AG IN THE BAG: Obama will announce former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary today, along with his pick for interior secretary, Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar. Vilsack, who will face early tests on farm subsidies and biofuels policy, is being praised by many environmentalists for his conservation cred and subsidy-reform ideas, but still isn't the back-to-basics ag man many had hoped Obama would pick. Being from Iowa, he's obviously keen on ethanol, but he's also quite friendly with big agribusiness and bio technology. Also, the AP takes a look back today at Vilsack's unusual rise to political prominence. (Sources: The New York TimesThe Washington Post, Bloomberg News, Grist, Associated Press)

HISTORY REHEATS ITSELF: Humans first sparked global warming 5,000 to 8,000 years ago with intensive agriculture in Asia and large-scale deforestation in Europe, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists. While the current climate crisis didn't begin spiraling out of control until the 19th-century rise of fossil fuels, researchers found methane and CO2 levels started spiking conspicuously as rice cultivation and tree removal became in vogue. (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

ADVANCE WARMING: "Abrupt" climate change may already be upon us, warns a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey. Sea-level rise could reach nearly five feet by 2099, and the drying of the tropics could soon spread north into the American Southwest, according to the report. (Sources: The GuardianThe Baltimore Sun)

"GREEN CHEMISTRY": California launched an ambitious new initiative Tuesday requiring every consumer product to print its "environmental footprint," indicating how it was manufactured and transported, and how safe its ingredients are. Hailed by Gov. Schwarzenegger as ushering in "a new era of how we look at household products," the law would entail the most sweeping regulations ever adopted for consumer goods. (Source: The Los Angeles Times)

WHITE NOISE: The South Florida Water Management District voted 4-3 Tuesday to buy the 300 square miles of Everglades from United States Sugar for $1.34 billion, renewing some hope the conservation plan will survive. But even proponents of the purchase are doubtful the debilitating recession will allow Florida enough economic freedom to close the deal. (Source: N.Y. Times)

U.S. DEATH MAP: Researchers from the University of South Carolina have produced a map of natural hazard mortality in the United States, giving a county-by-county likelihood of dying from things like floods, tornadoes or earthquakes. Heat and drought are the top killers. (Source: Science Daily)

— Russell McLendon

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