UPSC Prelims - Preparation Strategy for Environment, Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change

UPSC introduced a new topic in the year 2011 i.e. environmental ecology, bio-diversity and climate change to the syllabus of G.S Paper I of prelims examination. Although it is quoted in UPSC  prelims syllabus, that this part of the syllabus does not require subject specialization, it is deemed to be one of the toughest sections of Prelims. Rapid developments taking place in this field along with the non-conventional nature of the subject has made it extremely crucial for a student to approach it in totality.

A large number of questions have been appearing from the Environment and Ecology section year after year, truly reflecting the increasing relevance of the Environment to the society as a whole. Ever since the preliminary examination for Indian Forest Service and Civil Service has been clubbed, the weightage given to this section has considerably increased. One can also say that Environment, Ecology, Bio-diversity and climate change constitutes an unsettling part for most civil service aspirants as there is no concrete study material which can be thought of as complete in itself. The nature of questions from this section is moderate to difficult.

The gravity of this section can be judged by the fact that it constitutes around 25-30 percent of the General Studies Paper 1. One look at the weightage of Environment, Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate change section over the past few years helps one analyze the trend around this section.

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Although the syllabus for this section prescribed by UPSC is not exhaustive, it is advised to find out the important sub-topics from where questions can be expected. Candidates are expected to clarify their fundamentals as well as to keep a tab on current news and events as all types of questions, including static, dynamic and contemporary have been asked from this section. Internet can be used extensively for this section as the diverse topics and sub-topics under this section cannot be found in a single book.

Sources of Preparation:

  1. NCERT Geography – Std VI to Std X
  2. NCERT Science – Std VII to Std X
  3. NCERT Economy – Std XI
  4. NCERT Biology – Std XII
  5. NCERT Chemistry – Std XII
  6. News and editorials related to Environment section from newspapers
  7. Regular updates from the Official Website of Environment Ministry
  8. India Year Book
  9. Economic Survey of India
  10. Chapter 4, 5 and 7 from 12th Five year plan Volume I
  11. Science Reporter and Down to earth
  12. Ecology and Environment by P.D. Sharma

Strategy for UPSC

A very simple approach for this section is to strike a perfect mix of static and dynamic portion. It is crucial to strategically place the above mentioned sources in one’s daily study hours in order to improve the chances of cracking questions from this section in prelims.

  • Start building your basics using the list of NCERT books of general science and geography as listed above. It is important to be selective while reading from these books and pick chapters relevant for Ecology, Environment, Biodiversity and Climate Change as prescribed by UPSC in the syllabus.
  • NCERT books indeed helps in building a good foundation but a candidate would still be unaware of plenty of terms and concepts. This gap can be bridged by taking up a book like Ecology and Environment by P.D. Sharma which one can go through easily. The concepts are very easy to grasp and it’s lucidly written.
  • While reading from the sources listed above, one will come across various terms, organizations, publication reports, issues, treaties, etc. related to Environment. It is advised to note those things and collect information related to a particular topic.
  • Candidates should analyze the nature of questions from previous year papers and prepare accordingly. Practising multiple-choice questions give one an edge and striking a fine balance between studying and evaluating yourself form a crucial part of preparation.
  • Keeping oneself updated by never losing track of events going on in the country and abroad is vital. Interlinking static sources with these events helps one gain a better perspective and in-depth knowledge.

Let’s analyze the Environment section from 2016 prelims:

Q1: Consider the following statements:

  1. The international solar alliance was launched at the United Nations climate change Conference in 2015
  2. The alliance includes all the countries of the United Nations

Which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans. A

International solar alliance(ISA) includes an alliance of 121 countries located between tropic of cancer and tropic of Capricorn.

Q2: In the cities of our country, which among the following atmospheric gases are normally considered in calculating the value of Air Quality Index?

  1. Carbon dioxide
  2. Carbon monoxide
  3. Sulfur dioxide
  4. Methane

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 2, 3 and 4 only
  3. 1, 4 and 5 only
  4. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Ans. B

Air quality index (AQI) takes into account Particulate matter (pm) -10 and 2.5, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, CO, ozone, Ammonia and Lead.
National Ambient Air Quality by Ministry of Environment and forest categorizes air pollution into 6 categories by considering 8 pollutants
These pollutants are
PM 10
and PB
Methane CH4 is not in list
These 8 pollutants are analyzed for measuring Air Quality Index in India

Q3: With reference to the agreement at the UNFCCC Meeting in Paris in 2015, which of the following statements is / are correct?

  1. The agreement was signed by all the member countries of the United Nations and it will go into effect in    2017.
  2. The agreement aims to limit the greenhouse gas emissions so that the rise in average global temperature by the end of the century does not exceed 2 Celsius or even 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  3. Developed countries acknowledged their historical responsibilities in global warming and committed to donate $ 1000 billion a year from 2020 to help developing countries to cope with climatic change.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Ans. B

Only statement II is correct. The agreement will enter into force when ratified by at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 % of global greenhouse emissions. The financing for green climate fund is pegged at 100 billion dollars.

