“The Grapes Are Beautiful, the Heat’s Good for Them”

(p. A4) A 2016 study by NASA and Harvard of grape harvest dates going back to the 1600s found that climate change pushed harvests forward drastically in France and Switzerland in the second half of the 20th century.

. . .

(p. B5) Claudio Roggero, who as enologist at the Castello di Neive, decides, among other things, when to pick the grapes, strolled with satisfaction through the corridors of vines, saying the grapes looked perfect.

“If I left these grapes another week they could have been like this,” he said stopping in front of a rare sunburned bunch. “It’s very dangerous.”

In the middle of August, a thermometer planted in one of their vineyards showed heat in excess of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. “It went off the charts,” the wine estate’s owner, Italo Stupino, 81, said as he looked over the hills.

Mr. Stupino also pointed at vineyards destroyed by a hailstorm in April, and yet he expressed doubt that global warming drove the change.

“I believe it up to a certain point,” he said with a shrug. “The temperature goes up and down. We had hail in April, and I remember some hot, hot Augusts as a boy.”

That sentiment ran through the hills.

In Monforte d’Alba, just outside the town square, Giovanni Rocca stepped out onto his hills and happily chewed a grape he picked from his vineyard.

“The grapes are beautiful, the heat’s good for them,” he said, arguing that the vintage, which he said would probably come 10 or 15 days earlier than usual, was likely to yield a lower-quantity but higher-quality Barolo.

His son, Maurizio, 37, also spoke of the benefits of the sunshine. But he added that temperatures above 100 degrees “are not good for the wine; the berries become unbalanced and too fat, with too high an alcohol content.”

He said that they knew how to deal with anomalies, but that if intense heat waves became permanent, “We’ll have to plant bananas and pineapples.”

. . .

An enclosed observation deck hangs like a giant helicopter cockpit over the hills of Alba at the headquarters of the Ceretto family, which produces nearly a million bottles a year.

The company’s employees will be out in the fields a week earlier than usual to pick arneis grapes for its wildly popular Blangé white wine, said Roberta Ceretto, 44.

But she was mostly unbothered by the heat, saying that while her employees might not be able to go on vacation in August in the future, the quality and culture of the area’s wines would survive.

“The dinosaurs didn’t go extinct in 20 years,” she said with a smile.

For the full story, see:

Jason Horowitz. “LA MORRA JOURNAL; The Harvest of a Changing Climate.” The New York Times (Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017): A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 22, 2017, and has the title “LA MORRA JOURNAL; In Italy’s Drought-Hit Vineyards, the Harvest of a Changing Climate.”)

Environmentalists Often Fail to Compost Their Compostable Salad Bowls

(p. 1) Every weekday, shortly after 11 a.m., a line forms at the Broadway and 38th Street location of Sweetgreen, the eco-conscious salad chain. By noon, the line has usually tripled in size. It often takes more than 15 minutes to get to the front.

. . .

(p. 12) At Sweetgreen, the appeal is partly ethical.

. . .

The moral overtones extend even to the trash. As customers pay and head back toward their various workplaces, they pass an oft-overflowing garbage bin with a proud sign above it that says that all of the company’s utensils, napkins, bowls and cups are plant-based, “which means they go in the compost bin, along with any leftover food.”

“Nothing from inside Sweetgreen goes to the landfill,” the sign declares further, virtuously.

But that’s far from the truth, though it’s not the chain’s fault.

Matt Holtz, a salesman at Microsoft, is “addicted” to Sweetgreen, according to his co-worker, Michelle Munden, and goes almost every day. Mr. Holtz does not compost his disposable bowl once he is done eating, he said, though he “will compost if the opportunity is available.”

Zara Watson, a lawyer who eats at Sweetgreen three times a week, throws the waste from her healthful lunch directly in the trash because she does not have composting at her office. So does Sam Hockley, the managing director at the software company Meltwater, who is willing to eat a Sweetgreen bowl for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Even Scott Rogowsky, the host of HQ Trivia who last year put his continued employment in jeopardy when he expressed his preference for Sweetgreen, is unable to dispose of his salads responsibly at work, because composting is unavailable at the WeWork location where the trivia app is based.

Indeed, zero customers interviewed at Sweetgreen over several days said that they composted their bowls at their offices.

For the full story, see:

Jonah Engel Bromwich. “The Ethical Salad Bowl.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, Sept. 31, 2018): 1 & 12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 29, 2018, and has the title “Is Your Salad Habit Good for the Planet?”)

Many Fewer Killed in Natural Disasters Than Were Killed 50 Years Ago

(p. A13) . . . it’s deceptive to track disasters primarily in terms of aggregate cost. Since 1990, the global population has increased by more than 2.2 billion, and the global economy has more than doubled in size. This means more lives and wealth are at risk with each successive disaster.

Despite this increased exposure, disasters are claiming fewer lives. Data tracked by Our World in Data shows that from 2007-17, an average of 70,000 people each year were killed by natural disasters. In the decade 50 years earlier, the annual figure was more than 370,000. Seventy thousand is still far too many, but the reduction represents enormous progress.

The material cost of disasters also has decreased when considered as a proportion of the global economy. Since 1990, economic losses from disasters have decreased by about 20% as a proportion of world-wide gross domestic product. The trend still holds when the measurement is narrowed to weather-related disasters, which decreased similarly as a share of global GDP even as the dollar cost of disasters increased.

For the full commentary, see:

Roger Pielke Jr. “Some Good News—About Natural Disasters, of All Things; In half a century, the average number of annual fatalities declined more than 80%.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 3, 2018, and has the same title as the print version.)

