A British professor asserts that by 2080 some parts of southern England might be too hot to grow grapes. In a book entitled ‘The Winelands of Britain: past, present and prospective‘ professor Richard Selley argues this on the basis of new climate change models indicating temperature rises of up to 5 degrees centigrade by 2080 in southern England.
Instead of growing grapes, this kind of climate only allows for the production of raisins, currents and sultanas, according to Selley, an emeritus professor at the Imperial College London. If temperatures continue to rise as predicted by the UK’s Met Office and the UN’s Intergovermental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), many vineyards in the Southern parts of Britain could face extinction within the next 75 years, Selley predicts.
The professor’s approach to climate change and wine making is quite unique. Normally the debate focuses in on how winemakers can eliminate the negative impact they have on the environment. Selley’s work paints a much bleaker picture because he takes into consideration the future impact of all CO2 emissions on winemaking as a human activity.
Selley says that by 2080 UK vineyards growing Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon will likely have migrated further north to areas including Yorkshire and Lancashire. Climate change has affected UK wine growers since Roman times, but the effects have been getting more noticeable during the past 20 years.
Grapes that are growing in ‘intermediate’ warm climates on the globe have started to be planted in the UK for the first time in the last two decennia. Already British southeastern vineyards have won international prizes for wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.
“The northernmost limit of UK wine-production has advanced and retreated up and down the country in direct relation to climatic changes since Roman times", said Selley. “Now, [with up to date climate change data] I have been able to map how British viticulture could change beyond recognition in the coming years", he added.
If you are interested in the reverse side of this story -how wineries impact the environment- check out the specialist International Wine Industry Greenhouse Gas Calculator users guide at New Zealand Wine.com.
Climatologists are not agreed for the time being what the exact contribution to greenhouse gas output is by the winemaking industry but a climatologist from Oregon University, Dr Gregory Jones, points out that various estimates indicate it hovers around 0.1%. "There are numerous entities working on better understanding the viticulture (sink) and winemaking (source) issues of CO2 but we have much to learn. What is absolutely clear though is that wine production is much, much lower that most broad acre crops for various reasons (use of fertilizers, herbicides, tractor passes, etc.)", Jones said in an interview at the International Climate Change and Wine Conference in Spain last February.