Q4: The term ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ is sometimes seen in the news in the context of

  1. Pledges made by the European countries to rehabilitate refugees from the war-affected Middle East
  2. Plan of action outlined by the countries of the world to combat climate change
  3. Capital contributed by the member countries in the establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
  4. Plan of action outlined by the countries of the world regarding Sustainable Development Goals

Ans. B

UNFCCC deals with climate change and individual countries will voluntarily decide the amount of contribution they will make.INDCs refer to the post 2020 climate action commitments by parties and form the foundation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Q5: In which of the following regions of India are you most likely to come across the ‘Great Indian Hornbill’ in its nature habitat?

  1. Sand deserts of northwest India
  2. Higher Himalayas of Jammu and Kashmir
  3. Salt marshes of western Gujarat.
  4. Western Ghats

Ans. D

Threat to the great Indian hornbills is due to deforestation. They are found in the forests of Nepal, India, Mainland Southeast Asia and Sumatra. The distribution of the species is fragmented over its range in South Asia and Southeast Asia. In South Asia they are found in a few forest areas in the Western Ghats and in the Himalayan forests.

Great Hornbills are found in 3 separate areas in South Asia; forests of Western Ghats, Foothills of Himalaya in Uttarakhand to Nepal and Bhutan, and north-east India. They are also found in Myanmar, islands in the Mergui archipelago, southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and peninsular Malaysia and in Sumatra, Indonesia.
They are found in evergreen and moist deciduous forest, mainly in lowland forest, but they can also be found up to 2,000 meters in some areas.

Q6: Consider the following pairs:

Terms sometimes seen in the news                            their origin

  1. Annex- I Countries:                                          Cartagena Protocol
  2. Certified Emissions Reductions:                        Nagoya Protocol
  3. Clean Development Mechanism:                      Kyoto Protocol

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1,2 and 3

Ans. C

Annex-1 countries and certified emission reductions (CER) are part of Kyoto protocol and not Cartagena and Nagoya protocols.

Q7: Which of the following best describes/describe the aim of ‘Green India Mission’ of the Government of India?

  1. Incorporating environmental benefits and costs into the Union and State Budgets there by implementing the ‘green accounting’
  2. Launching the second green revolution to enhance agricultural output so as to ensure food security to one and all in the future
  3. Restoring and enhancing forest cover responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1,2 and 3

Ans. C

The National Mission for Green India (GIM) is one of the 8 Missions outlined under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). Its objectives are protecting; restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures. It envisages a holistic view of greening and focuses on multiple ecosystem services, especially, biodiversity, water, biomass, preserving mangroves, wetlands, critical habitats etc. along with carbon sequestration as a co-benefit. This mission has adopted an integrated multi-sectoral approach as it will be implemented in both public as well as private lands with a key role for the local population in planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring.

 Q8: What is/are the unique about the ‘Kharai Camel’ a breed found in India

  1. It is capable of swimming up three kilometers in seawater
  2. Its survives by grazing on mangroves
  3. It lives in the wild and cannot be domesticated

Select the correct answers using the code given below

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans. A

Kharai camels found in the Kutch region are very unique. They can swim through deep-sea waters and it feeds on mangroves and other saline plants. The breeders have meticulously followed the traditional grazing pattern in the coastal districts. They do not provide special housing or shelter to the camels.

Given the breed’s ability to survive both on land and sea, the Kharai camel is one of the most preferred choices of graziers in the arid coastal region of Kutch. People consume its milk, while male calves are sold for economic returns. It can be domesticated, hence it’s not wild.

Q9: What is ‘greenhouse gas protocol ‘?

  1. it is and international accounting tool for government and business leaders to understand, quantify and manage greenhouse gas emissions
  2. it is an initiative of the united nations to offer financial incentives to developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adopt eco-friendly technologies
  3. it is an inter-governmental agreement ratified by all the member countries of the united nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to specified levels by the year 2022
  4. it is one of the multilateral REDD+ initiatives hosted by the World Bank Group

Ans. A

Standards and tools for companies and organizations to manage their GHG emissions and become more efficient, resilient, and prosperous.

Q10: With reference to ‘Agenda 21’, sometimes seen in the news, consider the following statements:

  1. It is a global action plan for sustainable development.
  2. It originated in the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans. A

It is a voluntary plan of UN on sustainable development. It is a product of Rio earth summit 1992.

You can find more topics by visiting the UPSC Syllabus page. For more preparation related articles, visit the following links.

Related Links

UPSC Books UPSC Monthly Current Affairs Magazine Current Affairs Quiz
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The Rashtrakuta Kingdom  Budget 2020 PDF Cabinet Ministers of India 2020


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