Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 14 December 2022

Breakthrough in nuclear fusion energy

GS Paper - 3 (Energy)

Scientists in California have made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology, producing more energy than consumed in a reaction for the first time. The achievement was made at the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco.

What is Nuclear Fusion?

  1. Nuclear fusion reactions power the sun and other stars.
  2. The reaction happens when two light nuclei merge to form a single heavier nucleus. Because the total mass of that single nucleus is less than the mass of the two original nuclei, the leftover mass is energy that is released in the process, according to the Department of Energy.
  3. In the case of the sun, its intense heat - millions of degrees Celsius - and the pressure exerted by its gravity allow atoms that would otherwise repel each other to fuse.
  4. Scientists have long understood how nuclear fusion has worked and have been trying to duplicate the process on Earth as far back as the 1930s.
  5. Current efforts focus on fusing a pair of hydrogen isotopes - deuterium and tritium - according to the Department of Energy, which says that particular combination releases "much more energy than most fusion reactions" and requires less heat to do so.

How are Scientists trying to do this?

  1. One way scientists have tried to recreate nuclear fusion involves what's called a tokamak - a doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber that uses powerful magnets to turn fuel into a superheated plasma (between 150 million and 300 million degrees Celsius) where fusion may occur.
  2. The Livermore lab uses a different technique, with researchers firing a 192-beam laser at a small capsule filled with deuterium-tritium fuel.
  3. The lab reported that an August 2021 test produced 1.35 megajoules of fusion energy - about 70% of the energy fired at the target.
  4. The lab said several subsequent experiments showed declining results, but researchers believed they had identified ways to improve the quality of the fuel capsule and the lasers' symmetry.
  5. The most critical feature of moving fusion from theory to commercial reality is getting more energy out than in.


G7 nations establish international climate club

GS Paper - 2 (International Relations)

The Group of Seven leading economies have created an open, international climate club for countries that want to cooperate in the fight against global warming, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said after a video conference with other G-7 leaders. Germany holds the presidency of the G-7 until the end of the year and then passes it on to Japan.

More about the forum

  1. The new forum group is not intended to be a G-7 initiative; rather, it is to be a global undertaking.
  2. The climate club aims to support the rapid and ambitious implementation of the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). 12 December 2022 was the seventh anniversary of accord's adoption.
  3. The club will work to help accelerate the industrial transition to cleaner forms of energy and to further develop emission-reduction measures.
  4. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Energy Agency would establish a climate change secretariat now that the forum is launched.
  5. New figures published on 12 December 2022 show Germany itself was slow to ramp up renewable energy production this year. While the country increased its solar capacity by 10% in 2022, the amount of additional wind power capacity it installed on land and at sea was only about 3%.
  6. The government aims to increase offshore wind power capacity from about 8 gigawatts to 20 gigawatts by 2030, but this year only 0.2 gigawatts of new capacity were added.


  1. The concept of a climate club was developed by Yale economist William Nordhaus in 2015 and has since gained popularity in policy circles.
  2. Mr. Nordhaus also won the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics for his work on climate change.
  3. In his work, the economist argued that existing climate agreements such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris climate accord are flawed due to their voluntary nature, which he said induces free-riding while responsible nations bear the cost of switching to cleaner technologies.
  4. Germany’s Olaf Scholz has been a staunch supporter of the concept of an international climate club.


RBI removes informal NDF restrictions

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Indian central bank has lifted the informal restrictions on rupee non-deliverable forward trades it had placed on local banks in October. All banks are now backing to build positions in this segment.


  1. The central bank had in October informally communicated to banks to halt building new positions in the NDF market to manage the rupee's volatility. The rupee had dropped to a record low of 83.29 in October.
  2. NDFs are offshore dollar-settled currency derivatives used by investors with limited access to onshore markets to hedge their exposure or speculate.
  3. The rupee's decline to a record low in October had prompted the gap between onshore and NDF rates to widen, leading to arbitrage opportunities which added to the pressure on the local unit, according to bankers.
  4. The RBI's directions back in October were designed to alleviate this pressure on the rupee.
  5. Onshore and offshore differentials have since narrowed, thanks to the dollar's pullback against its major peers and the U.S. Federal Reserve's less hawkish outlook.
  6. The RBI, now, does not think that banks exploiting any mispricing between the two markets pose a threat to the rupee.
  7. The 2-year Treasury yield is down 52 basis points from its peak. The Fed is expected to deliver a smaller 50 basis points rate increase this week after four back-to-back hikes of three-quarters of a percentage point.


Bali's Water Crisis Threatens Local Culture

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

Bali is facing a worsening water crisis from tourism development, population growth and water mismanagement. Bali's water crisis is worsening from tourism development, population growth and water mismanagement, experts and environmental groups warn.  Water shortages already are affecting UNESCO sites, wells, food production and Balinese culture and experts say the situation will deteriorate further if existing water control policies are not enforced across the island.


  1. A tropical, volcanic island in the center of Indonesia's archipelago.

Water Resources

  1. Bali relies on water from three main sourcescrater lakes, rivers and shallow groundwater.
  2. A unique traditional irrigation system, called the “subak,” distributes water through a network of canals, dams and tunnels.
  3. The subak, made a UNESCO site in 2012, is central to Balinese culture, representing the Balinese Hindu philosophy of “Tri Hita Karana”— harmony between people, nature and the spiritual realm.
  4. “This is one of the very special cases of living landscapes in Asia,”

Population Concern

  1. The island’s population jumped more than 70% from 1980 to 2020, to 4.3 million people, according to government census data.
  2. Tourism growth has been even more explosive: Less than 140,000 foreign visitors came to the island in 1980. By 2019, there were more than 6.2 million foreign and 10.5 million domestic tourists.
  3. With the tourism boom, Bali's economy has prospered — at a cost.

Impact on Farmers

  1. The dire impact of the water crisis can be seen in Jatiluwih, in northwestern Bali, where farmers tend to the island's largest rice terraces.
  2. For generations lush green rice terraces have relied on the subak system for irrigation. But in the past decade, farmers have had to import and pump water through white plastic pipes to irrigate the fields.
  3. Other Bali farmers say they can only get one rice harvest instead of two or three a year due to water disruptions,That could reduce food production on the island.

Efforts Required

  1. When Indonesia closed its borders at the height of the pandemic, Bali's tourism dropped drastically. Environmentalists hoped the closure would allow the island's wells to recharge.
  2. But development across the island has continued, including a new government-backed toll road that activists say will further disrupt the subak system.
  3. Tourism is key to Bali but there also should be better enforcement and increased monitoring to protect the island's water resources.

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