8 Hilarious John Oliver Rants Blasting Trump on Quitting Paris Agreement
By Joe McCarthy
Oliver explains the agreement, skewers the rationale for leaving it and gives a good description of the threat of climate change.
Here are eight essential takeaways from the episode:
1. The Paris Agreement Was Voluntary
Trump said that he left the agreement because it was too demanding. In reality, it was entirely voluntary—there was no enforcement mechanism. Each country determined its own goals and was expected—but not required–to hit those goals.
"[This is] Trump's most ludicrous misunderstanding of the agreement … for a man who cites the agreement's strict, onerous and draconian terms," Oliver said. "What he does not seem to comprehend, is each nation sets its own goals, remember, and more importantly, the whole thing is fucking voluntary."
2. The Agreement Wasn't Overly Burdensome on the U.S.
When Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the Paris agreement, he said it was because it required the U.S. to close down job-creating industries like coal, while other countries were allowed to expand those industries.
"India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020," Trump said during his announcement. "We're supposed to get rid of ours."
Oliver noted that the agreement doesn't even mention coal and places no mandate on the U.S. to close any factories—or do anything for that matter. Trump may have been thinking about the Obama-era U.S. regulation known as the Clean Power Plan, which would have retired many coal plants because of high emissions. This regulation was never even implemented and is now being dismantled by the EPA's new director Scott Pruitt.
"Trump's description is so flamboyantly deceptive," Oliver said. "It would have been equally accurate for him to say compliance with the Paris agreement would likely require all ducks to wear jean shorts and it would cost each American five fish and a dumptruck full of hamsters."
3. The U.S. Economy Would Thrive Under Paris Agreement
"If the agreement was a scheme to hurt American businesses, you know who that might be news to?" Oliver asked. "The American businesses."
More than 650 companies have committed to the Paris Agreement, more than half of the fortune 500 companies have plans to reduce their emissions—including Walmart, Bank of America and Phillip Morris—and 25 massive companies such as Microsoft and Intel even made a last-ditch effort to change the president's mind by taking out advertisements supporting the agreement.
The Paris agreement aims to get countries to switch to renewable energy. Far from crippling the U.S. economy, renewable energy can be an engine of prosperity. Already, the renewable industry is hiring people at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy. As advances in technology are made and prices go down, even more economic growth will follow.
China gets this. The country that Trump often casts as a nemesis, is investing $360 billion into renewables by 2020, which will create 13 million jobs.
4. Leaving the Agreement Hurts U.S. Reputation
The Paris agreement was a monumental global achievement that took years of work and marked a pinnacle of science and diplomacy.
Trump spurned all of that by leaving.
"Pulling out of Paris would be the worst thing for brand America since Abu Ghraib," Nigel Purvis, an environmental negotiator in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations told The New York Times.
The Vatican said: "If he really does [pull out], it would be a huge slap in the face for us," a Vatican spokesman said before Trump's announcement, according to Reuters. "It will be a disaster for everyone."
5. The Green Climate Fund Doesn't Burden the U.S.
The Green Climate Fund is a fund set up to help poor countries adapt to climate change and transition to renewable economies, leapfrogging fossil fuel-intensive industries.
Trump portrayed the fund as a burden that would cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars. In fact, the U.S. committed $3 billion to the fund, and has so far committed $1 billion.
"If you rank contributions as a percentage of GDP, we are 32nd," Oliver pointed out.
6. The U.S. has a Unique Responsibility to Help
The U.S. is the bigger emitter in history and the average U.S. citizens is responsible for far more emissions than the average citizen anywhere else in the world.
Because the U.S. is largely responsible for the current climate crisis, it has a responsibility to find a solution.
7. Time Is Running Out
The Paris agreement declared that global temperatures should not rise more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. For that to happen, emissions have to be dramatically curbed right away. But if business as usual continues, then the world will blow past that threshold point in as little as 20 years.
And if that happens, "Things get very bad and potentially irreversible," Oliver said.
By leaving the agreement, Trump makes it much harder to stay under the two-degree ceiling.
8. The Silver Lining: Political Action
In the aftermath of Trump's withdrawal, an unnamed group led by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg of at least 30 mayors, three governors, 80 university presidents, and more than 100 businesses are going to spearhead a movement to uphold the Paris agreement.
For Oliver, that's where the path forward lies—political action.
"The problem with climate change is it's always felt abstract impersonal, and far off into the future, and the usual [examples] that we use don't do much to fix or help," Oliver said. "It's either a graph that's difficult to understand, or a sad polar bear on a piece of ice, and it's hard to get get emotionally fired up over that."
"But finally, this week, the climate change movement may have gotten a symbol to rally around," he said.
To that end, Oliver called on his viewers to find out where their local, state, and federal representatives stand on climate change. If those legislators doubt the science and oppose action, then Oliver called on his fans to organize, rally and unseat them in the election.
There's no time to waste.
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.
"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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