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Climate change threatens wine production

Environment Secretary Sergio Lorusso (left) unveils the report yesterday alongside Sustainable Development Under-Secretary Juan Pablo Vismara.
By Fermín Koop
Herald Staff

Government report warns of the increasing effects of global warming in the country

The country’s world famous wine industry is under threat from climate change.

The Andean region — where the wine is mainly produced — is set to become one of the most affected by global warming, according to a report by the Energy Secretariat that was released yesterday.

The region, which includes Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja, Catamarca, Salta and Jujuy, is on track to experience higher temperatures, more frequent and longer heat waves and dry periods, less rain and changes to the flow of the rivers, all phenomena that will affect wine production and force producers to implement measures to adapt to a shifting climate.

“This is not only the region of the country that warmed the most, but it’s also one of the regions of the world that will heat up the most in the future. People’s lives will get much more complicated there, they will have to stay indoors in summer and avoid outdoor activities,” said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of the Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and adviser to the report.

Temperatures have risen 0.5 degrees Celsius in the region from 1960 to 2010 and the figure is set to increase soon, rising one degree Celsius in the near future and between 3.5 to seven degrees Celsius in the long-term future.

It isn’t just about the future: the number of days of heat waves has increased, rainfall has dropped and rivers have seen a reduced flow, affecting the water needed to irrigate crops.

“This is the region in which we should set our eyes on the most. Wine production in Mendoza and San Juan has already been affected and that’s set to continue. Measures have to be taken to adapt to climate change,” Barros said. “The Andean provinces need more water in the summer for the harvest season and climate change is a threat to that. Water should now be accumulated all year long and drip irrigation should be implemented widely.”

The effects of climate change means a challenge for wine producers, who are already going through a harsh period. Wine sales dropped 7.3 percent last year, according to the Argentine Wine Institute (INV). Exports fell 17 percent and sales in the domestic market decreased 4.15 percent.

The drop comes as a consequence of lower wine consumption, a trend seen worldwide to which Argentina isn’t an exception. Argentines used to drink 77.2 litres of wine per person per year in 1974, decreasing to 23.6 litres last year, a 69 percent plunge over the last four decades. Only 414 wineries have registered at the INV to participate in this year’s harvest, 55 percent fewer than the 918 registered in 2014 and 56 percent fewer than the 950 seen in 2013.

Broad effects

When analyzing the rest of the country, most of the provinces also saw an increase of about 0.5 degrees Celsius from 1960 to 2010. The exception is Patagonia, which has seen its temperature increase one degree Celsius due to a larger reduction of the ozone layer. Showers have been more frequent throughout the country, with an increase on extreme showers that led to the recent flooding of La Plata and Santa Fe.

“We are victims of the high number of emissions of developed countries since the industrial revolution. Argentina needs to keep growing and to do that we will need to keep consuming more energy, which leads to more emissions,” Juan Pablo Vismara, Sustainable Development Under-Secretary, told the Herald. “We need to take all the necessary measures to prevent these events from affecting us.”

The effects of climate change are only going to worsen, according to the report. Temperature is set to increase between 0.5 to one Celsius degree nationwide, which would mean an acceleration of the global warming observed over the last 50 years.

Not many changes are expected on rainfall in the short and long term future, with the exception of some areas of Patagonia and the Andean region where there will be less. Wine producers will have a hard time keeping up with the current production level due to less availability of water used to irrigate the crops.

Extreme climate events are set to increase nationwide as there will be more extreme rain and temperatures and a large number of days with high heat in the near future.

“The situation is much worse than what we had initially expected. Reality has exceeded fantasy,” recently appointed Environment Secretary Sergio Lorusso said. “We now have to prevent and take action to deal with the effects of climate change. All areas of the federal government will take an active role.”

@ferminkoop

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