WARMING RELATIONS: Even as many political observers doubt the U.S. Senate will vote on a global warming bill before December's climactic U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, the issue has still gained some momentum recently on Capitol Hill. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., publicly threw his support behind climate legislation Sunday, penning a joint op-ed in the NY Times with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., arguing that an effective bipartisan climate bill is still a possibility. "[W]e refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change," Graham and Kerry wrote. "We are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution." Not everyone is so optimistic, however: The AP reports that, in the economically battered Rust Belt, any climate bill is still widely viewed through a financial lens — how will it affect jobs, energy prices, etc. — and a great deal of skepticism. (Sources: Washington Post, Associated Press, Politico, New York Times)

ECOLOGICAL STIMULUS: Billionaire George Soros will invest $1 billion in renewable-energy technology and donate $100 million to an environmental group over the next 10 years, the hedge-fund manager announced in Copenhagen Saturday. The clean-power projects that earn his money "should be profitable but should also actually make a contribution to solving the problem," Soros said. In addition to the $1 billion investment, Soros will also create the Climate Policy Initiative, a San Francisco-based group to which he'll donate $10 million annually for the next decade. The organization will be "part advisory service, part policy developer and part watchdog," says the Stanford law professor chosen to lead it, and will look after the public interest as climate laws are drafted and enacted. Soros said he hopes his investment will help spur the political process of fighting climate change, which he calls the only remaining hurdle. "The problem of global warming is primarily a political problem at this point," he said. "The science is beyond dispute, but how do we achieve the objectives we all know are necessary?" (Source: Bloomberg News)

SPACE CLOWN: Canadian circus tycoon Guy Laliberte returned from space Sunday, making a safe landing in the steppes of northern Kazakhstan to cap off a weeklong joyride through orbit. Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil, paid $35 million to become "the first clown in space," and broadcast a performance from the International Space Station on Friday highlighting threats to fresh drinking-water sources back on Earth. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, U2 and Shakira also participated in the broadcast. Laliberte often wore a bulbous red clown nose while in space, and promised to tickle his fellow astronauts in their sleep. The 50-year-old former stilt-walker and fire-breather was seen wearing the red clown nose as he was helped out of the Soyuz space capsule Sunday. (Source: AP)

LACK OF SHELF CONFIDENCE: Federal scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are urging the Interior Department to dramatically scale back its plans to allow offshore oil and gas drilling on the continental shelf, the LA Times reports. The NOAA scientists cite threats to sea life, as well as the dangers of oil spills in the Arctic, as reasons to avoid developing offshore fossil-fuel sources, and while the recommendations aren't binding, they do lend official credibility to many environmentalists' concerns — concerns that helped fend off such drilling for decades but are now buckling under economic pressures. NOAA suggests the Interior Department exclude large areas of the Alaskan, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts from its 2010-2015 drilling plan, and calls for a ban on Arctic drilling until oil companies improve their procedures for preventing and cleaning up oil spills. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

GIVING A DAM: Oregon's Savage Rapids Dam came down this weekend, ending an 88-year legacy of hindering salmon and steelhead on their annual march to spawn. The Rogue River is now able to flow freely, following a breaching that could foreshadow future dam removals aimed at protecting the Pacific Northwest's spiraling salmon populations. The Savage Rapids Dam was built in 1921, and state biologists calculated it was blocking an estimated 58,000 salmon and steelhead from reaching their spawning grounds each year; conservation groups have been fighting since 1988 to remove the dam. On Saturday, an armada of rafts, kayaks and canoes floated down the Rogue to celebrate its first natural flows in nearly nine decades. (Sources: Oregonian, AP)

THE LAST AUCTION HERO: University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher made a national name for himself last December, when he crashed a Bureau of Land Management auction where oil and gas companies were buying leases to drill on public lands in Utah. Upset both at ongoing development of fossil fuels and at the cluttering of a pristine Utah landscape, DeChristopher began bidding for land he knew he didn't have the money for, just so the oil and gas companies couldn't get it. "I thought of yelling something or throwing a shoe," he tells the NY Times. "What I did was far more effective than I could have been with a shoe." It may also have gotten him in more trouble, however, since DeChristopher now faces two felony charges of interfering with a federal auction and making false statements on bidding forms, and the BLM doesn't seem to be in a forgiving mood — even though new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has since scrapped many of the leases that companies did purchase, citing environmental reasons akin to DeChristopher's. (Source: NY Times)

Russell McLendon

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Photo (Sen. Lindsay Graham): Gerald Herbert/AP

Photo (Guy Laliberte): ZUMA Press

Photo (Rogue River): Jeff Barnard/AP

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.

Daily Briefing: Mon. 10/12/2009
Climate bill gets a boost, space clown returns, auction speaks louder than words, and more.