Explorations

Posting here will be a little more peripatetic than usual over the next few weeks, as I whizz off round the South Island to act as a tour guide for a bunch of friends from the UK. I will post as much as is consistent with a good time.

Drinking wine spo-dee-o-dee

Grapes.jpg According to a Reuter’s piece in the Guardian [UK], New Zealand’s wine makers are upbeat about their prospects in a warming world. A warmer climate will increase the area suitable for producing fine wine, but it may mean changes in the grapes being grown.

Higher temperatures due to global warming are expected to make cold areas of New Zealand more temperate and better suited to grape cultivation. So it’s no surprise that New Zealand wine-growers are upbeat about a future that includes climate change. “The big picture for New Zealand wine is very, very good,” said Philip Gregan, chief executive of industry body New Zealand Winegrowers.

A rather nice confirmation of the view I expressed in Hot Topic. One of the interviewees is Clive Paton of Ata Rangi, a name to conjure with in the world of NZ red wine:

Paton said the Martinborough climate is ideal for producing Pinot Noir, but a slight rise in the temperature would be enough to tip the balance. So Paton has been looking at Syrah, also known as Shiraz, getting to grips with the nuances of an alternative variety, in preparation for a potential shift. “Even if it does rise a half or one degree, it’s still going to be a great place for growing grapes,” said Paton.

Very true. Good job we have some syrah chez Hot Topic. But what if the warming is not so moderate…? The rest of the world is worried. Discovery Channel covers the second Climate Change & Wine conference, being held in Barcelona this weekend. Pancho Campos, the president of the Wine Academy of Spain, who organized the conference, also thinks we might be on to a good thing:

The French “Grand Crus” could be further threatened by the “New World” wines of Australia, California, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand, who would have the best climatic conditions. “The countries in the southern hemisphere are next to a greater mass of water, and it is sea currents which maintain the temperature at its level,” said Campos.

Agence France Press coverage here.
[Update 21/2: The Herald picks up the Reuters story and expands it with a few (fairly old, I think) quotes from NIWA’s Jim Salinger. Interesting that the Herald predicts that we might be growing sauvignon blanc in Canterbury in 20 – 30 years. I wonder what that means for the 250,000 sav blanc vines already down the road from me….]

Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain

raindrop.jpg I usually save my thoughts on weather for On The Farm (the other blog), but this summer in the Waipara Valley – especially the last 24 hours – has set me thinking. As the climate warms, Canterbury is projected to see an increased frequency of drought conditions. At the same time, the rain that does fall will become more intense, which could lead to run-off and erosion problems. Summer 2007/8 has been dry and hot (2007 was the driest at Limestone Hills since 1998, only 496 mm in the farm rain gauge). The hills are brown, the sheep are thin, but grape growers are happy. Yesterday afternoon, the skies darkened, thunder started rumbling, and the rain came. At 8 am today we’d had 92 mm in 24 hours (most it fell overnight, and it’s still raining at the time of writing). Other places have had a lot more, and there have been flash floods. It’s nothing by West Coast standards of course, but it’s good and heavy in North Canterbury terms.

So if you were to ask me what will Canterbury’s climate be like in 2030, I’d have to answer – just like this summer…

[Caveat: Yes, I know that we’ve got a La Nina and that one year does not a climate make.]

The roots of denial

200802082044.jpg In Hot Topic, I relegated discussion of climate cranks and their arguments to an appendix. In that section I look at the roots of denial, the influence of politics on scientific debate (or not-so-scientific debate, in most cases), and tried to highlight the irrelevance of sceptical views to our predicament today. UC San Diego historian of science Naomi Oreskes – already well known in climate circles for her paper testing the reality of consensus amongst climate scientists – gave a lecture titled The American Denial of Global Warming back in December last year, and it is well worth 58 minutes of anyone’s time. The first half deals with the history of climate science, and just how much agreement existed by the ’60s. In the second half she looks at how the George C Marshall institute developed the tactics of denial to defend Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative, and then applied it to tobacco, the ozone hole, and, eventually, climate science. The roots of all the sceptic tropes used by our tame NZ CSC are laid out for all to see. Highly recommended.

Hat tip: dbeck in comments at RealClimate, John Mashey and Tim Lambert at Deltoid.

Being economical with the truth, or lying through her teeth?

homer.jpg Politicians are skilled at manipulating facts to convey any impression they desire. It’s called spin, and in its worst cases truthiness – nicely defined by the man who invented the term, Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report: “We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth—the truth we want to exist.” Out in wingnut land, they want to believe that global warming is not real. So Muriel Newman at her NZ Centre for Political Research web site starts spinning the facts and, in the middle of a rambling attempt to justify a recent climate crank call for a joint Australia-NZ Royal Commission on climate change manages to come out with the following:

Anyone who claims that the science on global warming is settled is wrong. There is now growing evidence that that the earth is not warming but cooling: since the 1970s the glaciers of the Arctic, Greenland, and the Antarctic have been growing, and since 1998 average world temperatures have been falling with 2006 cooler than 2005 and 2007 cooler still.

This may be what Muriel fervently believes, but it is also completely untrue. So untrue, in fact, that saying it in an attempt to influence public policy amounts to lying. Sadly, in the echo chamber of truthiness around her web site, she gets taken at face value. Out in the wider world, it simply leaves her credibility in tatters.

Continue reading “Being economical with the truth, or lying through her teeth?”