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Wineries Around the World Grapple With Climate Change

Climate

In our rapidly changing climate—where weather patterns are less predictable, and drought and heatwaves have become longer and more intense—the world's wine producers can be particularly hit hard.

Vintners in South Africa, France, Australia, California and more find themselves grappling with the effects of climate change, the Associated Press reported, as a tiny swing in temperatures can change the sugar, acid and tannin content for some grape varieties, making it difficult for wineries to replicate batches produced in the past.


Spanish brand Familia Torres, which owns wineries in California and Chile, has seen how a mere rise of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over 40 years has resulted in harvests that are now about 10 days earlier than 20 years ago, company president Miguel A. Torres told the Associated Press.

South Africa, the world's seventh-largest producer of wine, has been hurt by drought and a water crisis and will likely see wine production dip more than 20 percent this year, according to AFP.

On the flip side, the effects of climate change have been good news for some Oregon vineyards, where increasingly milder temperatures have become more suitable to grow grapes for pinot noir.

Now, "we're in the sweet spot," Greg Jones, a climate change and wine expert based in McMinnville, Oregon, told the Associated Press. However, if climate trends continue, Oregon's wine could also fall victim to the same consequences faced by other wineries around the world.

Last year's Global Wine Index found that some of the world's finest grapes are unlikely to survive due to natural disasters, rising temperatures and other climate change factors. The Mendoza region—Argentina's Malbec wine country—was ranked as the most at-risk. It was followed by the Kakheti and Racha regions in Georgia, the southern Cahul region in Moldova, northwestern Slovenia in fourth place, and tied for fifth are the Yaraqui Valley in Ecuador and Nagano, Japan.

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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

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Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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