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OUT OF THIS WORLD | What's Up In Climate Change - a glance at the most important news about our warming world

Global wine production reaches new low (thanks weather!)

Isabella O'Malley
Digital Writer/Climate Change Reporter

Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 4:39 PM - The annual variability of global wine production, finding solutions for farming in drought conditions, a potential straw ban in Vancouver, and the potential for beavers to improve pollution from industrial agriculture. It’s What’s Up in Climate Change.

Global wine industry might not improve with age

In 2017 global wine production reached a 60-year historic low due to changing global weather, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV). 

Wine production in 2017 was 8.6 per cent lower than 2016 and Western Europe was particularly affected with abnormal frost and drought conditions, resulting in a 14.6 per cent decline from the previous year. 

For a successful harvest grape crop relies on the stability of unique regional weather conditions. Brazil produced devastatingly low production levels in 2016 due to extreme precipitation associated with El Niño. Global weather patterns and events have impacts on a country’s entire supply chain by affecting grape quality, labor costs, and pricing at the retail level.

The graph below demonstrates the annual variability in wine production. Future changes in climate may result in increased production variability year to year. 

Global wine production fell to its lowest point in 2017. Credit: OIV

Global wine consumption has steadily rose over the years with the United States remaining the largest consumer since 2011, followed by France, Italy, and Germany.

A potential solution for farming drought-affected land

Liquid NanoClay (LNC), developed and patented by Desert Control, may be a solution to transforming non-productive, dry land into fertile soil.

Warming temperatures increase the amount of water that is evaporated from soil and creates dry conditions that crops are unable to grow in. Increasing global drought conditions are contributing to global hunger, economic instability, and geopolitical conflict.

Crops that rely on wet soils for growth are negatively affected when the soil becomes dry and sandy. LNC increases the ability of these non-productive soils to retain water by 65 per cent, which reduces the amount of water needed for irrigation, increases the availability of nutrients in the soil, and creates higher crop yields. 

Within hours of spraying LNC into the soil the clay nanoparticles bind with water molecules to create a layer of saturated soil that retains moisture like a sponge. The treatment creates improved conditions for multiple growing seasons and lasts up to five years. 

Vancouver city council considering straw ban

The Vancouver city council is considering a potential bylaw that would limit or ban disposable items such as Styrofoam cups and plastic straws. 

During a Commonwealth conference last month British Prime Minister Theresa May encouraged Canada and other country members to impose a ban on disposable items that can cause pollution and harm wildlife. In 2015 a video (warning: graphic content) of a plastic straw being pulled out of a sea turtle’s nostril went viral and has been viewed over 24 million times. 

The council will meet next week to vote on this bylaw that would ban the distribution of foam cups, containers, disposable straws, require business to develop a single-use item reduction strategy, and impose a $250 fine for non-compliance. 

Businesses and other outlets may consider biodegradable paper straws, which are more expensive than plastic straws, or no straws at all. Advocates for people with disabilities are noting that an outright ban on straws would disadvantage those that require straws for drinking. 

Earlier this year Scotland and Taiwan announced their intentions for national straw bans. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to confirm whether Canada will do the same. 

Can beavers improve pollution from industrial agriculture?

Beavers are considered ecosystem engineers because of their ability to modify and maintain their habitat - the dams they build can transform entire landscapes by modifying water flow and increasing biodiversity. 

A recent study conducted by researchers at University of Exeter investigated how beavers impact the sediments and nutrients in wetlands and found that beavers could potentially act as a habitat restoration tool. During the study the dams the beavers created trapped large amounts of sediments and nutrients, such as carbon and nitrogen, from flowing into streams. 

While nitrogen is naturally occurring in the environment, nitrogen pollution can occur from large amounts of fertilizers and animal manure causes harm to aquatic ecosystems. This study indicates that beavers could positively impact the health of ecosystems surrounding intensively managed agricultural locations by increasing storage of nutrients and improving water quality of nearby water bodies.

Sources: OIV | WWF/Climate Solver  | CBC | Global News | Wiley Online Library 

Related video: Scientists recently found higher amounts of microplastic in arctic sea ice than ever before

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