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Goal to End Fossil Fuels by 2050 Proposed at Lima Climate Talks

Climate
Goal to End Fossil Fuels by 2050 Proposed at Lima Climate Talks

A draft negotiating text was circulated yesterday at the UN climate summit in Lima, Peru that would cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050, earlier than many other proposals, and could spell the end of the fossil fuel industry. It's one of the most ambitious proposals to come out of the conference.

Scenes like this would become history in 35 years if a new draft proposal to end carbon emissions by 2050 is adopted in Paris next year.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

According to The Guardian of London, the countries behind this aggressive proposal to address climate change include Norway, Sweden, the Marshall Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and Panama. Their hope is that it will provide a negotiating framework heading into next December's final talks in Paris.

The 33-page draft text suggested that developed countries reach peak emissions by next year en route to eliminating them entirely by 2050 and achieving negative emissions by 2100. It noted that "the time frame for peaking may be longer in developing countries, in the context of equitable access to sustainable development." and suggested pathways to achieving its goal.

Reaction from environmental activists was positive, although they cautioned that it will take some determined advocacy and hard work to keep it in the final agreement to be hammered out in Paris.

"I think we have to say to ourselves that the chances of this stuff staying in the text are down to all of our collective efforts in demanding that this stays in the text," Ruth David of Greenpeace UK told Guardian writer Graham Readfearn. "This is not only civil society but also progressive businesses who have to make their voices heard in keeping this in the text. The chances of this stuff surviving are dependent on the efforts that we collectively make to influence politicians to do the right thing."

"This text won’t be settled here," Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told The Guardian. "It is an options text that then needs to be translated into a legal text and it won’t be decided until the last night at Paris. So which long-term goal survives the end of the day we won’t know until a year from now. But there was incredible political momentum coming out of the climate summit in New York where about 60 national leaders endorsed the need for a long-term goal as part of the Paris agreement and that number is continuing to grow. We have more and more businesses, faith groups and unions speaking out—there is a momentum building around this and I think by Paris next year the chances of a strong goal staying in the agreement are probably much greater than they are right now."

On the other hand, major carbon emitter Saudi Arabia said the 2050 goal was not achievable. Khalid Abuleif, Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator, told the Financial Times, “We really don’t think it’s realistic at this stage with the current technology and current economic model base we have."

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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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