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Investors Want Companies to Disclose Environmental Risk

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Investors Want Companies to Disclose Environmental Risk
Protesters used a tractor blockade and climbed a smokestack to halt construction of the Cricket Valley fracked gas power plant in Wingdale, New York, citing the plant's large contribution to climate change and air pollution, on Nov. 16, 2020. Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

There's a growing push from large investors in publicly traded companies to hold the companies accountable for the environmental impact of their practices. In the latest salvo, global companies worth more than $10 trillion are urging companies to disclose their environmental impact to investors, as Forbes reported.


Activist campaigns have proven remarkably effective recently, as major investment firms have divested from fossil fuels and refused to support coal or Arctic drilling. Investor activism has also been credited with securing a series of net-zero emissions pledges from a number of companies, including energy and mining companies.

The Non-Disclosure Campaign organized by CDP, a non-profit global environmental disclosure platform, is composed of more than 100 investors, holding assets worth upwards of $10 trillion, from 23 different countries. They issued a letter to 1,051 countries, including Facebook, Amazon, Domino's and Exxon, insisting that the companies make a more complete disclosure of their environmental impact and risks to their business from the climate crisis, as The Economic Times reported.

The 1,051 companies targeted for lobbying have a combined market value of more than $8 trillion and emit the equivalent of more than 4,800 megatons of CO2. That's equivalent to the amount of CO2 emitted by the U.S. in 2017, according to Forbes.

The companies that the CDP wrote to declined to provide relevant information on their environmental impacts to investors in the past. While nearly 20 percent do disclose some information about information on their greenhouse gas emissions, climate strategies, and policies relating to water use and deforestation, even those companies have been asked to disclose other issues that are germane to their business.

CDP said publicly naming companies helped to improve engagement with investors, as Business Green reported. The CDP found that when 88 large investors pinpointed 707 companies through the campaign, the companies were more than twice as likely to offer up new information.

"The importance of investor engagement to drive disclosure cannot be overstated," said Emily Kreps, global director of capital markets at CDP, as Business Green reported. "Climate change, water security and deforestation present material risks to investments, and companies that are failing to disclose their impact risk trailing behind their competitors in their access to capital.

"As the growth of this campaign shows, investors require decisive data that is consistent, comparable and comprehensive. To make this possible, they expect companies to wholeheartedly engage with TCFD-aligned standards on environmental disclosure and reporting. With business resilience and adaptation to unexpected, systemic risks exposed by the recent public health crisis, the tide is rapidly turning against companies not taking note of investor demands."

The 105 institutional investors who joined the Non-Disclosure Campaign marks a 20 percent increase over last year. They range from the New York State Common Retirement Fund to Trillium Asset Management to Legal and General, one of the UK's largest investors. The investors echoed Kreps.

"Climate change, deforestation and water security have become material issues to many industries. Investors require more comprehensive information and scientific analysis to address risks and opportunities derived from these issues," said Sophia Cheng, chief investment officer at Cathay Financial Holdings, as Forbes reported.

Katarina Hammar, head of active ownership at Nordea Asset Management, said her investment company believes "that increased transparency around companies' environmental performance is a key enabler to improve company performance and to create a more resilient economy," as Business Green reported.

"Consistent and comparable data is key in our company analysis and in particular in the climate risk and opportunity analysis," she added.

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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