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World Unites Against Trump on Climate

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World Unites Against Trump on Climate
The G20 summit kicked off with the traditional family photo. Bundesregierung / Güngör

At the conclusion of this year's contentious G-20 summit, the countries released a communique on climate that placed Donald Trump starkly at odds with every other nation present. The communique noted that every country aside from the U.S. recognizes that the Paris agreement is "irreversible," reaffirmed their "strong commitment" and will move "swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."


Trade was another major point of contention as the countries tussled over conflicting visions for the future of trade policy. The resulting communique on trade did not mention the need to change trade policies to align with climate objectives. Instead, Trump announced plans for a "very big" trade deal with the United Kingdom to be done "very, very quickly."

The 19 nations—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK and the European Union—represent the majority of the world's economic output and population. The G-20 was Trump's first major international summit since announcing that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement.

Donald Trump is learning the hard way that he cannot thwart the entire world on climate change and expect to continue with business as usual. Trump's historically irresponsible decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement has left the U.S. isolated on the world stage.

The other 19 leaders of the world's largest economies stood shoulder to shoulder in unified support for the Paris agreement. Given the choice between following Trump or standing strong for climate action, not a single world leader decided to back him. That's unprecedented, and it shows how deeply unpopular and misguided Trump's attack on the Paris agreement has been, and how much damage it has done to U.S. credibility and standing in the world.

While trade was another major sticking point in the summit, one question was notably absent from the debate: How can we move from trade rules written by and for corporate polluters to ones that support climate action? We need trade deals that enforce rather than undermine the Paris climate agreement. To achieve this, the world—once again—cannot afford to wait for Trump. Instead of a trade rethink, Trump announced plans for a trade deal with the United Kingdom to be done "very, very quickly." We cannot afford to expand the old, polluter-friendly trade model with more backdoor deals that lock out public input and lock in fossil fuel dependency.

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In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.

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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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