What We’re Reading: Durban Deal, Wind Farms and Vocal Fry

BY Jenny Marder  December 12, 2011 at 2:24 PM EST

U.N. Climate Talks’ Real-World Outcome Will be Determined in Asia

Washington Post.jpgThe deal agreed to in Durban, South Africa will require major developing nations to make emissions cuts. This article is a good primer on the highlights of the U.N. meeting, how negotiators came to arrive at the term “outcome with legal force,” which allowed representatives from 200 countries to reach a last-minute compromise. It also includes a quote by Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations who says that the use of “vague language” was “an intentional fudge,” (read his blog here), and Costa Rica’s environment minister who wonders whether the cuts will be quick enough to reduce impacts on the most vulnerable countries like Bangladesh. (Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin)

Climate Models Yield Confidence Question

BBC.jpgAlso in climate news, this BBC article grapples with the question of whether any degree of confidence can be achieved when trying to model the impacts of climate change on individual countries. Different models reach wildly different conclusions, according to environment correspondent Richard Black. He signs off with this question: “As a policymaker, as a business leader, as a citizen, would you make decisions on the basis of these models?” (Richard Black, BBC)

‘Vocal Fry’ Creeping Into U.S. Speech

Science NOW.jpgVocal fry, the tendency to slip into the creaky lower registers for effect, is becoming more common among musicians and college-age women, according to scientists at Long Island University. Though the sample size was small, the percentage of young people tested who slipped into creaky, guttural speaking was alarmingly high. Scientists hope to expand the study, test younger people in different populations and study trends they’ve observed. Examples: young people use it when they’re together, it’s common at the end of sentences, and announcers on popular music radio stations use it much more than National Public Radio correspondents. This Science NOW piece also features a cool audio illustration of vocal fry. (Marissa Fessenden, Science NOW)

Spoiling Walden: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cape Wind

OnEarth.jpgAn editor who loves Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Cape Cod shares what he calls his “wind journey.” It’s a beautifully-written, contemplative piece that explores where we get our energy from, how we pay for it and what we sacrifice in the process. (David Gessner, OnEarth)

This post has been updated from its original version.