Drought threatens crops in much of southern Europe: The hottest winter in two centuries in Italy, below average rains in Hungary and a shortage of snow in the Greek mountains make the outlook for grain crops in southern Europe this year decidedly patchy, farming sources say. Spain, with two years of drought behind it, has had plenty of rain, although some regions still face water restrictions. Javno (Croatia)

Energy efficiency initiatives pick up speed: The tidal wave of climate change and energy reform activity that has accompanied Democratic control of Congress has swept in with it a number of bills and ideas that didn’t get a lot of attention when the Republicans were in charge. These initiatives run the gamut from putting energy-saving dimmers in congressional office buildings to giving money to local and state agencies to helping promote energy efficiency and clean technology. Politico

Sydney desalination plant “to go ahead”: A major $1.9 billion desalination plant for Sydney will go ahead despite fears of a cost blowout, NSW Premier Morris Iemma says. Sydney Water’s fears that critical equipment for the plant may be difficult to source, given global demand for water infrastructure, have been revealed in documents prepared for the Iemma cabinet, obtained by the Australian Financial Review. SMH

Newly discovered ocean genes could help address world problems: An expedition lead by genome pioneer Craig Venter has turned up more than six million unknown genes among ocean microbes, some of which could be used to help fight climate change and develop clean sources of energy, according to a study published in PLoS Biology, an open-access journal. MongaBay

Tokyo expects cherry blossoms this week: When the cherry trees come alive in their explosion of pink, millions of Japanese hit the parks for one of this country’s biggest outpourings of merrymaking. So, Japanese are impatiently asking, when will it all start? Very soon, officials say – thanks to global warming, the Tokyo area is having one of its earliest cherry seasons ever. Guardian