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10 Percent of World's Largest Companies Produce 73 Percent of Greenhouse Gases

Climate
10 Percent of World's Largest Companies Produce 73 Percent of Greenhouse Gases

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Growing pollution at 50 of the world’s biggest-emitting companies threatens to undermine efforts to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming, according to a new report.

A number of key banks and pension funds have recently shifted their financial support away from carbon-intensive assets, particularly dirty fossil fuel projects.

However new research compiled by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and overseen by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows that the 50 global firms with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, operating mostly in the energy, utility and materials sectors, have increased their carbon pollution by 1.65 percent to 2.54 billion tonnes since 2009.

These 50 firms, including Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, Sasol, Arcelor Mittal and RWE, are responsible for 73 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions reported by the world’s largest 500 listed companies—which together represent $87 trillion in investments.

Paul Simpson, chief executive at CDP said:

Many countries are demonstrating signs of recovery following the global economic downturn. However, clear scientific evidence and increasingly severe weather events are sending strong signals that we must pursue routes to economic prosperity whilst reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. It is imperative that big emitters improve their performance in this regard and governments provide more incentives to make this happen.

Later this month a United Nations scientific advisory body to governments on climate change will reportedly show that more scientists than ever agree it’s “extremely likely” that human activities—such as burning fossil fuels—have been the main cause of climate change since the 1950s.

Delaying climate policy and therefore action to tackle this problem will triple the cost of having to reduce our emissions in the near future, governments learned today.

It is against this scientific and regulatory backdrop, which puts heavy pressure on governments to take climate action, that key financial trend-setters—like the World Bank—are increasingly shifting their support away from high-carbon assets.

Malcolm Preston, global lead, sustainability and climate change at PwC said:

The report underlines how customers, suppliers, employees, governments and society in general are becoming more demanding of business. It raises questions for some organizations about whether they are focused on sustaining growth in the long term, or just doing enough to recover growth until the next issue arises. With the initial IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] report only weeks away corporate emissions are still rising.

The world’s top 50 firms may be failing to cut emissions at present but Preston warns that “either business action [to cut emissions] increases, or the risk is regulation overtakes them.”

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY and CLIMATE CHANGE pages for more related news on this topic.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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