FILTHY RICH: World leaders will converge on L'Aquila, Italy, Wednesday for the G8's Major Economies Forum, where planning a planetwide pact to fight global warming is a main goal. In the days leading up to the meeting, India's prime minister has called on rich countries to bear "historic responsibility" for industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer floated the idea of G8 countries donating "significant" funds to the poorer nations hit hardest by climate change. But a new study published Monday argues that, rather than laying the blame broadly at the national level, we should focus on the class of citizens in virtually every country who ride a bubble of carbon-intensive luxury. These "high emitters" make up only a sixth of the world's population but account for half its greenhouse gas emissions, according to the study. "Rich people in poor countries shouldn't be able to hide behind the poor people in those countries," one of the researchers says. The 3 billion poorest humans who are responsible for less than one ton of carbon dioxide a year should focus solely on improving their lives, the study suggests, using whatever economical means necessary. (Sources: McClatchy NewspapersBloomberg NewsAssociated Press, PNASTIME, ReutersScientific American)

"EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE": The U.S. cap-and-trade climate bill begins a long adventure through the Senate this week, where it still lacks as many as 15 votes. Getting those votes could be the bill's undoing, the Washington Post reports today, as lawmakers may have to wheedle away some of the very environmental goals that motivated the effort in the first place. Geography is trumping ideology in this showdown, writes the Post's Paul Kane, with many election-minded senators from coal states and farm states unwilling to jeopardize their political careers. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says "everything is negotiable," adding that he hopes the bill can reach a floor vote by late fall. (Source: Washington Post)

A PINE LINE: Forests in America's West are quickly turning red and crumbling, all thanks to a beetle no bigger than a grain of rice. The rampant spread of pine bark beetles is alarming, but Jim Robbins reminds us in today's Science Times that they're still native insects in a native host, acting out a millennia-old ecological drama. Pine beetles are a key part of the Western forest ecosystems, and they only attack older trees, culling them so younger, more diverse saplings can sprout — effectively a living wildfire. The problem, however, is they're getting carried away, leaving behind dry, dead timber that's making actual wildfires more likely, too. The beetles are also pushing farther north as the climate warms, acting like an invasive species on their home continent. The victims — aside from the forests themselves — are people who live nearby, since the beetle outbreak has turned swaths of forest into a fire-prone tinderbox. Breckenridge, Colo., recently became that state's first town to require treeless "defensible zones" around residents' homes, a controversial practice already under way in California and Nevada. (Sources: New York Times, Los Angeles Times)

STEMMING THE TIDE: The Obama administration on Monday issued final rules governing stem cell research, addressing complaints from scientists that the rules proposed in April would have outlawed even some of the stem cell lines approved by President Bush. Those rules required lengthy consent forms whose stipulations were too rigid, some scientists argued. The National Institutes of Health will loosen the reins a bit, says acting director Raynard Kington, but will still apply rigorous guidelines in opening up funding for newly established lines. "We anticipate a substantial expansion of stem cell research," Kington says, adding that any research on donated cells will also be reviewed by the NIH's science/ethics panel. (Sources: NY Times, USA Today)

KEEPING POLLUTION AT BAY: The Chesapeake Bay is toxic to humans, according to a new report, threatening the health of people who fish, boat and swim in the nation's largest estuary. Released today by the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the report highlights many pollutants that foster vivd algae blooms and dangerous bacteria, and points out that so many chemicals wash into the water that local health officials advise against swimming 48 hours after it rains. The 25-year-old effort to save the bay doesn't seem to be working, and climate change is now warming up the waters to even more pathogen-friendly temperatures. (Sources: Baltimore Sun, Washington PostChesapeake Bay Foundation)

UP THE RIVER: "Eco-fugitive" Larkin Baggett pleaded guilty to seven felony counts Monday, a load of charges that piled up after the 54-year-old Utah truck-wash owner pointed a semi-automatic rifle at the officers trying to arrest him earlier this year. Baggett would have faced a three- to five-year sentence for illegally disposing of hazardous chemicals, but his decision to pack heat and pull strap could tack on an extra 90 years. Baggett had been on the run since April 2008, landing him on the EPA's list of most-wanted "eco-fugitives," and he was finally cornered in March by authorities in the Florida Keys. He never got off a shot, but the officers hit him in the face and buttocks, leaving him in critical condition. His original crime was instructing employees to dump toxic chemicals onto pavement or into sewer drains. (Sources: Miami Herald, EPA)

Russell McLendon

Photo (St. Peter's Basilica in Italy): Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Photo (pine bark beetle): Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Photo (Larkin Baggett mugshot): EPA

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