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Study Ranks Top 20 Climate Killer Banks

Climate
Study Ranks Top 20 Climate Killer Banks

Rainforest Action Network

As world leaders gathered in Durban Nov. 30 to discuss solutions to global climate change, an international coalition of civil society and environmental organizations released a new study, Bankrolling Climate Change, highlighting the top 20 banks that finance the coal industry. The study examines commercial banks’ lending for the coal industry and provides the first comprehensive climate ranking for financial institutions. The study finds JPMorgan Chase, Citi and Bank of America to be the top three banks in the world financing climate change.

A full copy of the study with a ranking of all the researched banks can be downloaded here.

The report comes from the German environmental organization urgewald, the South African social and environmental justice organizations groundWork and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, and the international network BankTrack.

The organizations examined the portfolios of 93 of the world’s leading banks and looked into their support for 31 major coal-mining companies (representing 44 percent of global coal production) and 40 producers of coal-fired electricity (which together own more than 50 percent of global coal-fired generation capacity). The total value of coal financing provided by these banks since 2005 (the year the Kyoto Protocol came into force) amounts to 232 billion Euro (US $309 billion).

“We chose to look into coal financing as coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions and the major culprit in the drama of climate change,” explains Heffa Schuecking of urgewald. “In spite of the fact that climate change is already having severe impacts on the most vulnerable societies, there is an abundance of plans to build new coal-fired power plants. If banks provide money for these projects, they will wreck all attempts to limit global warming to 2° Celsius,” says Schuecking.

The study identifies the top twenty “climate killers” in the banking world. Among the top twenty are banks from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland, China, Italy and Japan. The top three banks fuelling climate change worldwide are JP Morgan Chase (US $22 billion), Citi (US $18.27 billion) and Bank of America (US $16.79 billion). In the past two years, BoA invested $4.3 billion in the U.S. coal industry, making them the top financer of coal in America.

“Providing underwriting for coal companies is risky business from a regulatory, financial and reputational perspective. Coal is a dirty, dangerous and increasingly outdated energy source," said Amanda Starbuck, director of the Energy and Finance program at Rainforest Action Network (RAN). “As the lead financier of the coal industry, JPMorgan, Citi and Bank of America short-term, reckless financing strategies are jeopardizing the health of our environment and our climate." RAN contributed research to the report and works with the international BankTrack alliance.

Coal-fired power plants are not cheap to build. Typically, a 600 Megawatt plant will cost around US $2 billion. Power producers therefore rely heavily on banks to provide and mobilize the necessary capital for coal plants. “Our figures clearly show that coal financing is on the rise,” notes Tristen Taylor of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg. “Between 2005 and 2010, coal financing almost doubled. If we don’t take banks to task now, coal financing will continue to grow,” he warns.

The study looks into the statements of the top climate killer banks and also examines their existing climate policies. “Interestingly, almost all of the top twenty climate killer banks in our ranking have made far-reaching statements regarding their commitment to combating climate change,” explains Yann Louvel of BankTrack. “However, the numbers show that their money is not where their mouth is.” He also notes that the policies many banks have adopted and the voluntary initiatives they have signed on to like the “Carbon Principles” or the “Climate Principles” have failed to make any difference in banks’ portfolios.

“Our study names and shames the banks that are destabilizing our climate system,” says Bobby Peek from groundWork. “Plans for new coal-fired power plants and coal mines are meeting with fierce resistance all over the world and we are going to begin turning that heat on the banks," explains Peek. The study calls on banks to become responsible climate actors and to quit coal. According to the NGOs, banks need to shift their portfolios to renewables and energy efficiency and set and implement ambitious CO2 reduction goals for their financed emissions.

For more information, click here.

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit www.ran.org

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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.

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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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