Napa County has taken a decade to create a climate action plan
Napa County could release its long-awaited climate action plan (CAP) in the first quarter of 2019, following more than a decade of trying to create a plan stakeholders could agree on and live with.
The effects of climate change on Napa County's wine industry could be substantial. California wine shipments in the U.S. reached an estimated retail value of $35.2 billion in 2017, up 3 percent from the previous year, including 241 million cases shipped to the U.S. and 278 million cases shipped worldwide worth $1.5 billion, according to the Wine Institute.
Renewed emphasis on developing CAPs comes after several years of forecasts from scientists and researchers saying the U.S. wine industry could be in peril from rising temperature associated with climate change and increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) levels.
For example, a decade ago, a scholarly report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of climate change said while warm nights have boosted growth of high-quality wine grapes in California, further warming is not likely to be as beneficial.
A National Academy of Sciences study estimated that the total area within the continental United States suitable for premium wine growing could be reduced as much as 81 percent by the end of this century under a high-emissions scenario, primarily due to an increase in extremely hot summer days (over 95 degrees Fahrenheit, or 35 degrees Celsius).
As part of this 'warming' scenario, according to some projections, premium wine grapes could only be grown in a thin strip of land along the coast of California, while the climate becomes more favorable in coastal Oregon and Washington, or at higher elevations in Idaho, Colorado and Canada. Significant average annual temperatures could severely damage crop yields for certain cool-weather-loving wine varietals such as pinot noir, except in coastal areas.
Napa County's attempts to cope with climate change began in 2007 focusing on heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, in order to comply with state-mandated GHG reductions. The following year, Napa County included a climate change mitigation 'action item' in its 2008 general plan update.
As of today, Napa County is still without a final plan.
The Napa County grand jury highlighted the lack of progress in its final report to the Napa County Board of Supervisors on June 18.
The grand jury observed that immediate and significant health, environmental, economic and national security dangers exist — among a variety of threats and risks — due to an increase in global temperatures.
Their recent report said, GHG emissions are an increasing health concern and are believed by climate scientists to be the leading cause of climate change. They argue that substantial reductions in human-caused GHG emissions are needed by the mid-21st century to prevent likely catastrophic planetary consequences, based on reports in the Pentagon's Military Times and climate-related articles from NASA and government scientific consensus sources.
In recent years, average annual temperatures in the Napa region have gone up about 1 to 2 degrees Celsius, after some very hot years. Climatologists say damage will result if these averages were to rise 3 degrees or more. Others point out that negative effects of climate change will be offset due to Napa County's mild winters with less chance of frost, and warm, dry summers accented with a mixture of cool fog and marine layer incursions in the morning followed by warm afternoons.
Since 2008, the county has had to address a broad array of evolving issues and public concerns, while dealing with developments out of its control, according to the grand jury report's summary and background. These challenges have been time-consuming and have postponed finalizing the CAP.
'We've been working with local stakeholders for over 12 years on a Napa Valley specific climate study with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, but a climate action plan never made it to the finish line,' according to Rex Stults, government relations director for the Napa Valley Vintners.
The Scripps 2011 paper on historical temperature changes in Napa Valley included 10,000 data points. Napa Valley Vintners is planning to update the study this year.
'We have been paying close attention to this emerging issue. Our goal is to ensure that a final CAP will not be a burden on the wine community, the principal industry here, or cause our members to bear the brunt of ways proposed to remedy GHG. The previous strategic plan draft supported a scientifically based CAP approach.'
Over the past decade, instead of coordinating a countywide effort, municipalities and districts within Napa County were each working on their own separate plans to address GHG emissions, while some only took municipal operations into account.