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PSIR 2A-11.3 Environment – Previous Year Questions – Solved

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] Narrate the various ways in which rapid environmental degradation is posing a serious threat to human security. Illustrate your answer with suitable examples. [2023/15m/200w/3c]

Human security places the individual as the referent object of security rather than as state sovereignty and “national security.” From this perspective, environmental degradation constitutes a serious threat to human security, unless effective environmental governance is implemented.

The twin security and environmental crises are linked in ways that we are only beginning to understand, with impacts we are only beginning to feel. Climate change is a risk multiplier for both new and pre-existing sources of tension. The impacts fall hardest in places already marked by poverty, dysfunctional governance and conflict history. However, given the extent of interconnections in the 21st century, they have consequences right across the world—connecting people and populations in an environment of insecurity.

Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, and wildfires. These events can result in significant loss of life, displacement, and damage to infrastructure, affecting the physical security and well-being of communities.

As environmental conditions deteriorate, communities may be forced to migrate due to factors like sea-level rise, desertification, and natural disasters. This can lead to internal and cross-border displacement, creating refugee crises and exacerbating social and political tensions.

Environmental degradation can disrupt livelihoods, damage infrastructure, and reduce agricultural productivity. This economic vulnerability can lead to poverty, social instability, and even conflict.

Addressing these threats to human security requires a multi-pronged approach that includes mitigation and adaptation measures to combat environmental degradation, as well as policies and strategies to promote social resilience, sustainable resource management, and international cooperation. [254 words]

2] Discuss the five proposals made by India in the recent COP-26 conference held in Glasgow. [2021/10m/150w/1e]

Indian Prime Minister presented to the world the ‘panchamrit’ or five nectar elements of India’s climate action in the recent COP-26 conference.

1.     Reach 500GW non-fossil energy capacity by 2030.

This new target translates to almost two-thirds of the installed capacity in 2030 being non-fossil based, compared with the previous NDC target of 40%. It is a truly ambitious target, which will require India to more than triple the present non-fossil fuel capacity in less than a decade.

2.     50% electrical energy requirement from renewable energy by 2030

India currently meets about 20% of its electrical energy requirement from renewable energy. The country’s electrical energy requirement is expected to grow about one and a half times in this decade. The new 50% target of electricity is ambitious and will require carbon-free electricity standards and significant investments to store and transmit renewable electricity.

3.     1 billion tonnes cut in cumulative emissions by 2030

This is the first time India has expressed an absolute emissions reduction target. A conservative interpretation of this new target is that the 1 billion tonnes are to be reduced from India’s cumulative emissions over the decade of the 2020s. In this case, the new target would mean reducing cumulative emissions by 2.5%. In terms of India’s additional emissions over the decade of the 2020s, the new target would mean reducing emissions by 15%.

4.     45% lower emissions intensity of GDP by 2030

The new target does not give details but is consistent with the ongoing trend and with the other targets announced today. Going from the earlier emissions intensity target of 33-35% to the new target of 45% translates to around 1 billion tonnes of emissions reduction.

5.     Net zero by 2070

Net zero and possible target years for India have been hotly debated in the country over the last year. If the announcement refers to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, it would be very ambitious and more than India’s fair contribution to global efforts to stay within 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. If it refers to net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, it would still send a strong long-term signal to all sectors of the economy and be compatible with 2 degrees Celsius of global warming.

India articulated and put across the concerns of developing countries at COP-26 and once again stood as a responsible and concerned nation-state regarding climate change and its impacts. The Panchamrit is reflective of this India’s approach. [403 words]

3] Examine the role of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other major efforts by the UN to address the global environmental crisis. [2020/15m/200w/4c]

Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. The United Nations has been at the forefront in assessing the science and forging a political solution.

In 1992, countries joined UNFCCC to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in international climate change negotiations, particularly the Conference of the Parties (COP), the subsidiary bodies and the COP Bureau. All the subsequent multilateral negotiations on different aspects of climate change, including both adaptation and mitigation, are being held based on the principles and objectives set out by the UNFCCC.

It was in 1972, in Stockholm, that the UN focus was driven toward the environment which is now called the first Earth Summit. this summit resulted in the formation of UNEP. In 1988, IPCC was formed for the examination of greenhouse warming and global climate change. In 1989 Male Declaration, Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer entered into force. in 1992, UN Conference on Environment and Declaration was held in Brazil, where Agenda 21 was adopted and UNFCCC was opened for signature to stabilise the atmospheric concentration of Greenhouse gases.

In the year 1997, Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC came. It was legally binding and has been most influential so far. Most recently the Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris. It is also legally binding and aims to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

A lot has been happening to prevent or at least reduce the environmental crisis that has already become a reality in most places. However, until the root cause i.e. unnecessary consumerism and unconscious industrialisation, we will not be able to achieve much. In the words of Gandhi, ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.’

4] Would you agree that the ongoing debates on international environmental politics continue to be marred by a new North-South ideological divide over historical responsibility and developmental model? Illustrate your answer with suitable examples. [2018/15m/200w/3b]

It is well known that since the seventeenth century when the process of industrialisation began in the global north, the global south was colonised and provided for the raw materials to feed the northern industries.

When the Global South got the opportunity to industrialise and raise their standards of living, the environmental crisis started looming over the whole world. This is a common problem but the issue is that the problem was created solely by the unmindful industrialisation of the North which has made them rich but at the same time took away the scope of development from the South.

On the issue, the Northern perspective is that they should not be held responsible for doing something whose consequences were unknown. When the Bush administration said that it will not respect the Kyoto Protocol because it does not bind China and India, and the Chinese and Indian governments said that they will not tolerate the curbs on their greenhouse gas emissions because the US has not ratified Kyoto, they were, in fact, playing out an unholy alliance to allow their economic elites to continue to evade their environmental responsibilities and free-ride on the rest of the world.”

The global south believes that the north should be ready to accept the differentiated responsibility as the global south does not have the resource to fight climate change as much as them along with all the other problems they suffer.

Moreover, an alternative for the development should be found which could be sustainable. Because if we rely on the ‘development only through industrialisation’ notion, we are going to add to the pollution and it will become a cycle of polluting and fighting pollution. [280 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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