AL DUE RESPECT: Former VP and Nobel prize-sharer Al Gore urged U.S. senators today to support President Obama's economic stimulus package, which includes billions of dollars in alternative-energy investments. Gore specified four "key areas" of the plan: energy efficiency, renewables, a national smart grid and the move to clean cars. The context was less antagonistic than when Gore last addressed Congress in 2007, a speech the Bush administration mostly ignored. This time Gore acted "essentially as a cheerleader and lobbyist for Mr. Obama," writes Andy Revkin. But, as Eoin O'Carroll points out, Obama's plan isn't quite as ambitious as what Gore has called for, such as abandoning electricity generated from fossil fuels within 10 years. (Sources: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor)

GOING WITH THE GRAIN: Scientists from the University of Georgia have sequenced the genome of sorghum, a hardy tropical cereal whose genes could now be spliced to lend its equatorial toughness to less warmth-tolerant crops, helping them survive drought. (Source: Agence France-Presse)

DEAD HEAT: With several morbid predictions of global warming on our own planet coming out during the past week, it seems like a good time to count our blessings. At least Earth isn't HD80606b, a distant, obviously lifeless planet that regularly undergoes a six-hour temperature change of 1,200 degrees. The planet is four times the size of Jupiter and its orbit takes it 10 times closer to its star than Mercury gets to the Sun. At that range, it becomes a giant "brewing storm," offering the first evidence of changing weather on a planet outside our solar system, according to an astronomer from UC Santa Cruz. (Source: The Associated Press)

UNIVERSAL REMOTE: The IT industry has heard complaints about its carbon footprint, Reuters reports, and is responding with power-management technology that can turn off computers and other power-draining devices automatically and remotely. The concept can be expanded to even larger energy hogs like heating and air-conditioning systems, elevators, lights, and security systems. One Cisco executive estimates a bank branch could save $53,000 just by turning off phones and wireless access points outside business hours. (Source: Reuters

HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE: With all the excitement and momentum Obama has brought to sustainability concerns, the CS Monitor decides to take things to their logical extreme: Should the president say that patriotic Americans stop at two children? It sounds Orwellian, but it's grounded in physics, since the planet can't handle another quadrupling of its human population, which happened during the last century. (Source: CS Monitor)

BIRD BRAINS: In hopeful news for humans suffering from global warming, British scientists report that birds survived the event that wiped out dinosaurs thanks to their bigger brains. Survival was cutthroat in the ensuing environment, but comparatively smarter birds were better able to adapt than their reptilian contemporaries, thus winning resources and continuing their legacy. It's been proven that larger-brained birds like crows have a competitive advantage over dumber birds, and this study based its findings on examinations of ancient sea birds' brain cases. (Source: ScienceDaily)

Russell McLendon

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