New York, Jan 3, 2018: Although winegrowers seem reluctant to try new grape varieties apparently to protect the taste of the wines, new research suggests that they will ultimately have to give up on their old habit as planting lesser-known grape varieties might help vineyards to counteract some of the effects of climate change.
“It’s going to be very hard, given the amount of warming we’ve already committed to… for many regions to continue growing the exact varieties they’ve grown in the past,” said study co-author Elizabeth Wolkovich, Assistant Professor at Harvard University.
“With continued climate change, certain varieties in certain regions will start to fail — that’s my expectation,” she said.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that wine producers now face a choice — proactively experiment with new varieties, or risk suffering the negative consequences of climate change.
“The Old World has a huge diversity of wine grapes — there are overplanted 1,000 varieties — and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80 per cent of the wine market in many countries,” Wolkovich said.
“We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change,” she added.
Unfortunately, Wolkovich said, convincing wine producers to try different grape varieties is difficult at best, and the reason often comes down to the current concept of terroir.
Terroir is the notion that a wine’s flavour is a reflection of where which and how the grapes were grown.
Thus, as currently understood, only certain traditional or existing varieties are part of each terroir, leaving little room for change.
The industry — both in the traditional winegrowing centres of Europe and around the world — faces hurdles when it comes to making changes, Wolkovich said.
In Europe, she said, growers have the advantage of tremendous diversity.
They have more than 1,000 grape varieties to choose from. Yet strict labelling laws have created restrictions on their ability to take advantage of this diversity.
For example, just three varieties of grapes can be labelled as Champagne or four for Burgundy.
Similar restrictions have been enacted in many European regions – all of which force growers to focus on a small handful of grape varieties.
“The more you are locked into what you have to grow, the less room you have to adapt to climate change,” Wolkovich said.
New World winegrowers, meanwhile, must grapple with the opposite problem — while there are few, if any, restrictions on which grape varieties may be grown in a given region, growers have little experience with the diverse — and potentially more climate change adaptable — varieties of grapes found in Europe, the study said.
Just 12 varieties account for more than 80 per cent of the grapes grown in Australian vineyards, Wolkovich said.
More than 75 per cent of all the grapes grown in China is Cabernet Sauvignon — and the chief reason why has to do with consumers.
“They have all the freedom in the world to import new varieties and think about how to make great wines from a grape variety you’ve never heard of, but they’re not doing it because the consumer hasn’t heard of it,” Wolkovich said. (IANS)
It’s minus eight degrees Celsius on a late winter morning in western Massachusetts. But electrician Ed Martell is on the job, helping build an 8,000-panel solar farm outside the town of Wales, 110 kilometers southwest of Boston.
Martell says solar installations have been going nonstop for the past several years.
“I thought it was going to be a flash in the pan a couple years ago,” he told VOA. “I’ve seen solar keep going and going and going.”
Although sunshine is not the first image that comes to mind in connection with Massachusetts, policy decisions have propelled the state to third place nationwide in solar jobs, behind sunny California and Florida, which is known as the Sunshine State.
Martell says the industry has been growing at a time when there has not been much other work for electricians.
“If it wasn’t for solar, there would have been a two-year period when I wouldn’t have worked at all,” he added. “So, yes, it’s very good for us.”
As the planet heats up, experts say the world needs to stop burning the fossil fuels that have powered civilization for centuries and switch to energy sources that do not release greenhouse gases that drive up the Earth’s temperature and produce weather extremes.
The transition will not be easy. There will be winners and losers, economists say.
The smokestack and the rusting remains of the 1960s-turquoise turbine are the last identifiable remains of the Mount Tom Station coal-fired power plant located 145 kilometers west of Boston in Holyoke, Mass.
Former maintenance engineer Clancy Kaye kept the plant running for more than 30 years.
But between expensive environmental upgrades, the plunging price of natural gas, and concerns from neighborhood groups about climate change and air pollution, the plant’s owners pulled the plug in 2014.
They then built one of the largest solar farms with battery storage in New England just down the street.