Pielke’s op-ed piece quoted above, is related to his book:

Pielke Jr., Roger. The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change. Tempe, AZ: Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, 2018.

Foresters Using “Assisted Migration” to Help Forests Adapt More Quickly to Global Warming

(p. A14) Most trees can migrate only as fast as their seeds disperse — and if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move, according to one estimate.

. . .

So foresters in Rhode Island and elsewhere have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt, something that might take decades to occur naturally. One controversial idea, known as assisted migration, involves deliberately moving trees northward. But trees can live centuries, and environments are changing so fast in some places that species planted today may be ill-suited to conditions in 50 years, let alone 100. No one knows the best way to make forests more resilient to climatic upheaval.

. . .

It is also complicated. On Lake Michigan, one adaptation planner trying to help the Karner blue butterfly survive is considering creating an oak savanna well to the north, and moving the butterflies there. But the ideal place for the relocation already hosts another type of unique forest — one that he is trying to save to help a tiny yellow-bellied songbird that is also threatened by warming.

In other words, he may find himself both fighting climate change and embracing it, on the same piece of land.

For the full story, see:

Moises Velasquez-Manoff. “Can Humans Help Trees Outrun Climate Change?” The New York Times (Friday, April 26, 2019): A14-A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 25, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

Mayor de Blasio Seeks “Ban” on “Glass and Steel Skyscrapers”

(p. A23) As he stood on the Queens shoreline on Earth Day, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a stern warning that the familiar Manhattan skyline behind him was about to change.

“We are going to introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming,” he said on Monday. “They have no place in our city or on our Earth anymore.”

. . .

“Everyone is trying to figure out what the mayor meant,” said Adam Roberts, director of policy for the American Institute of Architects New York. “We just hope that the mayor misspoke.”

For the full story, see:

Jeffery C. Mays. “Mayor’s ‘Ban’ of Glass and Steel Skyscrapers? Not Quite That Harsh.” The New York Times (Friday, April 26, 2019): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 25, 2019, and has the title “De Blasio’s ‘Ban’ on Glass and Steel Skyscrapers Isn’t a Ban at All.” The online version says that the New York Edition print version had the title “A Ban on Glass and Steel? ‘Perhaps the Mayor Was Overenthusiastic’.” My National Edition print version had the title “Mayor’s ‘Ban’ of Glass and Steel Skyscrapers? Not Quite That Harsh.”)

“Nimble” Entrepreneurs May Succeed at Fusion, Where Government “Behemoths” Have Failed

(p. B1) The fusing of hydrogen atoms requires incredible heat and pressure, and for decades fusion research has been the exclu-(p. B7)sive province of big science, like ITER, a 35-nation thermonuclear project in the south of France that covers 100 acres and is expected to ultimately cost more than $20 billion.

Such initiatives, though, have made slow progress toward the ultimate goal of building a machine that generates more power than it takes in.

Fusion is now attracting science-minded entrepreneurs and investors willing to make a long bet. They see small companies as more nimble than government-funded behemoths. They are sensitive to rising alarms over the impact of climate change. They want to create a power source with enviable possibilities: millions of times the energy potential of oil and gas and substantially more than nuclear power, without the carbon emissions of fossil fuels.

Fusion proponents also say that it is free of most of the risks of contemporary nuclear plants — which are powered by splitting, not joining, atoms — and that it has advantages over wind and solar, whose output is variable and whose turbines and panels require enormous space.

“There is no doubt in my mind that humanity will eventually succeed in making fusion energy happen,” said Robin Grimes, a professor of physics at Imperial College, a public research university in London. “We’ve got no choice.”

For the full story, see:

Stanley Reed. “Fusion Powers the Sun. Can It Run Your Oven?” The New York Times (Tuesday, May 14, 2019): B1 & B7.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 13, 2019, and has the title “The Fusion Reactor Next Door.”)

Getting to Zero Food Waste Would Waste Time and Money that Can Be Better Spent

(p. A15) . . . is food waste that big of a deal? Start with the basic meaning of the term. The U.N. definition covers any “discarding or alternative (nonfood) use of food that is safe and nutritious for human consumption along the entire food supply chain.” Under that expansive meaning, giving your dog table scraps or putting them in your garden as fertilizer counts as “wasting” food, even though you’re putting it to productive use.

How much does this overstate true waste? In a recent article for the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, my colleagues and I suggest a new definition, one that simply covers food that has no productive use—in other words, it ends up in a landfill. We then show how widely cited official figures for food waste are both inconsistent with one another and may be significantly overstated.

Moreover, the optimal amount of food waste is not zero. Even the most efficient supply chain isn’t frictionless. If you are like me, your purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables more often than not reflect how you’d like to eat rather than how you actually eat. When you go out for dinner, you might end up not liking your meal, or you might order too much and not bring the leftovers home. Some of these issues may be solvable in theory, but the closer we get to zero waste, the more expensive trying to eliminate waste altogether would become.

For the full commentary, see:

Bellemare, Marc F. “Is ‘Food Waste’ Really Such a Waste?” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Aug. 25, 2017): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 24, 2017, and has the same title as the print version.)

Bellemare’s co-authored academic article, mentioned above, is:

Bellemare, Marc F., Metin Çakir, Hikaru Hanawa Peterson, Lindsey Novak, and Jeta Rudi. “On the Measurement of Food Waste.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 99, no. 5 (Oct. 2017): 1148-58.