Global warming sucks. You have to put up with ridiculous heat waves, intensification of precipitation events, disruption of the hydrological cycle, droughts, ocean acidification, and adaptive stresses on plants and animals. And then you have the army of politicians spouting talking points and pocketing cash from fossil fuels companies. Round that off with the belligerently stupid and gullible that want to believe everything is fine because they have money or think Jesus is coming back soon. It is just a dreadful buzzkill.
Good wine makes it all somewhat more tolerable or at least forgettable. But now comes more depressing news, this time from Bordeaux.
"The most pessimistic scenario says that the climate will no longer be suitable for Cabernet and Merlot wines by the middle of the century," said Jean-Pascal Goutouly, a wine expert at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in Paris, at a recent conference.
No matter how perfect the chemical composition of the soil, the temperature and moisture conditions can go from gloriously edgy to Boone's Farm worthy in a few decades. For the oenophiles amongst us, hope rests with climate conditions changing slow enough to allow the growers to splice in heat-resistant varieties.
Many winegrowers are already taking preemptive action against global warming, using more heat-resistant grape varieties that mature later in the season. "If climate change comes quickly, things will get difficult for all of us," said Bordeaux winegrower Philippe Bardet, according to the news agency AFP. "If it comes slowly, we will adapt."
And unfortunately the global nature of climate change means California, the Mediterranean, and Australia are also under the gun.
"I don't think you can make a vineyard decision today based on historical information," says David Graves, one of the owners of Napa Valley's Saintsbury wines. "You have to factor in climate change."
As he paces the floor at his Carneros winery, Graves explains that vintners plant and tend their vineyards with an eye to a 50-year horizon. Now the future seems unknowable, he says.
One of the best descriptions of wine as the proverbial canary in the climate coal mine comes from 2 Degrees Above Normal:
As we all know, wine grows on the edge of the agricultural boundary between success and failure as an agricultural crop. Wine is intentionally grown on the edge because this is where the character of the wine is derived. Without that edge, wine is just fermented grape juice in a fancy bottle with a cork. This is why wine grapes are referred to as the “canary in the coal mine” of agricultural commodities. If a vineyard is is about to fail due to climate factors, we can be fairly sure that all other agricultural commodities in the region are also at risk.
Here are a few other agricultural canaries that may soon be wobbly in their perch.
There are other commodities similar to wine grapes that are also at risk of failure due to climate change. Cacao (chocolate), hops (beer), coffee, teas and even fruits used to produce nutraceuticals are also sensitive to variations in climate patterns...
No wine. No beer. No chocolate. No coffee. Just shoot me.
Grape growers take great pride in their canary status. They even like to point out they noticed changes long before scientists began talking about global warming.
Grape growers began to notice unusual patterns above-and-beyond the region's unpredictable weather nearly three decades ago, well before scientists began to sound the climate change alarm.
How come none of these fine people are running for office? Give me a grape grower or wine maker over the likes of James Inhofe or Fred Upton any day.
Since wine might be viewed as too frivolous a topic, how about something a bit more serious? Arctic ice perhaps . . .
Arctic sea ice extent for February 2011 tied with February 2005 as the lowest recorded in the satellite record. Sea ice extent was particularly low in the Labrador Sea and Gulf of St. Lawrence. In contrast, winter snow cover remained extensive in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
About that trend line:
February ice extent for 1979 to 2011 shows a decline of 3.0% per decade.
Hey mate, pass me that bottle...