Global warming a threat to wine industry

Global warming a threat to wine industry

Researchers working with computer models warn that global warming could have a severe impact on California’s $3.2 billion wine industry before the end of the century.

According to a story published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study warns that the average temperature in California could rise by as much as 10[degrees]F if the world does not dramatically cut its dependence on fossil fuels. The study plotted two computer models, one in which the industrial world maintained its current reliance on coal, oil and gas and a second in which there was massive investment in new technology and alternative energy sources. Under the bestcase scenario, there could still be a temperature increase of up to 6[degrees]F. There would also be significantly longer summer heat waves, no matter which path is taken.

In either case, there could be an almost 90% reduction of the Sierra snow pack, from which the state gets much of its irrigation water.

The higher temperatures would cause obvious problems for coastal winegrape growers, and probably make any sort of viticulture in the Central Valley virtually impossible. The study emphasized that the California dairy industry and the wine industry are especially vulnerable to an increase in temperature. It forecast that the average temperature in coastal cities would be similar to that now experienced inland, and that inland areas would experience “Death Valley-like” temperatures.

“We are already in a situation where we have seen some warming and we have seen some impacts,” said lead author Christopher Field, director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, Calif. Field added that even though California has taken stronger action than other states to reduce emissions, “it cannot save itself. California has something like 2% of the world’s total global greenhouse emissions. Even if California were to aggressively adopt emissions controls, global climate wouldn’t respond to that directly.” Field said that California could inspire the rest of the U.S. and the world.

The situation for winegrowers in Europe doesn’t appear any brighter. At the 32nd World Geology Conference in Florence, Italy, Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University warned that global warming could have a dramatic impact on Europe’s classic wine regions within a few decades.

“We estimate that within 50 years, temperatures in the region of Chianti, where summers are already very hot, will rise by an average of 2[degrees] Celsius (3.6[degrees]F),” Jones said, according to a report in Agence France Presse. He said that vineyards in Bordeaux and Chianti may come to resemble those in northern Africa, and the ideal growing environments that made them prosper could shift northward.

“The ideal climatic conditions for producing what we today call Chianti will be in Germany, just as those for producing Champagne or Bordeaux wines will be found in southern England,” Jones predicted.

(If you have experienced what you believe to be examples of global warming in your vineyards, Wines & Vines would like to hear about it. Please e-mail Larry Walker at: winewalker@aol.com. In an upcoming issue, Wines & Vines will publish a detailed report on global warming and its impact on the wine industry by Jamie Goode, a London-based journalist who has a Ph.D in plant biology.)

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