale. With regards to Fukushima, few years before the accident, a safety review group from the IAEA visited the Fukushima power plant and they raised issues about the safety of the plant-like keeping the emergency power generators at low elevations. They warned that this plant would be vulnerable to a tsunami. But the plant operators did nothing about it. All the plants on the coast which had taken care of this were absolutely safe while only Fukushima was affected. Fukushima failed because they ignored the expert views.
Frankly, the nuclear energy industry has not taken either its natural course or role. Politics has come into the picture and distorted it. Fortunately, India has not succumbed to the various pressures and is continuing to expand the programme. So, it is our understanding that despite all the past, nuclear energy will see a revival.
You have suggested a global energy grid as a solution to climate change and energy issues. But given the challenges of not just geography, but also interested inter-state politics, how feasible would this be?
VSR: There are very little transmission costs associated with transporting electricity over long distances. Compare this with the costs involved in transporting something like oil, for instance. Global grid, drawing from this ability to transport electricity over long distances without incurring significant costs, emerges as a promising idea. But it is not a new idea; it is not our idea. A few decades back, Buckminster Fuller had suggested this. He said there is no night and day in renewable energy as when it is dark in one part of the world, it is sunny in another. So if we can connect the globe, we can get 24 hours of electricity from sunlight everywhere. He asked, why can't we have a global grid? A global grid solves the problem of solar energy being generated only 6 hours a day in an isolated plant. And we no longer need to solve the battery problem. Solar energy which hits the face of the earth is several times more than the world’s yearly energy requirement. China has already started thinking of building a grid across the arctic. Even India is moving forward to have a larger solar grid as part of the International Solar Alliance. People ask will Pakistan and China agree to a regional grid? Why would they not agree if they get electricity, 24 hours a day? The only thing required is to sit with them and discuss. It is a political issue. It is not that it is impossible to have a global energy grid. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, common good will prevail over political differences and you will have a global grid.
The example of mobile phones is very illustrative. Through my mobile, I can talk to anyone in the world at any time. Was this possible a few decades back? When we went abroad for the first time, it was hard even to inform our families that we had reached safely. We had to rely on costly and unreliable telephone operators. Today, we do not depend on anyone. If we are making an international call, it can be made to anyone, anywhere at any time. So, if the world can be linked globally for one kind of electrical signal, voice or data, why can’t it happen for the electricity itself?
About the interviewers
Lokendra Sharma and Akriti Sharma are PhD Scholars, Avishka Ashok and Sukanya Bali are Research Associates, at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS.
by Lokendra Sharma and Akriti Sharma
Unfolding Chinese tryst with cryptocurrencies
On 22 August, a high court in China’s Northern Shandong province ruled that “cryptocurrency is not protected by law”. The court was dealing with a case of an investor’s crypto accounts being closed by Chinese authorities after the central bank enforced the ban on crypto transactions. The plaintiff investor has bought digital coins endorsed by three friends in 2017 worth USD 10,756. But, in 2018, the central bank barred payment institutions from supporting crypto transactions. Plaintiff’s appeals in the lower courts have already been rejected.
This ruling is not an isolated event. It is part of the larger Chinese crackdown on cryptocurrency which began in 2013 when third-party payment companies were barred from dealing with bitcoin. Then in 2017, they placed a ban on token sales and in 2019, they targeted crypto exchanges. In May this year, China placed a comprehensive ban on financial institutions in dealing with cryptos. Then in June, China launched a massive crackdown on cryptocurrency mines, shutting down as much as 90 per cent of mining capacity.
The crackdown has resulted in a migration of Chinese companies which had set up mining farms in the interior regions of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and Yunnan due to the availability of cheap electricity from coal and hydropower stations. These companies are shipping their costly computers specifically built for mining purposes to countries like the US, Kazakhstan and Russia. The crackdown and migration have affected the cryptocurrency ecosystem, coming at a time when the values of major cryptos like bitcoin have been nosedived in value. Even though it is yet to be seen how resilient these miners would prove to be, and whether they would find other cost-effective locations to operate from, this great migration has resulted in further diffusion of mining power, thus benefiting the crypto ecosystem in the long run.
(Coco Feng, “Court in China says cryptocurrency ‘not protected by law’ in ruling that could set a precedent for bitcoin lawsuits”, South China Morning Post, 23 August 2021; Caitlin Ostroff and Elaine Yu, “Cryptocurrency Companies Are Leaving China in ‘Great Mining Migration’”, Wall Street Journal, 22 August 2021; MacKenzie Sigalos, “China’s war on bitcoin just hit a new level with its latest crypto crackdown”, CNBC, 7 July 2021)
Africa: Ivory Coast reports the first case of Ebola after 26 years
On 14 August, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the health ministry of Ivory Coast confirmed its first case of the Ebola virus since 1994. The patient had travelled from Guinea to the country. On 19 June 2021, WHO had declared an end to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea following which six neighbouring countries: Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia were put on alert. However, there has been no evidence of the link between the outbreak in Guinea and the Ivory Coast yet. On 6 August, the health ministry of Guinea reported its first case of the Marburg virus.
