Indonesia’s corals threatened by climate change: It is a country with some of the world’s richest coral reefs. But scientists fear many of Indonesia’s psychedelic reefs, already significantly damaged by blast fishing and pollution, now face an even graver threat: global warming. Over the years, rising sea temperatures have led to severe coral bleaching in some of the most spectacular reefs off the palm-fringed islands of Sulawesi and Bali that are home to exotic fish like the brightly colored clown fish and scorpion fish. And environmentalists say if quick steps are not taken to stop the destruction, many reefs across the sprawling archipelago of about 17,000 islands could disappear in the next few decades. Reuters

World’s sunniest spots hint at energy bonanza: Southern California is sunny, the French Riviera is sunny, but NASA says the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the Sahara Desert in Niger are the sunniest — and the information could be worth money. America’s space exploration agency has located the world’s sunniest spots by studying maps compiled by U.S. and European satellites. The maps can also gauge solar energy at every other spot on the planet, and have already been used to help businesses to site solar panels in Morocco, for instance, or send text messages to tell sunbathers in Italy to put on more cream. Guardian

Google expands into alternative energy: Google Inc. is expanding into alternative energy in its most ambitious effort yet to ease the environmental strain caused by the company’s voracious appetite for power to run its massive computing centers. As part of a project announced Tuesday, the Internet search leader and its philanthropic arm will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into a quest to lower the cost of producing electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. If Google realizes its goal, the cost of solar power should fall by 25 to 50 percent, co-founder Larry Page said in an interview. The Mountain View-based company initially hopes to harvest cleaner-burning electricity to meet its own needs and sell power to other users or license the technology that emerges from its initiative, dubbed “Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal.” Associated Press

Global warming sends salamanders packing: A genetic study of the salamander family that encompasses two-thirds of the world’s salamander species shows that periods of global warming helped the amphibians diversify and expand their range from North America into Europe and Asia, where pockets of them are still found today … The global warming that spurred the dispersal and evolution of these salamanders, however, took place in the distant past, over the course of tens of thousands or even millions of years, allowing the slow-moving salamanders time to seek suitable habitat farther north. This contrasts to today’s warming, which may amount to a similar 6-8 degree Celsius rise, but in just a few hundred years. PhysOrg

Furore as ban on crops lifted: A decision to allow genetically modified canola to be grown in Victoria has inflamed dissent in the Brumby Government and sparked warnings that non-GM farms could be contaminated. Anti-GM activists have also lashed the decision, saying consumers face a growing array of food made from GM material — without always knowing when they are buying it. But the move was welcomed by rural interests as sensible, and backed by scientists who say the risks of adverse consequences are minimal. Farmers in Victoria and NSW will be free to plant genetically modified canola from early next year after both states yesterday announced the lifting of bans on the controversial crops — despite appeals not to do so from Western Australia and Tasmania. The Age

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey