Slate.com has a wonderfully-written article on the effects already being experienced worldwide by grapegrowers, due to changes in climate. (It cites Frog's Leap, and many other wineries.)
I know, I know--a quarter of you reading this are certain that there is no climate change, and to you I would say "just check it out a little more, would you please?" I can almost see Mt. Hood from here, where over half of its glacial ice is gone. A hundred years ago folks could ride sleighs OVER their fences, every winter, in Joseph, Oregon, but that hasn't happened even once for the past 80 years.
And another quarter of you acknowledge there is climate change, but they deny it is caused by human activity (150 years of our spewing hydrocarbon emissions into the atmosphere--a razor-thin blanket of nitrogen, oxygen, and a few other gases--notwithstanding). OK--you're entitled to that opinion; I know that volcanic eruptions do place monumental amounts of stuff into the atmosphere--boy, do I know that! That still leaves about 75% of us believing that climate change is happening (whether it is wholly natural or human-worsened). In either of those cases, we have a problem, and I'm talking to you.
Winegrapes are the canary in the coalmine: Past a critical point unique to each variety, grapes react quickly, and poorly, to hotter weather. White grapes' skins are less tolerant to heat: They split, and get diseases, and their sugar levels (and thus their alcohols) get too high, masking the delicate flavors. Red grapes get overripe flavors (cooked dark fruit, like burned prunes, and I have been noticing this in the Washington reds more and more often in the past couple of years--I don't like it at all). And the red wine alcohol levels are getting so high that elegance is gone and you can't drink more than a glass without getting drunk. Worse, pests and diseases multiply geometrically when temperatures are higher.
In some areas of Italy, harvest has moved from Nov 5 or so to Sept 10 or so, in one generation. Think about that--that is a earth-quaking change, full of significance. Some wines are benefiting, however, such as Pinot noir in Oregon, and certain wines in Spain. But if the weather keeps warming, Champagne will become impossible to make in France, and other areas (including Napa) may see the curtain fall on their great winemaking. Imagine the changes, in tourism and the local economies, if no great wines were made in Napa or Sonoma anymore.
You can't just push grapegrowing towards the poles. There is a limit to the locations with the right terroir, and Antarctica and Prudhoe Bay aren't exactly located close to the wine-consuming public. They both have very strange summer/winter light cycles, and to my knowledge grapes have never grown in such places.
Call me crazy. 'Cuz I am. (apologies to Storm Large; and OMG what a great show that was). But this is a big deal, and it has already started. So what can you do?
1. Purely selfishly, lay in some fabulous reds that will improve for decades. Their cost will get only higher, as inflation (from our deficits) and scarcity brought on by rising population and weather changes take their likely toll. And, as we've seen from tastings at my house and elsewhere, a great red, suitably aged, is tops to just about any other wine.
2. Nobly, find ways to reduce your energy usage, both car, home, and office. Turn to renewable energy sources where possible, and rely more on walking and biking (and live longer, too!). Lobby for the changes we need: high-speed electric trains (renewably powered); plug-in hybrid cars; more nuclear plants; burn biodiesel in aircraft; less coal burning; higher mpg for cars and trucks, and more use of mass transit; eating more locally; etc.
I had a muscle car, once. Guess my grandkids will just have to listen to stories about it, rather than drive one, themselves ;)
Earth to humans: HELP!