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DiCaprio-Funded Study: Staying Below 1.5ºC is Totally Possible

Renewable Energy
DiCaprio-Funded Study: Staying Below 1.5ºC is Totally Possible
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Climate change has been called the biggest challenge of our time. Last year, scientists with the United Nations said we basically have 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5ºC to avoid planetary catastrophe.

Amid a backdrop of rising global carbon emissions, there's a real case for pessimism. However, many scientists are hopeful of a way out.


Now, a new climate model shows that we can achieve and even beat the 1.5ºC threshold by transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 and implementing natural climate solutions.

The "One Earth Climate Model"—presented Monday at the World Economic Forum in Davos—is a compilation of two years of research by scientists at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the German Aerospace Center and the University of Melbourne. The research was funded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

"With the pace of urgent climate warnings now increasing, it's clear that our planet cannot wait for meaningful action," actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio said in a press release for the study. "This ambitious and necessary pathway shows that a transition to 100 percent renewable energy and strong measures to protect and restore our natural ecosystems, taken together, can deliver a more stable climate within a single generation."

Using state-of-the-art computer modeling, the researchers present a pathway of how each unique region in the world can stay below 1.5ºC using currently available resources and technologies.

One Earth Climate Model

Karl Burkart, the director of Innovation, Media & Technology at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation delved deeper into the new study:

Some have doubted that a transition to 100 percent renewables is even possible. To explore the potential, the scientists at UTS created the most sophisticated computer model of the world's electrical grids to date—with 10 regional and 72 sub-regional energy grids modeled in hourly increments to the year 2050 along with a comprehensive assessment of available renewable resources like wind and solar, minerals required for manufacturing of components, and configurations for meeting projected energy demand and storage most efficiently for all sectors over the next 30 years.

The researchers focused their study on six major energy and conservation measures to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, including advancement in renewables and energy storage; improvements in energy efficiency; major global electrification; re-purposing the existing fossil fuels-based infrastructure; a just transition from fossil fuels jobs to ones in renewable energy; and forest reforestation.

University of Technology, Sydney

"The main barrier is neither technical nor economic—it's political," lead author Sven Teske, research director at the UTS's Sydney's Institute for Sustainable Futures, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Teske added "it's not too late" to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, the lower target of the Paris climate agreement.

The estimated to cost of the proposal is approximately $1.7 trillion per year, which is quite the sum but "pales in comparison" to the $5 trillion a year that governments currently provide to the fossil fuels industry, the press release noted.

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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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