Why Climate Leadership Means Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground
This has truly been a landmark year for grassroots environmental action. In the past four months alone, people power has derailed Shell’s Arctic drilling plans, driven the Obama Administration to cancel Arctic oil and gas leases for the next two years, won the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline and exposed Exxon’s decades-long climate denial campaign.
All of this adds up to some serious momentum for the climate movement. To make the most of it in 2016, let’s seize this moment to keep all fossil fuels in the ground.
The science is clear: the path to a sustainable future for people, wildlife and the climate does not include fossil fuels.
In fact, a study published in the journal Nature earlier this year specifies that we need we cannot afford to burn a majority of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves—including more than 90 percent of U.S. coal and all of the oil and gas in the Arctic—if we hope to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Given this science, investing billions of dollars in new fossil fuel exploration and infrastructure—as Shell did during its failed Arctic drilling project—makes absolutely no environmental or economic sense.
And it’s not just burning fossil fuels that’s a problem. The processes of extracting, transporting and refining fossil fuels wreaks havoc on public health and our natural landscapes. Unsurprisingly, marginalized groups—especially low-income communities of color and indigenous peoples—suffer the brunt of these environmental injustices.
Momentum is on Our Side
On the heels of fights like Keystone and #ShellNo, the grassroots environmental movement has never been more united or empowered than it is right now. The incredible organizing that went into these victories serves as a powerful foundation for doing even more and winning even bigger in 2016.
These grassroots wins are turning into the kind of political momentum few thought was possible even a year ago (just in time for global climate negotiations in Paris happening right now).
In rejecting Keystone, the president himself acknowledged that “we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground.”
And recently, seven Democratic senators—including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders—introduced the Keep It in the Ground Act. The legislation would ban all fossil fuel leases on public lands, a key move given the Interior Department’s recent track record.
Forty percent of the coal mined in the U.S. and huge amounts of oil and gas, are managed by the Interior Department. And despite the popular will to move away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy, it recently authorized the potential sale of 10.2 billion tons of coal from our public lands.
By ending all new leasing of publicly owned oil, coal and gas, the Obama administration could keep more than 450 billion tons of carbon pollution in the ground, nearly 12 times the amount of carbon pollution the world emitted into the atmosphere in 2014.
All Eyes on President Obama
In Paris last week, President Obama included the fact that the U.S. has “said no to infrastructure that would pull high-carbon fossil fuels from the ground” as one of his administration’s most important actions on climate.
It’s clear that the president intends to use his final year in office to forge a legacy of climate leadership. To earn this distinction, he’s going to have to say no more often.
Join the movement for climate action: tell President Obama to keep it in the ground today.
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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.
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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