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Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who died early this morning at the age of 92, fought for most of his legendary career to keep keeping coal mining at the center of West Virginia's economy. But in the last few months of his life, he hinted at a remarkable change of heart, speaking out on the damage coal causes in his state and the need for change. Ultimately, his demise hurts the odds the Senate will pass a climate bill this year, since his successor is likely to be a more consistent defender of coal-mining companies.
Byrd slammed the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill that passed the House last summer, but in the months following, he sounded more open to a Senate climate bill—provided it included support for "clean coal" and carbon capture and sequestration. "To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say ‘deal me out.' West Virginia would be much smarter to stay at the table," he wrote in December. As recently as last month, E&E Daily considered Byrd to be a fence-sitter on climate legislation. \n

Jonathan Hiskes is a staff writer for Grist. For more on Byrd and his legacy, read the full post here.

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Camille Parmesan studies the effects of global warming by chasing butterflies. Sounds fanciful, but it is anything but. Her careful field observations of butterfly populations have produced compelling evidence of how climate change has already affected our living planet. In several landmark studies, she has helped pave the way for a body of eye-opening research that has tracked changes in numerous populations of plants and animals.

It all started back in the early 1990s, when Parmesan was a graduate student happily studying the diet of the Edith's checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha). She was drawn into the field by her love of nature and of the butterflies themselves. "You get a feel for the pulse of the species you are working with," Parmesan says, "a kind of intuition about them." Observing checkerspots in the field, Parmesan detected changes in their vulnerable populations and realized that the butterflies could be sensitive indicators of global warming.

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