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Energy and Global Warming News for July 24: Ah, the olive groves of balmy England; Recent vets find work retooling America for energy independence

Ah, the olive groves of balmy England

Subtropical crops such as dates, figs and rice could become staples of British agriculture within 20 years, according to government forecasts.

The assessment, produced by officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), outlines future possibilities for British food production based on recent climate data.

The forecasts highlight some of the unexpected benefits of a warmer climate. It means the British diet will in future be able to include produce currently imported from as far away as China and the Philippines, without incurring massive food miles.

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However, some existing crops such as potatoes will struggle, as temperatures are predicted to rise by about 2C within 20 years.

Retooling for the next mission

Some vets think their war was for oil. Now they’re working to help us use less.

“¦”Reducing dependence on foreign oil seemed like a solution to better national security,” said Reppenhagen. He heard about Veterans Green Jobs, and told Curry. Curry was already a committed environmentalist, a vegetarian who refused to own a car and opted out of consumer culture as much as possible. But it wasn’t just the green-resource side of the jobs program that appealed to the two; it was the people side. “A good, meaningful job, and camaraderie and support are what a lot of veterans need,” said Reppenhagen. And they need it as soon as they leave the military, before substance abuse and depression have a chance to set in.

Healthcare delay may complicate U.S. climate debate

The U.S. Senate’s failure to hold to its early August deadline to pass a major healthcare bill could complicate another of President Barack Obama’s top policy priorities: the fight against climate change.

Already facing a crowded autumn schedule, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said debate on legislation to expand healthcare to the uninsured will have to wait until September, as the Democratic-controlled Congress and the White House work to overcome roadblocks.

Climate change legislation is not expected to be considered on the Senate floor until October, and a spokesman for Reid reiterated that timetable still holds.

But many of the leading senators will likely be preoccupied longer on healthcare reform, which could complicate Obama’s efforts to get legislation passed just as the world prepares for a December summit in Copenhagen on global warming.

China-US Climate Duet

Without active collaboration between the United States and China, not only will the odds for successful negotiations in Copenhagen this December to secure a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol be diminished, but it will be unlikely that any meaningful remedy will be found in time to arrest rising global temperatures.

Yet talks between the U.S. and China on climate change currently present two contrasting scenarios, one hopeful, the other discouraging.

Drought takes toll on Iraq revival efforts

What was known as history’s fertile crescent, where lush farmland and abundant water gave rise to civilization, is today a dusty desert where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers crawl sluggishly toward the sea.

Vast tracts of Iraqi farmland are cracked and barren, precious marshes have dried up and sandstorms blot out the sun.

Even “Saddam River,” the flagship drainage system Saddam Hussein launched in the 1980s to restore Iraq to its ancient agriculture glory, has turned into a sickly green stream flowing far below its high-water mark.

Such are the symptoms of a worsening water shortage that threatens to undermine Iraq’s efforts to rebuild its economy after six years of war unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Box Stores Target Lighting Inefficiencies

American retailers looking to save energy are aiming high “” just below the roof rafters. That’s where a small revolution is underway to replace 70-year-old magnetic-ballast lighting technology with efficient electronic circuitry. By using electronic ballasts “” the transformers that regulate the current and voltage needed to operate the lamps “” and a software-based energy management system, Wal-Mart, Publix and other retailers say they can typically cut a store’s lighting costs in half.

Rainfall to decrease over Iberian Peninsula

Have there been any changes to the monthly contributions to total annual precipitation within the Mediterranean basin? Researchers from the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (CSIC) have assessed the changes observed in rainfall patterns since 1950, and are predicting contributions to be lower by the middle of the 21st Century, against a backdrop of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have used the data reported (1950–2006) and simulated various climate models (2040–2060) to look at whether the monthly contribution to the annual total has changed over recent decades, and whether such changes are likely to happen over the medium term”, Juan Ignacio L³pez-Moreno, lead author of the study, tells SINC.

Details emerge on Calif. plan to end 40-year moratorium

California lawmakers are expected to vote on a budget bill late today that would authorize the first new offshore drilling in the state since 1969.

The offshore-drilling proposal embedded in a budget pact crafted by leaders in Sacramento would override a state commission that voted recently to block drilling. The agreement also assumes $100 million in immediate revenue from an oil-services company that would run its lease through existing platforms operating in federal waters.

Even Healthy Lungs Labor At Acceptable Ozone Levels

Ozone exposure, even at levels deemed safe by current clean air standards, can have a significant and negative effect on lung function, according to researchers at the University of California Davis.

“The National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone was recently revised to set lower limits for ozone concentrations. Our research indicates that the threshold for decrements in ozone-induced lung function in healthy young subjects is below this standard,” said Edward Schelegle, Ph.D., of the University of California Davis. “Specifically, we found that 6.6 hours exposure to mean ozone concentrations as low as 70 parts per billion have a significant negative effect on lung function, even though the current NAAQS standards allow ozone concentrations to be up to 75 parts per billion (ppb) over an eight-hour period.”

Scripps-led study shows ocean health plays vital role in coral reef recovery

A new study shows that bleached corals bounce back to normal growth rates more quickly when they have clean water and plentiful sea life at their side

The new research study led by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that by improving overall ocean health, corals are better able to recover from bleaching events, which occur when rising sea temperatures force corals to expel their symbiotic algae, known as zooxanthellae. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that is expected to increase in frequency as global climate change increases ocean temperatures worldwide.

Fighting climate change the key to ending poverty

“¦What’s more, climate change will have a disproportionate impact on the poor in developing countries, even though they have done the least to cause it, are the least prepared to deal with it and will suffer the soonest and the most from it.

Because poverty reduction and climate change are intricately linked as development issues, the World Bank is tackling these issues head on. More than 60 years of worldwide experience has shown that the best way to reduce poverty is through an inclusive and sustainable globalization. Sustainable development, however, cannot take place without access to energy. Factories and businesses cannot function efficiently; hospitals and schools cannot operate fully or safely; basic services that people in rich countries take for granted “” such as power for household lighting, so that children can read or do homework in the evening “” cannot be provided without efficient, affordable and reliable energy.