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5 Things to Know Before Next Week's Critical UN Climate Talks

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5 Things to Know Before Next Week's Critical UN Climate Talks
The annual United Nations climate talks, aka COP24, will be held in Katowice, Poland. @UNFCCC / Twitter

Next week, heads of state and representatives from roughly 200 countries will descend in Katowice, Poland for the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, informally known as COP24.

Here are some things to know ahead of the critical summit:


1. The overarching goal. Creating a rulebook, or "work program," on how to implement the landmark 2015 Paris agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C by the end of the century avoid the devastating impacts of climate change.

The two-week talks, which officially kicks off on Dec. 2, will be held just months after a dire report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warned that the world has a narrow 12-year window to drastically reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

At COP24, international negotiators will hammer out exactly how countries will track, report and verify emissions reductions commitments.

2. Calls for greater action. Unfortunately, the current commitments by world governments that signed the Paris agreement will not be enough to remain under 2°C, much less the more ambitious 1.5°C target.

For that reason, leaders from 16 European countries are calling for more stringent efforts to curb global warming, the Associated Press reported. At next week's talks, negotiators will aim for even more ambitious climate goals.

3. The $100 billion question. In 2009, richer countries pledged $100 billion a year by 2020 to poorer nations to tackle the effects of climate change. Bloomberg reported that the climate funding reached $70 billion as of 2016—so there's still a way to go. COP24 delegates from these poorer countries will want more details on when and how much money coming before committing to the rulebook.

Notably, it doesn't help that President Trump, who intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement, decided last year to cancel $2 billion in promised funding.

4. What the United States will do. Preparatory meetings were held in Bangkok this past September to draft out details of the rulebook before the Katowice summit. As DeSmog explained, the U.S. was criticized over working to delay clarity over the agreement's financing (nonetheless, a top UN negotiator praised "good progress" from the talks).

Reuters reported earlier this month that President's Trump team will "set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels" at the climate summit. Citing three sources, the American officials will "highlight the benefits of technologies that more efficiently burn fuels including coal," Reuters reported.

5. You can participate, too. Climate change is not some far-away phenomenon, it is here now and impacts people around the globe everyday.

This year, the UN created a "People's Seat" for you to "virtually sit" and share your views alongside government leaders at the climate talks. To join the effort, tag your thoughts with hashtag #TakeYourSeat on social media.

Famed naturalist David Attenborough will deliver the "People's Address" at the COP24 plenary on Dec. 3, which will be broadcast on social media around the world.

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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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