SCIENCE FRICTION: Normally an incoming president might not feel the need to say something like, "My administration will value science. We will make decisions based on the facts." But Obama is replacing a notoriously science-wary president, and there is a widespread feeling among American scientists that the Dark Ages are ending — as EPA administrator-designate Lisa Jackson put it recently, that agency "needs to be awakened from a deep and nightmarish sleep." USA Today's Dan Vergano reports on how the scientific climate will change under the Obama administration, a theme also addressed today by Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles. (Sources: USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post)
LAY OFF THE LAND: A federal judge has stopped the Bush administration's "midnight" leases of Utah land to oil and gas companies, a cause for celebration among conservationists who had criticized what they called a last-minute gift to the energy industry. The Obama administration will now likely decide the 110,000 acres' fate, which must also be a relief to Tim DeChristopher. The Utah college student bid $1.7 million he didn't have for 22,000 acres as a protest against the oil and gas companies, but won and had been stuck with a legal morass ever since. Having raised only $45,000 and facing years in prison, he may now be off the hook. (Source: The Los Angeles Times)
ON TOP OF THE WORLD: The United States has been raising a collective eyebrow toward the Arctic in recent years, especially since rising temperatures have lured Russia and other Arctic-adjacent nations northward. A new White House policy directive outlines the challenges facing the incoming administration as it negotiates economic, military and environmental concerns in a warming and contentious Arctic. (Source: The Washington Post)
JUMPY GROOMS: Two frogs were married to two 7-year-old girls in India's Villupuram district Friday night, part of an annual ceremony to prevent the outbreak of "mysterious diseases" in the village. The girls will be allowed to continue normal lives despite their marriages; the reportedly "terrified" frogs were thrown back into temple ponds. (Source: The Times of India via Boing Boing)
ON THE LEVEL: A new study by the EPA and U.S. Geological Survey warns that rising sea levels could pose an especially high risk to coastal areas in the Mid-Atlantic states, where rates of sea-level rise are "moderately high," storms are common and infrastructure is built on low-lying land. As an encroaching sea destroys wetlands in natural environments, the swamps survive by migrating inland to higher land. But with roads and buildings blocking the way, the ocean could swallow the Outer Banks and other coastal U.S. environments in less than a century. (Source: NY Times)
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT: Europe is becoming less foggy, and it might be because pollution is down. Centuries of sulphur pollution — from coal fires to coal-fired power plants — provided particles for water vapor to accumulate around, creating London's famous "pea soup" conditions. As modern technology has allowed us to cut back on sulphur emissions, the "global dimming" phenomenon has given way to "global brightening," which may accelerate global warming, since clouds and fog help keep temperatures cool. Scientists worry that global dimming may have hidden the full extent of global warming until now. (The Guardian)
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