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U.S. Sending $6 Billion to Subsidize Fossil Fuel Projects Abroad

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U.S. Sending $6 Billion to Subsidize Fossil Fuel Projects Abroad
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have called on governments to stop funding fossils. Collin Rees / Oil Change International

By Alex Doukas

The best available science shows an urgent need to keep global temperature increases below 1.5°C to avoid severe disruptions to people and ecosystems. Recent analysis shows that burning the reserves in already operating oil and gas fields alone, even if coal mining is completely phased out, would take the world beyond 1.5°C of warming. The potential carbon emissions from all fossil fuels in the world's already operating fields and mines would take us well beyond 2°C.


Despite this reality, the same governments that have signed on to the Paris agreement on climate change—which agrees to hold global warming to well below 2°C and to strive to limit warming to 1.5°C—continue to provide sweetheart loans, guarantees and other forms of preferential financing to fossil fuel projects that could cause the world to blow past those climate targets.

This analysis shows that G20 governments are providing nearly four times more public finance to fossil fuels than to clean energy.

With the U.S. indicating that it intends to pull out of the Paris agreement, other governments must provide leadership in the clean energy transition: The remaining G20 governments will need to step up. Governments simply cannot be climate leaders while continuing to finance fossil fuels at current rates.

Governments must begin to shift trillions of dollars in investment from polluting infrastructure to low-emission, climate- resilient activities—a massive financial shift from "brown" to "green"—to stay within climate limits. They should start with their own public finance. Yet this analysis shows that recent trends are in the opposite direction. Public finance for fossil fuels far outstrips public finance for clean energy sources—a trend that will have to rapidly reverse in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Of all public finance for energy from G20 institutions and the multilateral development banks between 2013 and 2015:

  • Half—50 percent—supported oil and gas production ($62 billion annually).
  • Looking at all fossil fuel finance, G20 public finance institutions and the multilateral development banks together supplied more than six times more finance to oil and gas than to coal.
  • G20 public finance for fossil fuel exploration—exploration for new reserves of oil, gas and coal—averaged $13.5 billion annually. This finance is particularly egregious, given that most already-discovered reserves must remain unburned to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
  • G20 export credit agencies provided considerably higher levels of support to fossil fuel production between 2013 and 2015 ($38.3 billion annually) relative to all other sources of G20 bilateral public finance for fossil fuels between 2013 and 2015 ($24.7 billion annually). On top of this, multilateral development banks such as the World Bank provided $8.7 billion annually in fossil fuel finance over this same period.
  • Among G20 export credit agencies, support for oil and gas is nearly six times as large as support for coal, while among multilateral development banks, support for oil and gas is more than 12 times as large as support for coal.

If G20 leaders are serious about meeting climate goals, they must undertake rapid and ambitious efforts to shift public finance from "brown" to "green" activities. This is a significant step they can take even without the cooperation of Donald Trump.

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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