Stay planted as ex­perts ex­change hot air over cli­mate change the­o­ries

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - James Halliday

THE cli­mate change de­bate is heat­ing up at a rate greater than any rise in global tem­per­a­tures. Any sci­en­tist who dares chal­lenge the link be­tween CO emis­sions and global tem­per­a­tures or, worse, sug­gests that warm­ing may be slow­ing or nonex­is­tent, is im­me­di­ately at­tacked by the con­sen­sus of sci­en­tists who have an evan­gel­i­cal be­lief in its ex­is­tence and its an­thro­pogenic causes.

It’s not a new de­bate for the wine in­dus­try. Back in 1988, Richard Smart, Aus­tralia’s best in­ter­na­tion­ally known viti­cul­tur­ist, at that time work­ing and liv­ing in New Zealand, pub­lished a pa­per en­ti­tled Cli­mate Change and the NZ Wine In­dus­try: Prospects for the Third Mil­len­nium.

He is now based in Tas­ma­nia and holds the same views as he did 20 years ago. In this hemi­sphere, the farther south you are, the bet­ter your prospects. He re­cently pre­sented pa­pers at two con­fer­ences in Spain (one de­voted to cli­mate change, with sev­eral hun­dred del­e­gates) in which he likens the wine in­dus­try to the ca­nary in the coalmine due to the nar­row band of op­ti­mal grow­ing-sea­son tem­per­a­tures for con­ven­tional viti­cul­ture.

He was the first Aus­tralian re­searcher (in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Peter Dry) to de­velop a de­tailed ma­trix of all the cli­matic fac­tors rel­e­vant to grape-grow­ing, with the ful­crum be­ing the mean Jan­uary tem­per­a­ture.

Also pub­lished in 1988, it di­vided Aus­tralia into five zones: very hot, with MJT greater than 23C; hot, MJT 21C-22.9C; warm, MJT 19C-20C; cool, MJT 17C-18.9C; and cold, MJT be­low 17C.

He pre­sented his Span­ish pa­per at meet­ings of Wine Com­mu­ni­ca­tors Aus­tralia, for­merly the NSW Wine Press Club, in Melbourne and Syd­ney, point­ing out the im­pli­ca­tions of a rise of 1.5C in the MJT, metaphor­i­cally tak­ing Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula to South Aus­tralia’s Barossa Val­ley, the Barossa Val­ley to NSW’s Hunter Val­ley, and so on.

The prob­lem is that John Glad­stones, an equally dis­tin­guished re­searcher and au­thor of Viti­cul­ture­andEn­vi­ron­ment , sug­gests that an in­crease of 1C would favour a shift to warmer re­gions and it was only once the in­crease reached 1.8C that you had to change to later-ripen­ing va­ri­eties (for ex­am­ple, caber­net sauvi­gnon re­plac­ing pinot noir), move south or move to higher el­e­va­tions to keep the va­ri­etal mix of your vine­yard the same.

This is a storm in a teacup (or wine glass) com­pared with that caused by the im­pec­ca­bly cre­den­tialled Don Aitkin in his lec­ture at the Plan­ning In­sti­tute of Aus­tralia in Can­berra on March 19 en­ti­tled A Cool Look at Global Warm­ing.

The main thrust of his fas­ci­nat­ing the­sis is that Aus­tralia is fac­ing two en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems of great sig­nif­i­cance: first, how to man­age wa­ter in a con­ti­nent that may be mov­ing into a long dry pe­riod and, sec­ond, how to find ac­cept­able al­ter­na­tives to oil-based en­ergy.

Both wa­ter and oil will be­come much more ex­pen­sive, with pro­found im­pli­ca­tions for the next gen­er­a­tion and be­yond.

He con­tin­ues: ‘‘ Global warm­ing, you will have re­alised, is not one of those two is­sues . . . and I see it as a dis­trac­tion from the two I have high­lighted.’’ He then pro­ceeds to clin­i­cally dis­sect the con­sen­sus of the sci­en­tists on the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change and else­where that global warm­ing is caused by ris­ing CO emis­sions and will have cat­a­strophic con­se­quences if al­lowed to con­tinue.

But there is one point that has been coin­ci­den­tally echoed by Phil Chap­man ( The Aus­tralian , April 23), a geo­physi­cist and aero­nau­ti­cal en­gi­neer who was the first Aus­tralian to be­come a NASA astro­naut.

The rise in Earth’s tem­per­a­ture dur­ing the 20th cen­tury oc­curred in two pe­ri­ods: from 1910 to 1940 and from 1975 to 1998.

Be­tween 1998 and 2008, the tem­per­a­ture has been con­stant (ac­cord­ing to Aitkin) or cool­ing (Chap­man and oth­ers).

Chap­man points out that in 2007 the Earth cooled by 0.7C, the fastest change on record, lead­ing to the eye-catch­ing head­line in The Aus­tralian : ‘‘ Sorry to ruin the fun, but an ice age cometh’’. So don’t sell up and go to Tas­ma­nia or Patag­o­nia just yet.


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