ECOBAMANIA: World leaders have high hopes for U.S. climate policy under President Obama, a phenomenon that's been on display around the world since even before he took office last month. It was palpable at Poznan in December, and this week when U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited Obama to a hastily planned climate summit in late March, and said he'd shelve the conference if the guest of honor couldn't attend. Yesterday, Canada's environmental minister touted a possible continental climate pact between the North American neighbors ahead of Obama's visit there on Feb. 19. And today, the European Union's top climate negotiator said he sees a "sea change" in U.S. climate policy under Obama, saying the administration's representatives showed the first signs of a willingness to engage on global warming during their first meeting in Tokyo this week. (Sources: Washington Post, Agence France-Presse, SpaceDaily)

MILLENNIUM FALCONS: New York City is now believed to be one of the world's largest urban habitats for peregrine falcons, despite the birds' of prey remaining endangered status throughout the Northeast. A report released Thursday by New York's Department of Environmental Conservation says the state's population is up to 67 territorial pairs, four more than 2007 and more than double the state's mid-1990s population. Three of the four new pairs live in the Big Apple, where abundant pigeons provide ample food and tall bridges and buildings offer prime vantage points for hunting. (Source: New York Times)

HYDROGEN A TOUGH CELL: Iceland is already well ahead of the sustainability curve, generating nearly all its electricity from hydroelectric and geothermal power plants, but the Christian Science Monitor reports that hydrogen fuel cells are a main course on its menu, as well. The world's first hydrogen refueling station is in Reykjavik, which also has 14 hydrogen-powered cars sputtering around town. But the plan to fully convert to hydrogen by 2040 is several years behind schedule, and not everyone is convinced hydrogen is a practical alternative to electric vehicles. "If you have renewable electricity, why would you buy an expensive electrolyzer to throw away some of that electricity making hydrogen, buy an expensive tank to store it, and put it in a vehicle just to make it into electricity again?" asks Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress. (Source: CS Monitor)

A COAL MILLION: Cleaning up the East Tennessee coal-ash spill could cost up to $825 million, the CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority said this morning. The cleanup is currently being paid with cash in hand, and insurance is expected to cover some of the cost, but how much is unknown. The TVA has already bought 20 properties near the spill and has made offers on about 20 more in its attempt to settle with landowners whose tracts were devastated by the billion-gallon flood of sludge. (Source: Nashville Tennessean)

PIKA OUR INTEREST: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to consider protecting the pika — a small, furry rabbit relative that lives in the Rocky Mountains — from global warming, the first mammal outside Alaska the U.S. government has offered such consideration. Pikas generally can't survive outside their burrows if the temperature rises above 80 degrees, and have already begun dying off in parts of California, Nevada and Oregon. Surveys in the Great Basin show that one-third of the populations are disappearing. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)

Russell McLendon

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