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Trudeau Government Approves Trans Mountain Expansion a Day After Canada Declares Climate Emergency

Politics
Trudeau Government Approves Trans Mountain Expansion a Day After Canada Declares Climate Emergency
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivering remarks to supporters at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto, Ontario on March 4. Arindam Shivaani / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that his government would once again approve the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would triple the amount of oil transported from Alberta's tar sands to the coast of British Columbia (BC).


The decision comes a day after Canada's House of Commons passed a non-binding resolution declaring a climate emergency, as CBC News reported. The timing prompted environmental activists to charge the Trudeau government with hypocrisy, since the House motion was proposed by the government.

"This is like declaring war on cancer and then announcing a campaign to promote smoking," Rainforest Action Network energy program director Patrick McCully told CBC News.

Trudeau's cabinet followed the ruling of the National Energy Board that the pipeline could harm the environment and marine life, but could create thousands of jobs and earn the federal government tens of billions of dollars. Trudeau pledged to invest all of that revenue in developing renewable energy.

"We need to create wealth today so we can invest in the future. We need resources to invest in Canadians so they can take advantage of the opportunities generated by a rapidly changing economy, here at home and around the world," Trudeau said.

However, pipeline opponents argued that the climate crisis was too urgent for the government to be investing in more fossil fuel infrastructure. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in October of last year that greenhouse gas emissions must fall to 45 percent of 2010 levels by 2030 in order to limit global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"The federal government has signed off on as much as an additional 15 million tonnes (approximately 16.5 million U.S. tons) of carbon. This is irresponsible at a time when Canada is drifting further away from meeting our Paris climate commitment, and inconsistent with the climate emergency that was declared only yesterday," Environmental Defence Executive Director Tim Gray told CBC News.

A senior government official told Reuters anonymously that the government expected legal challenges to the decision.

The government's 2016 approval of the project was blocked by a court decision in August 2018 ruling that it had failed to take into account the environmental costs of increased tanker traffic and had not adequately consulted with indigenous groups concerned about the project.

Trudeau's government, which bought the pipeline from Kinder Morgan in May of 2018, sent 60 consultants to meet again with indigenous communities along the pipeline's route, CBC News reported. Trudeau promised additional "accommodation measures" such as embracing an initiative to reduce the impact of tanker traffic on the endangered southern resident killer whales that live in the waters off BC.

However, the Squamish Nation told The Squamish Chief that the government's consultation had been "shallow."

"The failure to meaningfully engage with rights holders means this government is either not serious about building this pipeline or not serious about respecting Indigenous rights," nation spokesperson Khelsilem said.

Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Vancouver-area Tsleil-Waututh First Nation told CBC News that her community had decided to appeal the approval, and a group of BC indigenous activists called the Tiny House Warriors promised to continue fighting the project.

"The Trudeau government does not have the right to put a pipeline through unceded Secwepemc land," spokeswoman Kanahus Manuel said in a statement reported by Reuters.

However, other indigenous groups are interested in investing in the project.

Trudeau said construction would restart this year. If that proves to be the case, the pipeline would be operational by 2022, investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co told Reuters. The expansion would enable the pipeline to move 890,000 barrels of oil per day.

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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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