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One Great Recession benefit: a decrease in global carbon emissions.

Today, the International Energy Agency said that global carbon emissions shrank 3 percent in 2009, due to the Great Recession. The Guardian reports that for only the fourth time in the past 50 years, the world emitted less of the greenhouse gas than it had done the year before, because of declining industrial production.

Which means, alas, that the world will likely be back to increasing emissions soon. Indeed, the IEA report notes that to avoid climate change and all the catastrophes it promises, countries don't have to shrink their economies, but do have to "[build] more than 350 new nuclear plants and 350,000 wind turbines in the next 20 years. [It] also estimates that by 2020, three-fifths of cars will need to use alternatives to the traditional internal combustion engine."

The IEA report reminded me of a fascinating study out of the London School of Economics, released last month. It found that promoting contraceptive use could be a lynchpin to combating climate change: fewer babies means fewer carbon-emitters, and fewer carbon-emitters means less climate change. 

That, in turn, reminds me of this. Oh dear.

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Don't tell King Abdullah how to run King Abdullah University

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah will apparently only put up with so much from his clerics. Sheikh Saad al-Shethry has been removed from the kingdom's highest council of religious scholars by royal decree, after he criticized a newly-opened multibillion-dollar university for being un-Islamic. Shethry had a particular problem with co-ed classes:

"Mixing is a great sin and a great evil," al-Shethri was quoted as saying. "When men mix with women, their hearts burn and they will be diverted from their main goal (which is) ... education."

Abdullah has acquired a reputation as an unlikely reformer after this year's Valentine's Day reforms, in which he sacked the head of the infamous religious police and appointed a woman to his cabinet for the first time. But as Saudi Arabia expert Toby Jones argued at the time, Abdullah is probably less interested in liberalizing Saudi society than he is eliminating threats to his family's power.

The firing of Shethry certainly seems to be an example. The university -- which is named after the king, of course --  is something of a legacy project for Abdullah. He has touted it as a "beacon of tolerance" and as part of his plan to make Saudi Arabia a center of technological innovation. His patience for unsolicited sharia advice from the peanut gallery is likely to be pretty low.

Scott Nelson/KAUST via Getty Images