Ebola virus is a fatal disease. The average fatality rate of the virus is 50 per cent. It was first transmitted through the direct contact of humans with the blood or bodily of ill or dead animals such as the fruit bats, monkeys, wild antelopes, chimpanzees, gorillas and porcupines. The symptoms include fever, muscle pain, fatigue, body pain, headache and sore throat. Marburg virus disease is a highly infectious disease with a fatality rate of 24-90 per cent. It can be transmitted through contact with body fluids or tissues of the infected person or animals including fruit bats and monkeys. The symptoms include severe fever, headache, diarrhoea and malaise. Ebola and Marburg belong to the same family of viruses.
The epidemics are more common in Africa and Asia due to population explosion, changing urban landscapes, subsistence agriculture, inadequate housing, feed supplementation, and disease control of animals, high direct contact with animals such as pigs, chickens, cattle’s which can be carriers of various kinds of virus. In Africa, the outbreak of the Ebola virus can be attributed to population growth, increasing human-wildlife interaction, encroachment of forests, consumption of bushmeat. Animals like fruit bats have been found to be major transmitters of Ebola throughout Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo has been a major victim of Ebola since the first outbreak in 1976. One of the main reasons why the country has faced the most numbers of Ebola outbreaks is rich forest covers and fruit bats which are believed to be reservoirs of the disease.(WHO, Ebola virus disease, 23 February 2021)(WHO, Marburg virus disease, 7 August 2021)(Al Jazeera, Guinea identifies 58 contacts of Ebola patient in Ivory Coast, 19 August 2021)(Dina Fine Maron, Why Does Ebola Keep Showing Up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?, Scientific American, 11 May 2018)(Suresh V Kuchipudi, Why So Many Epidemics Originate in Asia and Africa, U.S. News, 4 March 2020)
By Sukanya Bali, Avishka Ashok and Juan Mary Joseph
The US: Californian team of scientists discover a breakthrough in nuclear fission
On 17 August, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced a breakthrough in nuclear fusion research after successful experimentation in the National Ignition Facility. Through the experiment, the team discovered that fuel pellets containing deutrerium and tritium could be exposed to heat using lasers to produce more energy. The co-director at Imperial College London commented on the experiment and said: “The megajoule of energy released in the experiment is indeed impressive in fusion terms, but in practice, this is equivalent to the energy required to boil a kettle.” The research makes use of new diagnostics and improved laser precision to create conditions similar to the core of the sun. (Aswathi Pacha, Explained: Nuclear fusion and the recent breakthrough, The Indian Express, 20 August 2021)
The US: Tesla to launch humanoid prototype robot
On 19 August, the CEO of Tesla Inc Elon Musk hinted at the launch of a humanoid robot prototype in the coming year while speaking at the company’s AI day event. The objective behind the “Tesla bot” is to prevent humans from engaging in dangerous, repetitive or boring tasks. The bot will be five foot and eight inches tall and will be capable of handling all menial and dry tasks such are attaching bolts to getting groceries. Musk also looked at the project as a means to tackle the labour crunch in Western countries and aimed to make it cheap and affordable. He said: “The robot would have profound implications for the economy.” (Hyunjoo Jin, Musk says Tesla likely to launch humanoid robot prototype next year, Reuters, 20 August 2021)
The US: Electric Vehicle industry showcases upsurge in demands
On 20 August, Reuters published a report on the surge in demands in the electric vehicle industry. According to the report, the increased demands act as a bonanza for the factory equipment manufacturers who produce automated parts for the electric vehicles. The US Census Bureau reported that the new orders for the EV were worth over USD 506 million, a tremendous jump from April 2020 when it amounted to USD 361.8 million. This upsurge in the industry signifies great success for robot and equipment makers who will benefit from the industry. The growth in demand is also credited to the vast success of the Tesla EVs. There is also a visible growth in the investments in the industry with automakers pledging to contribute over USD 37 billion to production plants by 2025. (Ben Klayman, The electric vehicle boom is pay-dirt for factory machinery makers, Reuters, 20 August 2021)
Australia: Flubot malware affects thousands of android users
On 20 August, the Guardian reported that thousands of Australians were targeted by a text message scam that installs malware on mobile phones called “Flubot”. The malware primarily attacks android phones and makes the users access a link to download software which enables the attackers to access credit card details, messages, browse through the internet pages and other information on the phone. The same malware had also affected more than 3,700 users in Europe earlier this year. According to Scamwatch, more than 413 scam reports were registered every day between 4 and 17 August. The spokesperson for TPG, a phone service provider, revealed that the company had blocked more than 14 million spam messages in one week. He said: “As scammers constantly morph their tactics, we continually update our filters and mechanisms to catch new scams.” (Josh Taylor, Australians hit by ‘Flubot’ malware that arrives by text message, The Guardian, 20 August 2021)
