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Theresa May Urges G20 Countries to Target Zero Emissions

Politics
Theresa May Urges G20 Countries to Target Zero Emissions
Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks during a press conference at the end of the G20 summit on June 29 in Osaka, Japan. Carl Court / Getty Images

Theresa May, the outgoing UK prime minister, used her final appearance at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan to urge other nations to follow her country's lead in aggressively lowering greenhouse gas emissions.


The prime minister, who led a session on the environment at the G20 summit, asked the other countries to set a target date for net zero emissions, following the UK's example of becoming a net zero emitter of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to the BBC.

The UK is committed either to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions completely or, in rare cases, to offset them by planting trees or absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"In recent months we have heard hundreds of thousands of young people urge us — their leaders — to act on climate change before it's too late," she said at the end of the summit, as the Guardian reported. "I am proud that the UK has now enshrined in law our world-leading net zero commitment to reduce emissions. And I have called on other countries to raise their ambition and embrace this target."

While other countries did not sign on to May's target, she did push for strong wording in a communiqué from the summit. The final product was a watered down commitment to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement, which 19 of the 20 participating countries signed. The U.S. was the lone holdout. Under the Paris agreement, every nation is committed to keeping global temperature rises to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) higher than pre-industrial times.

May said she was pleased there was a communiqué at all, according to the Guardian.

President Trump's unwillingness to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions forced the participating nations to add a clause that exempted the U.S. from joining in, as Sky News reported.

"The United States reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers," the clause read.

Throughout the summit, President Trump dismissed the worldwide push for climate action and denied that any aggressive response to curb the world's greenhouse gas emissions was necessary. He also seemed not to understand the difference between climate change and air pollution.

"We have the cleanest water we have ever had. We have the cleanest air we've ever had, but I'm not willing to sacrifice the tremendous power of what we've built up over a long period of time and what I've enhanced and revived," Trump said at a news conference.

In that same news conference, he dismissed renewable and clean sources of energy as inefficient without citing evidence.

"I'm not sure that I agree with certain countries with what they are doing. They are losing a lot of power. I am talking about the powering of a plant," he said, as the Washington Post reported. "It doesn't always work with a windmill. When the wind goes off, the plant isn't working. It doesn't always work with solar because solar [is] just not strong enough, and a lot of them want to go to wind, which has caused a lot of problems."

Trump's comments and inaction raised the hackles of environmental action groups and scientists.

"While other leaders managed to hold the line on the Paris agreement, it's unfortunate that they have to continually fight this rear-guard action against Trump denialism instead of devoting their energies to scaling up global action," said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, as the Washington Post reported.

"Trump is ignoring not only science but the growing demands of the U.S. public and U.S. companies for decisive action. As even the Chamber of Commerce recently declared, inaction is not an option."

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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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