Eighty people worked at Mount Tom at its peak. When it finally closed in 2014, the number was down to 28. Some of them retired. The company offered a generous severance package, Kaye said. But about a dozen employees had to take other jobs with 30 percent to 50 percent pay cuts and fewer benefits.
“It’s been really a very rude awakening for many people who used to make some very good money. And some very highly skilled people,” Kaye said.
As coal-fired plants close across the country, he added, “the good jobs — and I mean good paying, good benefits, good pension — those jobs are virtually all going away for your average middle-class person.”
More than half of the 530 coal-fired power plants that were running in 2010 have shut down or plan to by 2030, according to the Sierra Club, an Oakland, California-based environmental group.
There have been losses in Massachusetts.
Winners in state policy
But experts say the state’s policies to fight climate change have created more winners.
While Congress and the White House have feuded for years about what, if anything, to do, Republican and Democratic leaders in the Bay State have taken innovative steps to reduce greenhouse gases.
In 2008, Massachusetts was among the first U.S. states to set a greenhouse gas reduction target. By mid-century, the state aims to have cut emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels.
Accompanying legislation requires utilities to buy increasing amounts of renewable energy and charges power companies for carbon pollution. The state created aggressive programs to promote energy efficiency.
“Some detractors did say that this is going to turn the economy upside down, this is going to cost people more,” said Mark Sylvia, former Massachusetts energy resources commissioner.
“But in fact,” he said, “it did the exact opposite.”
With a clear signal from the government, the market responded. Clean energy is now a $13 billion industry in Massachusetts. Its workforce has grown 84 percent since 2010. The sector now employs more than 110,000 workers, three percent of the state’s workforce.
In Washington, the climate debate is polarized between Democrats calling for an end to fossil fuels and Republicans saying these proposals will destroy jobs, when they acknowledge the problem at all. Only recently did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky acknowledge that human activities are responsible for climate change.
But Massachusetts’ Republican Gov. Charlie Baker took over from a Democrat, Deval Patrick, and held firm on climate policy.
“In Massachusetts, climate change is not a partisan issue,” Baker told the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources in February.
“While we sometimes disagree on specific policies,” he added, “we understand the science and know the impacts are real because we’re experiencing them firsthand.”
Baker noted that since he took office in 2015, the state has suffered damage from record snowfall, record storm flooding and record drought. Rising temperatures have hurt the state’s winter sports industry and fisheries.
“While many of these challenges are not new, they are more frequent and more damaging than ever,” he said.
Baker’s position on climate change has evolved since his unsuccessful 2010 run for governor. At that time, he told The Boston Globe newspaper he was “not smart enough to believe that I know” whether humans were responsible for global warming.
But in his testimony, he called for a federal target for greenhouse gas emission reductions, a proposal congressional Republicans have repeatedly rejected.
He noted that since the state set its target in 2008, “far from being an economic burden, we have seen close to a 70 percent increase over 1990 levels” in the state economy.
Baker recently rolled out an updated incentive program for solar power and is planning major offshore wind installations that are expected to create 3,600 local jobs.
And to pursue the jobs of the future, the state has provided more than $2 million in loans and grants to Greentown Labs, a business incubator for startups working on clean technologies.
The growth will not help everyone, however.
In the power generation business, “if you want to know where the jobs are, take an aerial view of the parking lot,” said Donnie Colston, head of the utility department at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
A coal plant may have 150 to 200 cars in the lot, Colston said.
But a solar farm? No parking lot.
“We have members that will clean them, they’ll maintain them, they’ll make sure that they’re running properly,” Colston said. “But that’s not a full-time job.”
Environmentalists pushing to close coal-fired power plants are sympathetic to the threat of lost jobs.
From freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to local Sierra Club chapters, activists are calling for a “just transition” for displaced workers in fossil fuel industries — job retraining and other measures to cushion the blow.
But the workers don’t want to hear it.
“They want you to have a soft landing and a just transition,” said Kaye, the former Mount Tom coal plant worker, “but they have the saw in their hand that’s cutting the branch that you’re sitting on.”