IPCC Report – Code Red for Humanity as fires, floods and climate events wreak chaos

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its highly anticipated Report at the same time as devastating wildfires are incinerating homes and threatening lives in California, Greece and Spain. St Mark’s Square in Venice is under-water, China, Germany and Belgium are recovering from the catastrophic recent floods and France reports that frost and rain in 2021 has ravaged this year’s grape harvest.

It all feels biblical, especially when put alongside a global pandemic. The Report’s findings are dramatic and stark. Scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system. Boris Johnson stated in response that the Report makes for “sobering reading and acting in the next decade will be pivotal in securing the future of the planet”.

IPCC report key points

  • Global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900.
  • The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850
  • The recent rate of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971
  • Human influence is “very likely” (90%) the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea-ice
  • It is “virtually certain” that hot extremes including heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense since the 1950s, while cold events have become less frequent and less severe.

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres describes the Report as a ‘Code Red for humanity”. Professor Ed Hawkins of Reading University, one of the Report authors, states “It is a statement of fact, we cannot be any more certain; it is unequivocal and indisputable that humans are warming the planet.”

We all see the results of a changing climate in our day-to-day lives, some are living the nightmares of the extreme events. How much does it have to hurt us directly before we do more as individuals? We are watching the burnt-out landscape of California and those dealing with devastating loss – again – it’s becoming an annual event.

France has reported that devastating frosts this Spring, followed by heavy summer rainfall stimulating mildew growth, has resulted in the 2021 harvest forecasts as one of the lowest in history, comparable with 1977. French Agriculture Minister, Julien Denormandie, described the frosts at the time as “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.” This has affected areas including the most prestigious wine growing regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. We will find out more in just a few weeks’ time as the 2021 harvest gets underway in terms of any impact on supply and quality.

The wine-growing industry around the world has been introducing initiatives to reduce carbon emissions over the last decade. An increasing number of investment wine estates are now biodynamic and investing significant research into new technologies and practices to cut carbon emissions. Bordeaux’s Chateau Pontet Canet was an early driver in the region, Burgundy’s DRC is an exponent of biodynamic practices and Champagne hit headlines this week with its latest ‘green initiative’.Chateau Pontet Canet Vineyard

Champagne growers have voted for the breaking of a 100-year tradition of planting, to extend the standard distance between the vines beyond 1.5metres has been announced. The tactic is aimed to address climate change as Champagne vines adapt to changing conditions. A study by the Syndicat General des Vignerons (SGV) over 15 years with Champagne houses, growers and scientists found that increased spacing between vine plantings could provide a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is achieved as better equipment could be deployed along with 50% less pesticides, a target achievement of zero herbicides and 25% decrease in carbon emission by 2025. Growers already adopting the practice have found that vines have become more drought-resistant and require fewer additives.

Traditionalists are rattled and some see this move as an unnecessary erosion of local practices decades old and will result in a loss of jobs. Others suggest that grape quality could be compromised.  Here we see a classic example of the practice of implementing a ‘climate change agenda’ – does it go far enough and what are the priorities? The fact is this change will take place “over generations” and we are running out of time. We all need to play our part and take on the changes that will become essential to each and every one of us to make whatever gains we can to protect our planet.

For more information on green practices affecting fine wine and investment wines with a green agenda, speak to a member of our expert team on 0203 384 2262.