Climate change will threaten grape growing, leading to dramatic production declines in the world’s top wine regions, researchers predict in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Climate Change, Wine and Conservation used 17 different climate models to measure the effects on nine major wine-producing areas. Researchers used two climate futures, or representative concentration pathways, for 2050, one assuming a worst-case scenario of a RCP 8.5 the other a RCP 4.5.
Major wine regions saw declines in production under both scenarios. The most dramatic decline is predicted for Europe, where researchers estimate an 85 percent decrease in production in the Bordeaux and Rhone valley regions in France, Tuscany in Italy.
The study estimates anywhere between 19 percent and 73 percent of the land currently suitable for grape-growing in major wine regions will no longer be appropriate for viticulture by 2050.
Suitability is forecast to decline in many traditional wine-producing regions, including in Bordeaux and Rhone, Tuscany, California’s Napa Valley and Chile. Meanwhile, northern regions in North America and Europe as well as central China will see increases in suitability for viticulture.
Such climate changes could lead to conflicts in land use and freshwater ecosystems as wine grape producers move their operations to new areas, the study says. Vineyards could be established at higher elevations, increasing impacts on upland ecosystems and leading to the destruction of natural vegetation as large sections of land is cleared to accommodate wine production operations.
Operations that attempt to remain on land currently used for growing in spite of climate change could end up using more water for irrigation and to cool grapes through misting and sprinkling, creating potential for freshwater conservation impacts.
Viticulture is famously sensitive to climate and changes in wine production have been used as a proxy to explain past climate change, the study says. It isn’t the only industry threatened by the effects of climate change.
Increased CO2 pollution — and the ocean acidification it causes — is bad for the oyster industry, researchers say. And last month, New York warned investors that climate change poses a long-term risk to the state’s financial health, citing Hurricane Sandy and tropical storms Irene and Lee, which caused widespread damage and economic losses.