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ExxonMobil Could Be Banned From EU Parliament After Failing to Show at Climate Hearing

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ExxonMobil Could Be Banned From EU Parliament After Failing to Show at Climate Hearing
The ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery in Torrance, California. waltarrrr / Flickr

ExxonMobil could be the second company after Monsanto to lose lobbying access to members of European Parliament after it failed to turn up to a hearing Thursday concerning whether or not the oil giant knowingly spread false information about climate change.

The call to ban the company was submitted by Green Member of European Parliament (MEP) Molly Scott Cato and should be decided in a vote in late April, The Guardian reported.


"This is the company that denied the science, despite knowing the damage their oil exploitation was causing; which funded campaigns to block action on climate and now refuses to face up to its environmental crimes by attending today's hearing," Cato said in a statement released Thursday. "We cannot allow the lobbyists from such corporations free access to the corridors of the European parliament. We must remove their badges immediately."

The only other company to be denied lobby access to MEPs is Monsanto, which was banned for similar reasons in 2017 after it failed to turn up to a hearing on whether it had improperly influenced studies on the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in its Roundup weedkiller.

ExxonMobil contended it could not attend the hearing because of ongoing climate litigation in the U.S. It was concerned that any comments made at the hearing "could prejudice those pending proceedings," according to a letter obtained by AFP.

Evidence presented at the hearing Thursday suggested that ExxonMobil had known since 1959 that global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels "was sufficient to melt the ice cap and submerge New York," Harvard University researcher Geoffrey Supran told AFP.

Supran presented the findings of a peer-reviewed study he had co-authored looking at almost 200 company documents over a period of decades. Four-fifths of internal documents acknowledged the science behind climate change, while a similar percentage of paid newspaper editorials in the U.S. cast doubt on that same science.

"It is the overwhelming consensus of experts studying the history of fossil fuel funding that companies, including ExxonMobil, have orchestrated, funded and perpetuated climate misinformation to mislead the public and politicians, and stifle action," Supran said, as reported in The Guardian. "Unfortunately, they largely succeeded."

ExxonMobil continues to deny charges that it spread climate denial.

"We reject the false allegation that ExxonMobil suppressed scientific research on climate change. News reports that claim we reached definitive conclusions about the science of climate change decades before the world's experts are simply not accurate and have long since been debunked," the company wrote in a statement provided to The Guardian.

However, another study released Friday suggests that ExxonMobil's climate denialism isn't just a matter of history. The InfluenceMap report found that the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, had invested more than $1 billion of shareholder funds on misleading climate-related lobbying and branding in the three years since the Paris agreement.

During that three year period, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total invested $110 billion in new fossil fuel production while they are projected to spend only $3.6 billion on climate friendly alternatives such as renewable energy. Meanwhile, they spent $195 million a year to market themselves as green leaders and $200 million a year to lobby on climate policy, the Huffington Post reported. Those lobbying efforts included the spending blitz by BP and Chevron that helped defeat a carbon tax in Washington State during the 2018 midterm elections, The Guardian reported.

"Oil majors' climate branding sounds increasingly hollow and their credibility is on the line," report author Edward Collins told The Guardian. "They publicly support climate action while lobbying against binding policy. They advocate low-carbon solutions but such investments are dwarfed by spending on expanding their fossil fuel business."

Shorebirds on a sandy beach looking across the Houston Ship Channel to the ExxonMobil Refinery in Baytown, Texas.

Roy Luck / CC BY 2.0

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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