Climate crisis hits French wine — and Europe’s coffee and chocolate supplies could be next

Experts say global warming played role in cold snap that hit France’s wine growing regions last year

Matt Mathers@MattEm90
Wednesday 16 June 2021 13:00

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A rare cold snap that helped to devastate France's wine industry in spring last year may have been triggered by climate change, according to a new study - and a separate paper predicts Europe's coffee and chocolate supplies could be hit next as drought disrupts trade in producer nations.

Producers in France's winegrowing regions, including the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Loire, saw their profits tumble after a sudden and severe frost gripped vineyards in April, following a warm March.

Now a paper published by the World Weather Attribution, a research consortium, suggests there is a strong possibility that the Earth's warming played a part in that event. In their paper, published on Tuesday, experts said climate change made the frost up to 60 per cent more likely.

The team of researchers, from universities across Europe - including Oxford in England - ran computer model simulations of the weather patterns that lead to France's cold snap. These showed that the lowest temperatures have risen and frost events are less frequent compared with pre-industrial levels.

But rising temperatures have resulted in France's growing season starting earlier than it used to. This means that more mature vines are left exposed if an unseasonable Arctic blast hits in spring, as it did last year in France's wine-growing regions.

Meanwhile, a separate paper, also released on Tuesday, said Europe's coffee and chocolate supplies could be disrupted by the climate crisis as warming causes droughts in producer countries, such as Brazil.

The study, published in Nature Communications, said imports of palm oil - used in many food and domestic products - are also at risk from climate change.

In the paper, experts predicted a sharp rise in drought risk for EU agricultural imports overall. They said that, even if carbon emissions are cut, drought risk is likely to be at 37 per cent in the next 25 years, whereas only 7 per cent were vulnerable in the previous quarter-century period.

Ertug Ercin, at R2Water Research and Consultancy and Vrije University in the Netherlands, who led the research, said: “Climate change impacts are not just happening within your borders.

“The study gives evidence of how we are interconnected globally through trade and how climate-driven disasters outside our borders can touch our lives directly and can be really relevant to our society and economy. We cannot just ignore it anymore.”

The study's authors concluded: “In the near future, supplies of certain crops to the EU could be disrupted due to increased drought in other parts of the world. Coffee, cocoa, sugar cane, oil palm, and soybean are the most climate-vulnerable imported products.”

The authors said supply shortages caused by climate change would ultimately result in higher prices for customers in shops.

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