Is your favorite fall tradition threatened by climate change?
By Heather Shelby
Every autumn one of the favorite parts of my childhood was to pile into the car and drive out to an orchard, where miles of forest stretched out all around us. There, we’d fill our bags with perfect ruby apples and go home to fresh apple pie, sauce, cider and more.
But thanks to climate change, this favorite fall tradition of mine is at risk. Is yours?
You know it as well as I do that the world is changing. Throughout the continental U.S., autumn has been arriving later and later, to the point where leaves are now falling off their trees about ten days later than they did twenty years ago.
These changes, along with the challenges of new, more extreme weather, are taking a toll on everything from football to foliage.
So as the leaves finally start to turn, we’ve pulled together our five favorite fall traditions that are at risk from climate change.
We all have our favorite fall traditions—but even they can’t escape the devastating effects of climate change. Subtle seasonal changes and new, extreme weather combine to put all our fall favorites at risk, from football to foliage.
Foliage At Risk
Nothing more vividly signifies the coming of fall than the fiery foliage that heralds its arrival—but even these beautiful landscapes are at risk in a warming world. The awe-inspiring reds that are unique to the sugar maple are a direct result of cool fall nights. As temperatures fall, the ruby leaves may appear less vibrant.
Apples At Risk
There’s no denying that the apple is the fruit of fall, but possibly not for long. Most varieties of the fruit trees require a winter chill to develop properly. Without it, the resulting fruit may lose its trademark crisp crunch, becoming overly mushy and overly sweet. Not exactly the autumnal treat we all know and love.
Maple Syrup At Risk
It’s not just the maple’s scarlet leaves that are at falling victim to climate change—the tree’s sap is losing its sweetness, and its signature syrup might never be the same. Environmental Defense Fund’s Chief Scientist, Steve Hamburg, has taken a particular interest in how climate change is affecting this staple of his New England home, and he’s working with syrup farmers to get an inside look at what’s happening.
Beer At Risk
Football and beer go hand-in-hand—and together, they’re facing an uncertain future. Extreme weather puts crops like barley and hops at risk, threatening some of beer’s most important ingredients. The quality and yield of Saaz hops—the key to brewing the famous Czech pilsners—may be particularly susceptible to climate change. And the Saaz hop-growing industry will either have to relocate, quickly develop new varieties or face declining production. American breweries are equally affected. Jenn Orgolini, sustainability director for Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery, says that their “growth depends on clean water and quality barley and hops.” She adds, “If you drink beer now, the issue of climate change is impacting you right now.”
Football At Risk
Fall is nearly synonymous with football, as the game takes over TV’s across the country on Sunday and Monday nights. But hometown football is facing new challenges in a warming world. High schools have noticed a dangerous trend: more and more players are suffering from heat-related illnesses and even dying from heat exhaustion during summer practices.
Courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund. www.edf.org/FallFavorites