EASTERN PROMISES: China is home to nearly 20 percent of all humans, which has made it the planet's most populous country as well as its top emitter of greenhouse gases. But after years locked in a stalemate with the West over cutting back those emissions, change seems to be coming to China. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation there this week, and met with the country's two top leaders Wednesday to smooth the way for cooperation ahead of December's U.N. climate summit. The result was mostly vague, optimistic talking points, but China is also making news with more concrete actions: The NY Times reports today that the country plans to enact strict new gas mileage rules — an 18 percent increase in fuel efficiency by 2015 — that are even tougher than those announced by President Obama last week. And the Guardian reports that, amid "the greatest building boom in human history," China is erecting an eco-friendly supertower that may foreshadow its sustainable future. (Sources: Associated Press, New York Times, Guardian)

REACTION TIME: America should build 100 new nuclear reactors in the next two decades, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said Wednesday. The third-ranking Senate Republican was addressing an economic and technology conference in Oak Ridge, and said he'll take his message to the Senate floor next week. (Source: AP)

MICH. AGAIN: Energy guru T. Boone Pickens will join Gov. Jennifer Granholm today in Mackinac Island to open talks on state efforts to boost alternative energy in Michigan. Part of the discussions will be how to retool some former auto facilities to help accommodate the clean-energy industry's needs — many former auto-parts suppliers have already begun supplying parts for wind turbines as the state's cornerstone industry crumbles in the recession. Granholm announced plans last year for Michigan to generate at least 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015. (Source: Detroit News)

IMPERMAFROST: As global warming melts Arctic permafrost, it gradually releases greenhouse gases like a "slow-motion time bomb." According to new research, that time bomb may be more slo-mo than we previously thought, but it's no less dangerous. A study published today in the journal Nature finds that the gases are initially absorbed by new plants that are popping up across the Arctic as it warms. But that can't last, as the plants get overwhelmed after 15 to 50 years and begin letting a billion tons of carbon float into the atmosphere annually. (Source: AP)

PEDDLING PEDALS: U.S. bicycle sales beat car sales during the first quarter of 2009, the Huffington Post reports. Bikes were still squeezed by the recession, but their 30 percent drop in sales wasn't as bad as the 35 percent drop in auto sales: Americans bought about 2.6 million bicycles compared with less than 2.5 million cars and trucks. (Source: Huffington Post)

EVOLUTION REVOLUTION: Humans are forcing cod to evolve at warp speed, becoming smaller and living at lower depths, according to Icelandic scientists. They're studying Iceland's cod fishery with urgent interest because it's one of the largest left in the world that hasn't collapsed. Humans are applying selective pressure on the fish, the researchers say, removing the large ones that live near the surface from the gene pool. (Source: New Scientist)

GLOWING MONKEYS: A marmoset with an implanted gene that makes its feet glow green has passed the trait on to its offspring, a scientific first that could revolutionize medical research. Scientists have long created "transgenic" mice and other lab animals by giving them extra genes, but monkeys offer a new milestone for studying human genetic diseases thanks to their similarity to us. They also offer a new flashpoint for animal-rights activists who are opposed to any kind of medical research involving primates. (Source: Financial Times)

PINK DOLPHIN: In a Louisiana shipping channel south of Lake Charles, a pink dolphin with red eyes has been turning heads for two years. First spotted in 2007, it's become a mainstay of the lower Calcasieu Ship Channel, sporadically leaping out of the water to let lucky bystanders glimpse one of only 14 albino dolphins reported worldwide. (Source: AP)

Russell McLendon

(Photo: ZUMA Press)

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

Daily Briefing: Thurs. 5/28/2009
China outdoes Obama on gas mileage, U.S. bike sales beat car sales, glowing monkeys offer medical milestone, pink dolphin dazzles Louisiana, and more.