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Interactive Map Sheds Light on Potential Impact of Paris Climate Agreement

Climate
Interactive Map Sheds Light on Potential Impact of Paris Climate Agreement

By Eliza Northrop

Next week, more than 100 heads of state and other high-level government officials are expected to come to New York City for the signing ceremony of the Paris agreement adopted at COP21 last year. The UN expects signatures at the ceremony to exceed the number of first-day signatures of any other international agreement, demonstrating overwhelming political support for global climate action.

Signing is the first of a two-step process for countries to formally join the agreement—the next is ratification. Once 55 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gases complete this process, the agreement will “enter into force" or come into effect and be legally binding.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has called for leaders to sign and ratify the agreement as soon as possible. The momentum has already started, with a number of countries receiving approval from their parliaments to ratify ahead of the signing ceremony on April 22.

But how soon will countries join? And what unique mix of countries is necessary to cross the 55-55 threshold that brings the Paris agreement into full effect?

Introducing the Paris Agreement Tracker

The World Resources Institute unveiled the Paris Agreement Tracker on Wednesday. The interactive tool enables people to monitor countries' progress toward ratifying the Paris agreement and allows users to create, share and embed their own combinations for bringing it into force.

At the time of writing this blog, the Paris Tracker Map is blank, as no countries have signed or joined the agreement yet. By tapping on countries or selecting geographies or negotiating groups, you can see what possible combinations of countries would cross the emissions and countries threshold.

Try it out for yourself here.

Some insights that are immediately apparent include:

We Need at Least One of the Top Four Emitters

As you can see in the scenario below, even if every other country in the world ratifies the agreement, it cannot go into force without at least one of the four biggest emitters (China, U.S., EU and Russia) doing so as well.

U.S. and China Together Get Most, But Not All, of the Way There

The U.S. and China announced their intention to sign the Paris agreement on April 22 and committed to join the agreement this year “as early as possible." Each country must follow its respective domestic processes before ratifying. The U.S. can join based on the president's authority, but for China, the approval of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is also required.

Combined, the U.S. and China account for about 38 percent of global emissions, which gives a major boost to efforts to reach the threshold for entry into force. We would still need a number of relatively large emitters, such as Russia, India, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Korea or Mexico, to come on board early to meet the 55 percent emissions threshold quickly.

Where Are We at Right Now?

A number of countries, namely Fiji, Palau, Marshall Islands, the Maldives and Switzerland, have already completed their domestic approval processes allowing them to sign the Paris agreement and ratify on April 22. Others, such as Tuvalu, have indicated they will do so by the signing ceremony.

Although these countries represent only a small amount of total global emissions, their leadership in early ratification is crucial to getting to the required 55 countries. We would easily get there if other small island developing states and members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum ratified.

How Long Will it Take for the Paris Agreement to Enter into Force?

It is reasonable to think entry into force would happen in 2017, but it's possible that a number of countries could join this year and pass the threshold for the agreement to go into effect. But given the varying timelines for countries to complete their domestic approval processes, the timing of entry into force is uncertain.

For example, in Australia, the only requirement is formal notification and introduction of the agreement in Parliament, whereas in Mexico, the consent of the Senate is also required. For Brazil, the approval of the National Congress is required, which means seeking approval of two separate houses of Parliament. And still other countries, such as Vietnam, apply different approval processes depending on the nature of the international agreement.

Even though the EU is considered one “party" to the agreement, it will likely have to act jointly with its 28 member states. Each member state must complete its domestic approval processes and the Council of Ministers, with the consent of the European Parliament, will also need to adopt a decision to ratify. This could take a couple of years, but early entry into force is still possible without the EU.

While some compare the Paris agreement to the Kyoto Protocol process, the previous international climate agreement, there are some important differences. Although the Kyoto Protocol followed a similar 55 Parties/55 percent of emissions approach, its threshold was based only on the carbon dioxide emissions from developed countries. By contrast, the Paris agreement's entry into force takes into account all greenhouse gas emissions from all countries, so it should take legal effect much more quickly than Kyoto's seven years.

The Paris Agreement Tracker shows the importance all countries play in bringing this international climate agreement into full effect. April 22 represents the next step in what was started last December. All countries should sign and join the Paris agreement as soon as they are able to send a strong signal that they're moving toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient world.

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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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