The US: Computational simulation suggests increasing output from wind farms by installing windbreaks
On 10 August, Science News reported that contrary to widespread belief, windbreaks could help in boosting the output of wind farms. According to physicists, the low walls that block the wind can be used productively to increase the output of wind farms. Windbreaks create a physical obstacle in front of the windmills, increasing the speed of the wind above the windbreak as the air rushes over the structure. A new computational simulation revealed that the output from wind farms would be far greater if a windbreak was placed before each turbine. The best output can be obtained if the windbreaks are 1/10th the size of the turbine and five times the size of the blade. Through this method, the total power output can be increased by ten per cent. (Emily Conover, Windbreaks, surprisingly, could help wind farms boost power output, Science News, 10 August 2021)
China: Rocket for the Tianzhou-3 mission arrives at launch site
On 16 August, the Long March-7 Y4 rocket for the Tianzhou-3 mission, which will launch the new cargo craft of China’s space station, arrived at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in southern China's Hainan Province. The manned spacecraft and carrier rocket for the Shenzhou-13 manned space mission are also undergoing preparations at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said that the facilities and equipment at both launch sites are in good condition and are undergoing orderly preparations. (Huaxia, Chinese rocket for Tianzhou-3 mission arrives at launch site, Xinhuanet, 23 August 2021)
India: GSLV launch suffers failure
On 12 August, the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) carrying a new Earth-observation satellite (EOS-03) of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) suffered a failure shortly after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. The failure has been attributed to a technical anomaly that led the GSLV from not igniting at its cryogenic third stage. The GSLV launch failure, the first of its kind since 2017, has broken a streak of 14 successful launches for the ISRO. The Earth observation satellite, lost with the rocket, was designed to be a state-of-the-art tool for ISRO to study near real-time images of India, track natural disasters and other short-term events, collect data to assist agriculture and forestry by monitoring crop health for at least the next 10 years. Five other missions which were due to be launched by the end of 2021 will likely be put on hold as ISRO investigates the cause for the GSLV launch failure. (Tariq Malik, Indian rocket suffers catastrophic failure during launch, Earth-watching satellite lost, Space.com, 12 August 2021)
Chile: Remote fishing hamlets to receive free internet from Starlink
On 19 August, Reuters reported that Sotomo and Caleta Sierra, two remote fishing areas in Chile, h been chosen to receive free internet for a year as part of a pilot project run by Elon Musk’s Starlink, a division of SpaceX. The project which aims to roll out 12,000 satellites as part of a low-Earth orbiting network to provide low-latency broadband internet services around the world focuses on remote areas that terrestrial internet infrastructure struggles to reach. The company has also since October, been offering a 'Better Than Nothing Beta' program to subscribers in the US, in order to generate the funds for SpaceX to develop a rocket capable of flying paying customers to the moon and eventually attempt to colonize Mars. (Pablo Sanhueza, WIDER IMAGE Elon Musk's satellites beam internet into remote Chilean fishing hamlet, Reuters, 20 August 2021)
The US: The cybersecurity risks in space technology
On 21 August, Forbes published an article about why space is the next frontier for cybersecurity. The main cybersecurity challenges in space arise from the scale, distance, the criticality of systems, the functioning of equipment and the lack of international cybersecurity cooperation. Hacking of earth-based systems could lead to an inter-space collision and potentially affect communications systems globally. In addition, with more governments and private organizations becoming involved with space projects, it has also led to a significant increase of the number of potential access points for hackers. The rise of advanced technology, such as quantum computers, also poses a cybersecurity threat to the space-based ecosystem. The severe with space technology is another hurdle towards a safe space system that need to be overcome in the next few decades. Space equipment manufacturers Boeing and Northrup Grumman raised some important points at a recent webinar discussion on lowering cybersecurity risk. First, the need for upfront cybersecurity accountability for equipment, hardware and operating systems. Second, the need for private and public sectors to collaborate and conduct real-world cybersecurity scenarios before the equipment gets sent into orbit. Third, the need for governments and international bodies to implement global standards for hacker-proofing technology and existing cybersecurity standards that can be tweaked to make the space industrial ecosystem more secure. (John Shin, Why Space Is the Next Frontier for Cybersecurity, Forbes, 20 August 2021)
