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Sea Level Rise Is Locked in Even If We Meet Paris Agreement Targets, New Study​ Says

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Sea Level Rise Is Locked in Even If We Meet Paris Agreement Targets, New Study​ Says
The highest point of Cape Perpetua (pictured above) in Oregon rises to more than 800 feet above sea level. Peter Clark, climate scientist and author of a new study from the Oregon State University says "even with the Paris pledges there will be a large amount of sea level rise." Charles Peterson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sea level rise will change the landscape of coastlines and challenge our ability to adapt over the next couple of centuries, even if all the 2030 emissions targets set in the Paris agreement are met, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


Just like a large ship charging at full speed takes a long time to come to a stop, the rising seas will need centuries before they stop encroaching on to land. The researchers found that the greenhouse gas emissions from the signing of the Paris agreement in 2015 to the target date of 2030 is enough to make the oceans rise 3.1 inches by the end of the century, according to Agence-France Presse (AFP).

The study shows that the period from 2015-2030 will, on its own, emit enough greenhouse gasses to raise the oceans 7.87 inches by 2300. It will only be 7.87 inches of sea-level rise if nations around the world honor their commitments to the Paris agreement.

However, that may be a conservative estimate since it assumes all the countries in the world drastically reduce their emissions and stop emitting greenhouse gasses after 2030. Another study last week found that without drastic reductions in emissions, entire cities could be underwater by 2050 and 300 million people could experience annual flooding, as EcoWatch reported.

Additionally, from 1990 to 2030, the authors of the new PNAS study found that the top five top polluters will be responsible for over 10 inches of sea-level rise.

The researchers crunched the numbers and found the lag time between the reduction in emissions and the oceans response will mean the oceans will continue to rise for sometime — we are already locked into a one meter sea rise by 2300, the study says.

"Even with the Paris pledges there will be a large amount of sea level rise," said Peter Clark, an Oregon State University climate scientist and co-author of the study, according to The Guardian.

The study looked at a 15-year period from when countries signed onto the Paris agreement in 2015 to 2030. The researchers' model used data that assumes all the signatories will drastically reduce emissions by 2030 and then immediately eliminate all greenhouse-warming gasses from that point forward. However, the unfortunate reality is that very few countries are on target to meet their goals that would stop the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as The Guardian reported.

"Sea level rise is going to be an ongoing problem for centuries to come, we will have to keep on adapting over and over again. It's going to be a whole new expensive lifestyle, costing trillions of dollars," said Clark, as The Guardian reported. "Sea level has a very long memory, so even if we start cooling temperatures the seas will continue to rise. It's a bit like trying to turn the Titanic around, rather than a speedboat."

However, that does not mean the situation is hopeless. It does mean that the decisions that are made today have tremendous impact in the future. The faster we can drop our emissions, the more time it will take ice to melt and for seas to rise. That will give coastal cities more time to prepare and it will give governments more time to fix the global climate crisis, as National Geographic reported.

"We can clearly see that there's a massive sea level rise contribution coming from emissions over such a short time frame, just over the Paris period," said Alexander Nauels, the lead author of the report and a sea level rise expert at Climate Analytics, as National Geographic reported. "But this is risk we can reduce, by all means, if we can, and it seems like we can."

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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