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5 Huge Climate Success Stories 10 Years After the Release of Al Gore's ‘An Inconvenient Truth’

Climate
5 Huge Climate Success Stories 10 Years After the Release of Al Gore's ‘An Inconvenient Truth’

Here's something to smile about. Check out five of our favorite climate successes in the past decade.

Ten years ago, An Inconvenient Truth brought the issue of climate change out into the open and into mainstream culture like never before. People began asking tough questions about our climate and wanted to know what they could do to make our planet a safer, healthier place for us all. And 10 years later, we can see the results. Last week, we shared in this blog post what's changed for our climate, for better or for worse, over the past decade. But with so many climate successes to choose from, we felt they deserved their own story. So today on the 10th anniversary of An Inconvenient Truth, here are five of our favorite moments of progress the world has made in solving climate change.

1. China—the World's Largest Carbon Emitter—Stepped Up

You know how U.S. fossil fuel interests used to stall pro-climate policies saying, “Well what about China? It doesn't matter what we do if they don't do anything."

Today, they're scrambling for a new line. You see, China is ahead of the game when it comes to deploying renewable energy and working to solve climate change. Last summer, China made one of the strongest national commitments to climate action leading up to the UN's COP 21 climate conference, pledging to expand total energy consumption from non-fossil fuel sources to around 20 percent by 2030. It will require China to deploy roughly 800–1,000 gigawatts of non-fossil fuel power by 2030 or about the total current electricity generation capacity in the U.S. This commitment solidified the progress China has made in recent years in combatting its dangerous air pollution problem.

As the world's largest carbon emitter since 2006, China making a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using more and more clean energy is a major breakthrough. And if China can get serious about cutting emissions and embracing renewables, other nations are going to have to follow suit.

2. The Growth of Renewable Energy and Clean-Energy Jobs

Renewable energy has surged in the past decade, with the cost of clean energies like solar and wind falling each year. And as the price continues to fall, demand continues to increase, which means the industry needs to expand to meet it. The result? Thousands of new jobs added each year.

Let's look at the solar industry. There are already more than 705,000 jobs in solar energy in the U.S., employing Americans in all 50 states. The industry added more than 35,000 jobs in 2015 alone and is showing no sign of slowing any time soon with solar companies projected to add more than 30,000 new workers in 2016.

The wind industry isn't far behind. The U.S. Energy Department predicts there will be more than 600,000 wind-related jobs by 2050, according to its Wind Vision Report, with high growth expected in fields like manufacturing, transportation and offshore wind. By the end of 2014, the U.S. had more than 73,000 jobs in wind energy and the state of Texas alone employed more than 17,000 people in wind-related jobs in 2014.

3. Pope Francis United People From All Faiths to Protect Our Planet

In 2015, Pope Francis made headlines when he released his landmark encyclical, Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home. In the letter—written not just for Catholics, but for people of all faiths—he stressed some of the most important issues facing the world today, including climate change, the environment, poverty and the world economy.

The pope followed up Laudato Si' with a historic visit to the U.S. where he met with top government officials. Here, he echoed themes of his encyclical in public statements and private conversations and made the case for growing our economies through clean energy and new technologies. Above all else, Pope Francis urged the world to come together to take immediate action to protect our planet and allow people from all walks of life to flourish.

4. World Leaders Came Together to Reach the Paris Agreement

In the years following An Inconvenient Truth, world leaders attempted to reach a consensus about how to solve climate change throughout various global summits, but never truly succeeded. That is, until last December, when world leaders came together at the UN's COP 21 climate conference in Paris. The world watched as leaders from 195 countries negotiated for two weeks and finally reached a global agreement—known as the Paris agreement—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary factor driving climate change.

World leaders formally signed the Paris agreement this Earth Day, marking a turning point in the movement for climate solutions by setting a long-term goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. This is the most ambitious target ever formalized at this level—and a really big deal.

5. A Global Movement for Solving Climate Change Began

An Inconvenient Truth sparked a new kind of movement—one where people all over the world wanted to know how they could get involved in helping solve climate change. People realized their everyday actions had an impact on our planet and that they could be part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem.

Part of this movement involved a new group of activists called the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. These activists—called Climate Reality Leaders—are people from every level of society working to educate and inspire others in their communities about the climate crisis. Shortly after the film's release, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore trained the very first group of Climate Reality Leaders in Carthage, Tennessee in 2006. Since then, the Climate Reality Leadership Corps has trained thousands of citizens in 135 countries around the world.

If you want to learn more about becoming a Climate Reality Leader, sign up for information here.

Let's Recommit to Climate Action

Yes, we've seen a lot of great progress like the examples above over the past 10 years. But there's still more to do to ensure we stay on the path to ending climate change and building a safe, healthy future for our planet. First and foremost, we need to ensure our leaders fulfill their commitments in the Paris agreement to cut greenhouse gases. Pledge now to recommit to climate action and help us make certain world leaders live up to the promises they made in Paris.

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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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