150 million tonnes
What is it? Plastic waste in the oceans currently, according to estimates by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Why is it important? Use of plastics and plastic packaging have negative effects on the environment (degradation of natural systems, greenhouse gas emissions) and human beings (can cause cancer, birth defects, genetic changes). If this trend continues, the report says there would be 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish in the ocean by 2025 and by 2050, there would be more plastics than fish by weight.
Tell me more: A minimum of 8 million tonnes of plastics, which is equivalent to one garbage truck per minute, is being leaked into the ocean every year.
What is it? Average capacity utilization of power plants in India in November 2015. It has declined from 65.7% from a year ago.
Why is it important? The low usage has prompted government to allow power plants to sell spare capacity via electricity exchanges. This is likely to reduce the burden of fixed charges, which state distribution companies (discoms) have to pay as a component of the tariff. With the new rule, while the fixed charges would still apply, the profits from sale of idle capacity would be shared equally among power producers and buyers.
Tell me more: Generating stations have been running below capacity as the poor financial health of discoms have prevented them from buying power. State electricity boards, which run the discoms, owe nearly Rs 4 lakh crore to the banks.
What is it? The degree by which the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces in 2015 was above the 20th century average, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NOAA).
Why is it important? That makes 2015 the hottest year on record. It surpassed the previous record of 0.16°C set in 2014. 15 of the 16 hottest years, since record-keeping was started in 1880, belong to the 21st century. It’s an indicator that the effects of global warming could be larger than expected, given the rapid pace at which temperatures are soaring. The phenomenon of El Niño (the occasional warming of waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean) was also one of the main factors for the extreme conditions.
Tell me more: The deviations recorded in the global average temperature on land and sea surfaces separately, were the highest ever (since there have been records).
What is it? Prices of the global benchmarks for crude oil. (West Texas Intermediate – is trading at $26.55 a barrel and Brent at $27.87 per barrel)
Why is it important? Both hit their 13-year lows and have fallen 20% since the beginning of this year. This is largely because of a glut in oil production due to oversupply and tepid demand. Growth in consumption of oil by China, which reported weak economic numbers on Wednesday, accounted for 43% of the world’s oil consumption growth. And, since it is making a transition from a manufacturing-led economy to a service-led one, its consumption of oil has slowed down, thus affecting crude oil prices negatively. Iran’s freedom from sanctions has made it re-enter the global oil market, which is likely to push oil prices down further.
Tell me more: In its January report, the International Energy Agency has said that this supply-demand mismatch will continue until the end of 2016, making it the third straight year where supply would exceed demand by 1 million barrels per day.
What is it? Number of people killed in a militant attack by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan on Wednesday.
Why is it important? This comes almost a year after the Pakistani Taliban militants murdered 150 students and teachers at a school in Peshawar. Shows Pakistani authorities have much to do to counter terrorism, despite a 50% decrease in civilian deaths from terrorist violence in 2015 from the previous year. Khalifa Omar Mansoor, the commander of the faction of the Pakistani Taliban which was responsible for the Peshawar attack, said he was the one who ordered the university attack too. However, Tehrik-e-Taliban, which claims to represent Pakistan’s main Taliban groups, issued a statement disassociating itself from the attack and also, condemning it.
Tell me more: Four gunmen, who slipped into the university campus using the winter fog as shield, stormed into classrooms and dormitories and fired bullets at students and teachers. All the four have been killed.