Misery for millions as temperatures plummet across the Middle East: The Middle East is shivering amid exceptionally low temperatures that have left at least ten people dead in Saudi Arabia alone and killed countless livestock and damaged crops across a region usually associated with sun-baked deserts. Some have had cause to cheer. Children in several countries have been enjoying days of fun after icy temperatures forced the closure of schools. And snow has fallen in Baghdad for the first time in living memory. Scotsman

Give us a break, carmakers tell D.C.: With stricter rules in place to sharply improve gas mileage and reduce tailpipe emissions, U.S. automakers now want Washington to look elsewhere for help in achieving climate-change goals. Senior company and trade group executives interviewed this week at the North American International Auto Show believe they did enough in the 2007 energy legislation and now want lawmakers and regulators to tap other industries. They declined to name the industries, but environmentalists said fuel producers and utilities needed to be on the list. Financial Post

Shepherding social change: For two days now, two crew members of a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel have been held on a Japanese whaling ship, which they boarded in the Southern Ocean. They were delivering a letter informing the captain that his ship was in violation of both Australian and international conservation law. Since the late 1970s, Sea Shepherd has sought to monitor and prevent illegal whaling and seal hunting around the world. The current venture coincides with a ruling by the Australian federal court that hunting in the Australian Whale Sanctuary is illegal – the result of years of campaigning by environmental groups. Sea Shepherd has a long-held commitment to using direct action as a means of stopping the hunting of whales, and has considerable support for their attempts at doing so. Guardian

Drought, population and biofuels threaten food supplies: Humanity is eating more food than it is producing. As world food prices soar to record levels, scientists are warning that global food supplies are rapidly diminishing due to water shortages, fiercer and more intense droughts, soil loss, increased land competition from crops grown for biofuel and humanity’s apparently insatiable appetite for meat. According to leading science writer Julian Cribb, the greatest challenge this century will be to double global food production with less land, less water and less nutrients — all in drier and hotter conditions. The Age

Get the price right: The Scandinavians say they’re already green; the eastern Europeans say they’re too poor; the Belgians say they’re too small; the French say they’re too nuclear; and so on. As Europe negotiates the final details of its new plan to tackle climate change, which will be published on January 23rd, arguments are raging over how the burden should be distributed. Behind the row, though, something encouraging is going on. Europe has learnt from its experience of trying to constrain emissions, and is getting better at it. America should pay attention, and avoid Europe’s early mistakes. Economist

Peter Fray

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