UPDATE [8:06 p.m]: The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a cap-and-trade bill Friday evening that would be the country's first-ever regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. The 219-212 vote was a win for President Obama and Democratic leaders in the House, but it now enters the even choppier waters of the Senate. (Source: Washington Post)

CLIMATE CHANGE VOTE: There's a good chance today will be judgment day for the United States' first major response to global warming, and supporters are cautiously optimistic. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are poised to vote on a historic environmental bill that would introduce a cap-and-trade system of controlling the country's greenhouse gas emissions. The bill has withstood a gauntlet of scrutiny and compromise, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi decided to bring it to a vote now for fear its growing but fragile support could fade if she waited. The world is watching how Congress votes, writes the Guardian's editorial board, and the European Union announced this morning that it wants to see the bill succeed. Democratic leaders are throwing their weight around, too — Pelosi spent much of Wednesday and Thursday prodding hesitant Democrats and moderate Republicans, and President Obama gave a Rose Garden speech touting the bill's ability to create jobs and stabilize the economy. "I can't stress enough the importance of this vote," Obama said. "We cannot be afraid of the future, and we cannot be a prisoner of the past." Al Gore was even enlisted to work the phones from Tennessee, and all the buzz seems to have convinced Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, one of the bill's co-authors, that something big is about to happen. "We're going to get the votes," he said. "We're going to pass the most important energy and environment bill in the history of the United States." Of course, even if it passes, it must still survive the Senate. (Sources: Associated PressLos Angeles TimesWashington PostReutersGuardian, TIME)

CAP-AND-WHAT? If you're lost as to what the House climate bill would do, you're not alone. Many of the legislators voting both for and against it today probably haven't read all 1,201 pages. To help us understand, two AP writers apparently interview themselves in this Q & A that explains simply what the bill entails. (Source: AP)

SUPREME POWER: Does the U.S. Supreme Court have something against the environment? It's hard not to think so looking at its record during the 2009 term, which ends Monday. SCOTUS overturned five big decisions from lower courts that had favored environmentalists, in addition to siding with the Army Corps of Engineers over the EPA in a case about mining waste and ruling that conservation groups had no grounds to challenge U.S. Forest Service regulations. Scientific American investigates with an in-depth look at the high court's seemingly low opinion of Mother Nature. (Source: Scientific American

FISH EARS: Rising levels of dissolved carbon dioxide in the oceans is known to make seawater more acidic, which is slowly killing corals and various other marine animals with shells. But there are probably many more side effects we have yet to see. For example: Ocean acidification seems to be making fish's ears bigger. Scientists studying the effects of acidity on white sea bass found that their ears — located inside their bodies — grew up to 17 percent larger than normal when they were raised in acidic water. Surprised, the researchers repeated the test in several ways and each time saw the ears grow bigger as acidity increased. They have no idea why. (Source: AP)

PLASTIKI: An expedition to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using a boat made of recycled 2-liter plastic bottles has been delayed, since it turns out making a boat out of recycled 2-liter plastic bottles isn't as easy as you might think. Explorer David de Rothschild is building the "Plastiki," a 60-foot recycled catamaran, to highlight a better use for plastic waste than throwing it out, which often leads it out to sea. While the launch of his 11,000-mile trip was pushed back from earlier this summer due to construction difficulties, Rothschild is going full steam ahead, securing a partnership with Hewlett-Packard and recruiting Josian Heyerdahl, the 25-year-old granddaughter of Thor Heyerdahl — the explorer who led the famous 1947 Kon-Tiki voyage across the Pacific. (Source: AP)

HOPPED UP ON GOOFBALLS: Tasmania is the world's largest legal producer of opium, which it normally provides to the pharmaceutical industry, but some local wildlife has discovered the operations and begun getting sloppy on the poppy, according to Tasmanian officials. Wallabies specifically have been seen munching on the opiate flowers, getting "high as a kite" and hopping around in circles, which is trampling some of the crops. Other wild and domestic animals, including deer and sheep, have also been known to "act weird" after eating poppies. (Source: Huffington Post)

Russell McLendon

(Photo: ZUMA Press)

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