India: BRICS space agencies agree to share data from remote sensing satellites
On 18 August, the BRICS Space Agencies Heads, under India’s BRICS Chair ship, signed an agreement for cooperation in remote sensing satellite data sharing in the presence of officials from respective external/foreign affairs Ministries. The agreement, which enables the building of specified remote sensing satellites of BRICS space agencies is expected to strengthen multilateral cooperation and address challenges such as global climate change and disasters, as well as engage in environmental protection. (BRICS Space Agencies leaders signed Agreement for cooperation in Remote sensing satellite data sharing, ISRO, 18 August 2021)
Japan: JAXA aims to bring soil samples from Martian moons by 2029
On 20 August, Japan’s space agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), announced that that it plans to launch an explorer in 2024 to land on the Martian moon Phobos to collect 10 grams of soil and bring it back to Earth in 2029. If successful, this would put Japan ahead of the US and China in bringing back samples from Mars. (Japan aims to bring back soil samples from Mars moon by 2029, The Associated Press, 20 August 2021)
The US: Space Force sets up a new field of the command
On 21 August, C4ISR reported that the U.S. Space Force is set to establish its third and final field command STARCOM on Aug. 23, The Space Training and Readiness Command / STARCOM will be in charge of the Space Force’s doctrine, training, test and education efforts and will be located at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. The establishment of STARCOM comes just days after the formal creation of the Space Systems Command on Aug. 13, which leads most of the Space Force’s acquisitions efforts. The new organization will oversee doctrine, training and professional education of Space Force military and civilian personnel, and will coordinate basic training and recruiting. (Nathan Strout, Space Force standing up STARCOM to train guardians, C4ISRNET, 21 August 2021)
China: Green-push dilemma, what is new on the table
On 18 August, Reuters reported on the calculation of National Bureau of Statistics data, Beijing “pledged to limit crude steel output this year at no higher than the 1.065 billion tones it made in 2020. To meet that goal, steel producers would have to cut output by roughly 10 per cent for the rest of 2021 from their record first-half pace.” According to BP, China is the world’s largest polluter contributing nearly 31 per cent of global CO2 emission. Among 31 Chinese provinces and regions reported decline from January to June in output. (Min Zhang and Gavin Maguire, “Analysis: Green-push dilemma: China’s steel curbs could cripple price control efforts,” Reuters)
South Korea: Federation of Korean Industries says companies are more vulnerable to ESG risks
On 22 August, the Federation of Korean Industries stated many manufacturing industries face environmental, social, and corporate governance risks as compared to their European counterpart. The report highlighted, companies in South Korea, China, and India are more ‘vulnerable to risks stemming from global ESG trends.’ In contrast to France or the UK. According to Industrial Statistics Analysis, the service industry accounts for 80 per cent of France and the UK, 62.4 per cent for South Korea and 53.4 per cent for China’s economy. The federations said, “(Companies) should standardize ESG risk-related issues in advance in order to lower the chances of it happening and also prepare a process or governance that can react quickly when risks materialize.” (Yim Hyun-su, “Korean companies more vulnerable to ESG risks: report,” The Korea Herald)
Arctic: IPCC report suggests further melting of Arctic Sea Ice
According to the UN Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth assessment report, “Global warming will lead to further melting of sea ice, Greenland’s inland ice cap, and glaciers, as well as less snow and increased permafrost thaw.” The report highlighted the extension of the sea ice in the Arctic has reduced by 40 per cent in September to 10 per cent in March, which has been marked lowest in the least 1,000 years. By 2050, it is likely that the Arctic will be more or less free. (Peter B Danilov, “Arctic Sea Ice Level at Its Lowest Since 1850, According to New Report” High North News)
Arctic: Research discover phytoplankton produces biofuels
Japanese Ocean Research and Development Organization reported the discovery of phytoplankton which produces components as gasoline in the Arctic Ocean. It raised speculation of new research on the development of new biofuels. Phytoplankton referred to as microalgae, which was first discovered in 2013 it is the base of several aquatic food webs and is consumed by a sea creature. Late July, NHK News reported, the organism produces the components as gasoline and diesel fuel. (Polina Leganger Bronder, “Researchers discover Arctic phytoplankton that synthesizes hydrocarbons equivalent to petroleum,” The Barents Observer)
Chetna Vinay Bhora
Vineeth Daniel Vinoy