GLOBAL WAITING: It's been a roller coaster week for the prospects of tackling climate change, both in Washington and on the world stage. After President Obama sent four top members of his administration to stump for a cap-and-trade climate bill in the Senate Tuesday — and after leading Senate Democrats said they hoped to vote on the bill by fall — Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., announced Thursday that she'll scale back plans to write a first draft before Congress breaks for its August recess. "We will do it as soon as we get back," she said, adding that while she didn't expect the delay to affect its chances, she couldn't guarantee its passage before December's U.N. climate summit in Denmark. The bill skirted through the House by just seven votes, and enough coal-state and farm-state Senate Democrats apparently objected to aspects of it that Boxer didn't want to rush it. A climate bill she introduced during last year's session failed to pass. (Sources: Guardian, Washington Post)

MAN ON EMISSIONS: As his legislative agenda sputtered back home, Obama was still in Italy on Thursday, both sympathizing with poorer nations' reluctance to limit their greenhouse gas emissions while also pledging that the days of U.S. reluctance "are over." Leaders of the world's richest countries agreed to cut their own emissions 80 percent by 2050, and to somehow keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6ºF above preindustrial temperatures, but that still wasn't enough to convince developing nations like China and India to stop relying on the same fossil fuels that helped the G-8 countries become rich in the first place. Combined with delays of climate legislation back in Washington, the week's events considerably slowed recent momentum toward climate compromises. According to the LA Times editorial board, the heat is on the United States. (Sources: Washington Post, Los Angeles Times)

BUSING A CAP: One answer to cutting back greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries could lie in a fleet of swank red buses plying the streets of Bogotá, Colombia. In fact, the Bogotá system of bus rapid transit, or BRT, could improve the traffic congestion, air quality and carbon footprint of many First World cities, including some in the United States. BRT systems are like aboveground subways ("superways," maybe?), complete with specialized lanes, enclosed stations, turnstiles and tramlike coaches. In traffic-plagued Bogotá, some residents tell the NY Times that BRT has shaved an hour or more from their commutes, and taken their cars — and their emissions — off the road. In poorer countries that can't afford subways, BRT may offer a shortcut to clearer roads and cleaner air. (Source: New York Times)

BLINDED BY SCIENCE: Americans as a whole have never quite welcomed science with open arms, even while recognizing its almost limitless social importance. According to a new study, the majority of the country appreciates what science is doing, but they'd rather pick and choose which scientific findings they agree with. That, of course, differs from how scientists themselves do things. (Source: Reuters)

A BUG'S DEATH: Aphids can get under the skin of soybean farmers, quickly wiping out swaths of land that fuel their $27.3 billion industry. The tiny green insects are especially voracious thanks to their rapid reproduction cycle: eight to 12 offspring daily, which are in turn reproducing within four days of being born (see photo at right of an aphid giving birth). To combat the problem, researchers are bringing in some bugs that can get under the aphids' skin — literally. A miniscule, parasitic insect that burrows into aphids and devours them from the inside could soon be unleashed on aphid-infested soybean farms, but only if the Asian imports can survive U.S. winters. If not, there are still a dozen or so other natural predators of aphids — which are themselves from Asia — currently being studied to protect American soybean fields. (Source: Associated Press)

ARAL VIEW: The Aral Sea has been described as the most dire manmade environmental disaster in history, and it's apparently still getting worse. Once the fourth-largest inland body of water on Earth, it's been shrinking rapidly ever since the Soviet Union diverted the rivers that fed it to instead irrigate cotton fields. It split into the Small Aral Sea and the Large Aral Sea about 20 years ago, and the Large Aral Sea began dividing in half in 2000. Now the eastern lobe of that remnant, called the Eastern Aral Sea, has shrunk 80 percent since 2006, according to satellite images taken by the European Space Agency. The entire Large Aral Sea is expected to fully dry out by 2020. (Source: Agence France-Presse)

TREMORS! Tremors have been rumbling the earth in California recently, which means one of two things — either it's graboids out to kill Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire, or the San Andreas fault is gradually gearing up for another earthquake. While many people likely prefer the first scenario (it was nominated for a Saturn Award!), researchers are also preparing for the second one. More than 2,000 deep-earth tremors shook San Andreas between July 2001 and February 2009, and the fact that they still haven't subsided leads some geologists to think a major quake could be in the cards. Still, from what I know about Kevin Bacon, he's probably involved somehow. (Source: AP)

Russell McLendon

Photo (Sen. Barbara Boxer): J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Photo (President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy): Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Photo (aphids): ZUMA Press

Photo (Kevin Bacon): Ralph Notaro/Splash News

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

Weekend Briefing 7/10/2009
Global waiting worsens, Aral Sea shrinks, tremors shake California, and more.