In vino, climate veritas: Salinger on warming and the new world of wine

Wine grapes are a climatically sensitive crop grown across a fairly narrow geographic range. Growing season temperatures for high-quality wine production is generally limited to 13–21°C on the average. This currently encompasses the Old World appellation regions of France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the Balkans, and those developing New World regions in California, Chile, Argentina, southern Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking at the International Masters of Wine Symposium last month in Florence in Italy, professor Greg Jones, the wine climate specialist from the University of Southern Oregon, noted that the overall growing season temperature trend was upwards. This is for numerous wine regions across the globe from 1950–2000, by 1.3°C. Greater growing season heat accumulation with warmer and longer seasons has occurred. At the same time frost days (days below 0°C) have decreased from 40 to around 12 per year at Blenheim.

There has been a decline in the number of days of frost that is most significant in the dormant period and spring, earlier last spring frosts, later first frosts in autumn with longer frost-free periods. For example in Tuscany, the Chianti region of Italy, summer temperatures have increased by 2°C from 1955-2004. The warming is extending the world’s wine map into new areas such as British Columbia in Canada, Exmoor in England and into the southern Baltic.

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Living in a warmer world

This year really has started with a bang. An unusual concatenation of weather extremes — Britain’s stormy and wet winter – the wettest since records began, 250 years ago – the warm winter in Russia and Alaska, drought in California and Australian heatwaves — has caused many people to consider the role that climate change might have played in driving those weather events. For once, public debate has moved away from the tired old is it/isn’t it happening frame and into concern about what living in a warming world might actually mean for us all. This makes Jim Salinger’s latest book, Living In A Warmer World – How a changing climate will affect our lives (Bateman NZ, 2013) especially welcome.

Salinger has drawn on all the relationships he has built up over a 40 year career as a climate scientist, including a spell as president of the WMO Commission for Agricultural Meteorology, to bring together some of the world’s leading experts on climate impacts. Each is given a chapter to look at what might be coming down the road, and it makes for essential, if sobering reading.

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Memo to Brill and his NZ climate cranks: pay up or shut up

I suppose it had to happen. Jim Salinger’s excellent summary of the strange case of the climate cranks and their attempt to sue the New Zealand temperature record has attracted a response from deep inside La La Land. Barry Brill, chairman of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition and litigant in chief, has posted a piece of piss-poor propaganda trying to make their actions seem reasonable. He fails spectacularly, as you might expect — but he also fails to mention the most salient fact of all.

Brill is the ex-lawyer who put the losing court case together. He, together with the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust — Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades — are in default of the costs awarded against them by the judge. It’s a cool $89,000, and if Brill et al don’t pay up, the NZ taxpayer will have to foot their bill. As one of those taxpayers, I object strenuously to funding their absurd political posturing.

Brill, Leyland, Dunleavy et al would do well to remember that in the “court of public opinion” people who welch on their debts and try to avoid the consequences of their actions are regarded as mountebanks and charlatans. They should shut up until they’ve paid up.

Salinger upsets cranks: Treadgold’s toys exit cot

Jim Salinger’s analysis of the climate crank campaign to cast doubt on New Zealand’s long term temperature record, published last week at The Conversation, has drawn an astonishing response1 from Richard Treadgold (left), the man who kicked off the whole sorry process over four years ago. In an intemperate and libellous comment at his web site, Treadgold accuses Salinger of deception, stupidity and questions his mental stability:

Painting our efforts as some kind of attack on science is stupid. Salinger is either mentally unstable or he’s trying to hide his deceptive treatment of the national temperature records. We asked for details. You’re obviously hiding something if you call that anti-science.

The truth, of course, is that Treadgold and his friends at the Climate “Science” Coalition have spent the last four years quite deliberately attacking Salinger and the science team at NIWA by alleging they acted to deliberately overstate warming in New Zealand. They’ve taken their case to the High Court, and lost. Now they’re running away from facing the legal consequences, by refusing to pay court-ordered legal costs and leaving the NZ taxpayer to foot the bill2.

This has never been about science. It has always been a political campaign, as Treadgold himself acknowledged when he admitted to the “essentially political objectives of our paper”. Having the lost the argument, he’s now behaving like a spoilt child, throwing a hissy fit at Salinger for telling an uncomfortable truth. His pettiness even extends to posting articles suggesting that Salinger’s affiliations with the Universities of Auckland and Tasmania may be false3.

The last line of his typically prolix comment is interesting.

Finally, it’s insufficient that you merely repeat Salinger’s empty allegation of ‘errors’ in our audit. If you want us to respond to the allegation, specify the errors.

The hypocrisy evident here is breathtaking. The “audit” refers to a reconstruction of the NZ temperature record produced by Treadgold’s Coalition pals4 that was submitted as evidence in their High Court case. Treadgold and the CSC know perfectly well that NIWA found significant errors in that reconstruction, because a detailed description of those errors formed an important part of NIWA’s evidence produced in court.

If Treadgold and the CSC are so sure that their “audit” is faultless, why do they not submit it for peer review at an academic journal? I’m sure that Chris de Freitas, never averse to lending his academic weight to the climate crank cause, would be willing to act as lead author and help to usher it past peer review, as he has done for so many papers over the years. I hear that Pattern Recognition in Physics could have a new publisher who might be interested. In the meantime, if Treadgold has any sense of decency he will apologise to Salinger for so maligning an honest man. Past history would suggest that I should not hold my breath.

  1. Web cited so that he can’t “disappear” the evidence. []
  2. I will have a great deal more to say on this issue, unless and until Barry Brill, Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades pay the costs awarded against their shonky trust []
  3. They aren’t. []
  4. Statistical Audit of the NIWA 7-Station Review, NZCSC, July 2011, available here. []

Salinger’s warmer world book tour

Jim Salinger’s latest book on climate change — Living in a warmer world — was launched last night in Auckland. Jim’s pulled together contributions from some of the world’s leading researchers to illustrate what climate change really means for the way we will live in the future, including Ove Hoegh-Guldberg on coral reefs, John Church on sea level rise, Greg Jones on viticulture, Glenn McGregor on heatwaves, Jan Sinclair on media framing of climate, and Jonathan Boston on ethical issues. Jim and Trevor Chinn have penned the chapter on glaciers response to warming, and it’s packed full of interesting news about NZ’s ice loss (of which more later). It promises to be a fascinating and informative look at what’s coming down the track, and a useful companion to the IPCC’s new report. I’ll have a full review of the book up at Hot Topic in due course.

Over the next couple of months, Jim will be touring New Zealand, presenting key points from the book. His first gigs will be in Nelson on Sunday. Full details below the fold…

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