Can we please get over “climategate” and understand that warming is a threat to winegrapes?
The climate change deniers, bless their dumb little hearts, are getting lots of buzz lately, but I’ll side with the scientists, the majority of whom are absolutely sure that warming is occurring and that it’s getting dangerously too late to do anything about it.
The latest — as if we didn’t have enough evidence — comes from Stanford, where UPI is reporting that a team led by Noah Diffenbaugh “say they’ve determined global warming could significantly negatively impact U.S. wine and corn production.” (I’m not going to write here about corn except to say that I love it when it’s ripe in the summertime and will miss it if it goes away.) They go on to say that “global warming could reduce the current U.S. wine grape region by 81 percent by the end of the century” due to hotter and hotter days in wine country like California’s, which, in places like Napa Valley, is already pretty hot.
(Diffenbaugh presents his formal study today at an American Geophysical Union held in Moscone Center and I’m sure it will be widely reported.)
It’s not just that excessive heat could make even coastal valleys inappropriate for delicate varieties, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A warming climate could upset the ecosystem in much more fundamental ways. Science Daily describes how, “if spring-like weather arrives earlier than usual, and flowers bloom and wither before the pollinators [like bees] appear,” then wines might not even produce fruit. Earlier, scientists had calculated that a rise of only 2-4 degrees Celsius in grape regions could cause “losses [to be] be as high as 40 percent by mid-century.” In a previous study, Diffenbaugh determined that temperatures “from the principal wine regions of California, Oregon and Washington” already have risen in recent years by nearly 1 degree Celsius, and that was before some of the hottest years on record were yet to come.
It’s been surmised for years that other areas of the United States and North America could become more amenable to fine wine (vitis vinifera) growing as California gets too hot. Diffenbaugh warned as early as 2006 that by the end of this century “wine growing areas will be largely limited to the Northeast, including parts of upstate New York and Long Island.” And, of course, it was reported just yesterday that “there are some places in the world, such as the English vineyards, which stand to benefit from warmer temperatures.”
I know that some people don’t like it when I get all political on this blog which is a wine blog not a political blog or a scientific blog. But can we agree that a topic like climate change isn’t just scientific or political but may potentially impact us all? The leaked emails from a week or so ago gave ammunition to the deniers but as The [San Francisco] Examiner reported 3 days ago, the conservative furor over the emails “is much ado about nothing” and “the evidence of global warming is overwhelming.” Since I’m unable to conduct my own research into climate change, and don’t have the time or technical expertise to wade through mountains of studies and data, I have to put my trust in something; and I choose to believe the credible scientists from around the world and in every agency of every country I’m aware of (including the U.N.) that climate change is upon us, and one of its manifestations will be increased warming — perhaps not everywhere, or all at once, but California seems to be at risk, which means winegrapes are too, and that worries me.