Now maybe you’re not a big fan of bogs. They used to get pretty bad press, being called marshes and swamps and the like. Those portions of The Lord of the Rings where the characters slog through same are not among the more festive scenes. But of course we’ve since realized that they have vital ecological functions and instead of draining them we try to protect them. Alas, researchers at Tulane University tell us that while marshes can cope with gradually rising oceans, if it happens faster they drown.
So far so plausible. Although we quickly enter into the realm of counterfactual scenarios. The study notes that Louisiana lost about 5,000 square kilometers of coastal wetlands in the 20th century, although how much of that was due to an active program of draining swamps is not clear. And then it says “it has been more challenging to predict the fate of the remaining 6,000 square miles (15,000 km2) of marshland.” Why?
The obvious answer is that it’s hard to make predictions about the future. But another issue is that, in the words of the lead author, “Previous investigations have suggested that marshes can keep up with rates of sea-level rise as high as half an inch per year (10 mm/yr), but those studies were based on observations over very short time windows, typically a few decades or less. We have taken a much longer view by examining marsh response more than 7,000 years ago, when global rates of sea-level rise were very rapid but within the range of what is expected later this century.”
Note the smooth way he slips the horseshoe into the boxing glove. They went and looked at periods of rapid sea-level rise because their computer models say it’s going to happen again.
In doing so they do not address the question of why this rapid sea-level rise happened long before a manmade or indeed natural GHG rise. As far as can be determined they’re talking about the latter part of the Holocene Climatic Optimum rather than the surge at the beginning of the Holocene as the vast glaciers melted. But if it was natural the first time, and not CO2 driven, then the obvious conclusion is to move on quickly.
Not, ideally, to the additional issue that despite the destruction of marshes by surging seas thousands of years ago, there are still marshes because as rising seas make some wet areas so much wetter that they go under water, they make other formerly dryer areas wetter as the waves start reaching them. So you lose some, you win some.
The recommendations of the study, unsurprisingly, are to curtail GHG emissions while diverting rivers as emergency first aid. (And good luck with river management since, the New York Times chimes in, climate change will make American dams collapse.)
So in case you feel the need of a drink, about that wine. See, Time says “Merlot as we know it is on the verge of extinction”. And media outlets know all about the verge of extinction.
The problem, it seems, is that the French have been able to grow this particular variety for centuries because the temperature did not change during the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age or the 20th century. Which is lucky, given that farmers don’t change their behaviour if the weather changes.
Oh wait. They do. They grow things in different places, or further up or down the hill. There were wine grapes grown in England in the Roman Warm Period where you can’t do it now. As the Time story eventually blurted out, “Bordeaux has a long history of making do with a less-than-ideal grape-growing environment. As Hugh Johnson writes in Vintage: The Story of Wine, ‘Bordeaux has never been a good wine region because it was endowed with a suitable climate or vegetation: it is a good wine region because it tried to be.’”
Never mind. Disaster is upon us. Or so the models say. Along with a completely false account of the present: “Climate change—which has increased average global temperatures, along with the frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves and other erratic weather patterns—is changing the flavor of French wines. Warmer temperatures cause grapes to ripen faster, resulting in more sugar in the grape. That ultimately affects the alcohol content, acidity level and the color of wine. While scientists do not know how long current varieties of Merlot will be able to last under changing conditions, they have said that Merlot will be the first victim of climate change amongst grape varieties in the region.”
Not is. Will be. And evidently we’ll soon be getting mulled wine right from the vine:
“Since the 1980s, the harvest in Bordeaux has been occurring earlier and earlier, resulting in many French wines having higher alcohol levels than they used to. But in some French regions, the rise in temperatures have been welcomed. Regions like Champagne and Alsace in Northern France have reaped the benefits of warmer temperatures; winemakers there have reported since 2017 that droughts have decreased the amount of mildew on their vines. But with temperatures expected to rise by 2°-4° C, French winemakers across the country know that any benefits of rising temperatures are temporary. To stay alive, they have to adapt.” And so must we. As Eric Worrall notes sardonically, “Buying wine made from Merlot grapes grown a few hundred miles North of current growing regions just wouldn’t be the same.” All of it depending on the worst-case scenarios coming true or, as in that thing about the extreme weather, pretending they already did.