The Effect of Global Warming on the Napa Valley, California Wine Economy

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The Effect of Global Warming on the Napa Valley, California Wine Economy

Global warming will have a negative effect on the Napa Valley, California wine economy. This will be caused primarily by the gradual increase in seasonal temperatures and the resulting longer and drier growing seasons. California revenue directly related to the Napa Valley wine industry is $16.5 billion a year (1). With the United States ranking fourth in world wine grape production with over 80% of these grapes coming from California (1). Over the last half century, in the main wine producing regions of California, Oregon and Washington, the average year round temperatures have increased by 5 degrees Fahrenheit (2). It is generally accepted by all climatologists that the increase in temperature is attributed to human-caused greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The release of these gases into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels has been blamed for the temperature increases being seen world wide (3). There is little doubt in the scientific community that this huge economy, based on grape growing, will be affected by this slow but steady climate change. However, how this region will be affected is a matter of debate. A hot year is normally associated with a boom year, offering a high yield of quality grapes for growers (1). However too much of a good thing can be bad. By the end of the century the increased temperature could have adverse effects on grape production and already growers in California see challenges in balancing the long growing season with the quality of the fruit being produced (3). Initial studies on the effects of increased temperatures have shown that warming improves the quality of the wine, said Gregory Jones, an Associate Professor of Geography at the American University of Southern Oregon (4). He went on to predict that if something is not done, continued warming would change the growing environment in the future. The result of this increased temperature may leave growers finding, what once was good for the grape could be disastrous. By examining past heat waves, such as the one that hit Europe in 2003, vintner are given some idea of what is in store for the future (4). Areas that were normally cooler saw an improvement in grape production while the normally warm regions saw a decline in production and quality (5). Areas most in danger by the warming climate are those that currently enjoy a long, warm growing season, such as the Napa Valley (5). According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (4), if nothing is done about global warming, only the coastal regions of California, cooled by the ocean breeze, will be good for cultivating vines by 2100. In a study done by University of California at Santa Cruz researcher (5), a detailed image of how the climate in California is likely to change over the next 50 to 100 years was predicted and mapped. Their study included anticipated temperature and precipitation changes for the state of the California. Their results go beyond the usual speculation concerning the potential effects of climate change on the state. They were able to take expected temperature changes from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and, with the aid of a computer program, predict environmental changes throughout the state of California (appendix 1). The United Nations has studied this isssue and have predicted that without an aggressive world wide action to cut greenhouse emissions the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reach 800 parts per million (4) before the end of this century. The result will be an increased average temperature in California by 3 degrees centigrade. With much worse damage around the world through disease, drought and rising sea level. At that level of enviromental change, the areas used for growing quality wine grapes will shrink by 35-80%, even taking into account the possibility of new areas being able to grow the grapes (4). A study by...
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