COPENHAGEN: Scientists from around the world are converging on Copenhagen today in a sort of dry run for the huge international climate conference being held there later this year. The general consensus is that things are now worse than the last U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted in 2007. "I and a lot of scientists see this meeting as an opportunity to update the science that has come out since the last IPCC report," Tasmanian researcher William Howard tells the AFP. Howard will present evidence, which is also mentioned in today's Science Times, showing for the first time that ocean acidification caused by climate change is hampering plankton's ability to create calcium-based shells. Howard is one of 2,000 researchers from 80 countries who responded to an open invitation to present their findings at this week's summit, which lasts through Thursday. It aims to inform the science used at the U.N. conference this December to design a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. (Sources: BBC News, Agence France-Presse, New York Times)

VAN JONES: As MNN blogger Karl Burkhart first reported over the weekend, green jobs guru Van Jones will be a special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation in the Obama administration. White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley officially released the news last night, announcing that Jones will start work next week, overseeing spending of stimulus money targeted for green jobs and focusing on "vulnerable communities." It's a big but logical move for Jones, whose pragmatic idealism has made him a hit around the country, as has his NYT best seller, The Green Collar Economy. For more background on Jones, see MNN's profile. And the Jackson Sun, Jones' hometown paper in Tennessee (where he once interned), takes a retrospective look at his life, and talks with his mother, Loretta. (Sources: GreenDigAssociated Press, Wall Street Journal, Jackson Sun)

DO NOT DISTURB: Today's Science Times examines how biologists and conservationists are more often using unobtrusive techniques to track and monitor wildlife. Research has shown that the tranquilizing and tagging of bears may have long-term detriments for the animals, and visitors to national parks apparently complain when they see wolves wearing radio collars. So scientists are using things like barbed wire and buckets of cow blood to gather bear hairs, or heat- and motion-sensor cameras to catch glimpses of wolverines and lynx. (Source: NY Times)

PLASTIC SURGERY: National Geographic reports today on British explorer, environmentalist and celebrity David de Rothschild, who will set sail at the end of March on an 11,000-mile journey to cross the Pacific Ocean in a boat made of plastic bottles. The trip is partly to draw attention to reuse and recycling — since the vessel is made of reconstituted bottles and even uses whole (empty) ones for flotation — and also to highlight plastic waste in the ocean, which is a major contributor to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (Sources: National Geographic, Discover)

HIGH AND DRY: It's a marvel of human determination that we erected Los Angeles where we did, and that we've been able to cram so many people into places that, in many cases, should be too dry and arid for them. The American West is a long-running experiment in landscape engineering and human sustainability, and it's beginning to show cracks. Energy Secretary Steven Chu famously predicted the end of agriculture in California by 2100 if drastic measures aren't taken, and federal water managers announced earlier this year they may have to cut off supplies to some state farms. Reuters reports today that, while it might not seem like California is drying up yet, Australia can serve as a lesson for what the West could become. A decade-long drought is crippling agriculture Down Under, and recently brought last month's deadly wildfires. (Sources: Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, Reuters)

THE VOGGIEST IDEA: Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor who's against volcano monitoring, may want to take note of this: Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is exacerbating the recession for some nurseries and farms on the chain's biggest island, expelling noxious sulfur dioxide that's killing plants and forcing some growers to move elsewhere. The SO2 mixes with sunlight and air to form volcanic smog, or "vog," choking out many flower and vegetable crops. Kileuea has been erupting continuously since 1983, but the volcano began releasing two to four times as much SO2 last March, reaching levels not previously seen since record-keeping began in 1979. While some would say that justifies spending money on volcano monitoring, Jindal may not agree. After all, the AP interviews a couple who had to abandon their life as Hawaiian protea farmers and move to Louisiana, where they plan to work on a supply ship serving offshore oil rigs. (Sources: LiveScienceAP)

Russell McLendon

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