At Arbol, we are building a technology solution and marketplace that will help businesses protect themselves against changing weather patterns and its effect on our global ecosystem. Unexpected weather touches so many industries and aspects of our daily lives, from what we eat and drink, to the cost of goods and services, our energy, our travel and the livelihoods of the producers of all these products. So, as we prepare to celebrate the most magical time of the year, the winter holidays, we have put together a round-up of popular holidays traditions that are feeling the effects of unusual weather patterns and our changing climate.
This year, in parts of the United States and Europe there are shortages and higher prices on Christmas Trees (fir and pine trees), Holly, and Mistletoe. There are several factors that can lead to these shortages but unusual weather is a major one. Growing Christmas trees and other holiday plants is a year-round activity and also specific tree types do better in certain climates, so if there is drought or flood, or excessive rain, or frost at the wrong time in the growing season the centerpiece of the holidays can be damaged. Christmas trees also take around 8–10 years to grow to a full 6 feet, so while abnormal weather conditions may have hurt some trees ready to be cut this year they also impact future tree sales. Since the Christmas tree is such a popular tradition, tree farmers will continue to find solutions to farming and selling trees but it may be a different species or at a higher cost than what consumers are used to buying and paying.
Santa’s Reindeer are a significant part of Christmas lore, but the real caribou or reindeer that live in the Arctic are suffering a population decline. Since the mid-1990s, the size of reindeer (Europe and Siberia) and caribou (North America) herds have declined by 56 percent. Warming northern climates and lack of snow mean their habitats are changing and they have less access to the type of food they graze. In the colder season, they typically eat lichen which is found under the snow, but warmer temperatures are causing a layer of ice to form instead of snow making it harder for the Reindeer to smell it and dig for it. Reindeer husbandry is also carried out in countries throughout the Arctic including, Sweden, Norway, Russia and China. A 2009 report on the future of the practice says that there are 3,000 reindeer herders in Sweden alone, and a total of nearly 100,000 globally. The reindeer are their main source of income and their livelihoods depend on the security of the animals
For those who gift luxury items like Chanel perfume, cashmere scarfs or host parties with fine wines and champagne they may find the quality or quantity of their favorite holiday items are not the same due to changing weather patterns. A report from Verisk Maplecroft on the Climate Change Exposure Index (CCEI) from 2016 highlights that changing weather patterns over the coming decades are likely to impact the available amount and luxuriousness of a range of festive items, from fine wines to perfume to cashmere to Christmas treats. The report sites that French vineyards are being harmed by unexpected weather, as well as, areas around the world where flowers and grasses are grown for high-end perfumes or animals herded that supply many of our woolen gifts. While the holidays should not be all about gift-giving these regions and businesses may need to diversify their crops or livestock due to weather and some of these well-known items might no longer be de mode.
Countries worldwide have varied holiday meal traditions from fish, fowl, to meat, and an array of specialty side dishes and of course dessert — most are homemade traditions but one country, Japan, has a fast food tradition where they eat Kentucky Fried Chicken! Unfortunately, many of our beloved holiday foods may face significant cost increases or will be grown in totally new regions in the future — here’s a few on the list.
Apples: Apple trees require an adequate winter chill in order to produce an economically viable yield, and as temperatures rise, so do apple prices.
Beans: A drought-induced decrease in the bean crop has caused scientists to begin investigating rough-resistant legume varieties.
Chocolate: Climate change is causing the areas suitable for growing cocoa beans to shift, resulting in a spike in price and a drop in availability.
Cod: Rapid ocean warming has caused the spawning and survival of Atlantic Cod to dwindle. This staple of New England cuisine is on the brink of disappearing off its coast.
Coffee: In Brazil and parts of Central America, almost 80% of land currently used to grow Arabica coffee will become unsuitable by 2050.
Honey (and everything bees pollinate): Save the bees! The best pollinators around are in trouble, and so is their honey. Human development, pesticides, and climate change stand to do some serious damage on the humble bumbler.
Lobsters: A difference of just a few degrees causes baby lobsters to die off in warmer water.
Maple Syrup: Climate change may shift production or interrupt the flow of maple sap — the main ingredient in maple syrup — by disrupting the cycle of freeze and thaw during late winter.
Oysters: Ocean acidification and an increase in predation might result in a disappearing act for the popular bivalve.
Potatoes: Warming temperatures are causing potato farmers to move the areas of production to colder regions with higher altitude. Higher altitude = higher prices for french fries.
Rice: Increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, and precipitation changes could very well negatively impact the world’s rice crop. How are we supposed to eat sushi? Oh wait, there might not be much fish around either.
Scallops: Ocean acidification from higher sea temperatures is poised to poison the scallop population.
Shrimp: High water temperatures are causing serious problems for fisheries, as shrimp yields decline along the Northeast.
Strawberries: Many people’s favorite berry is feeling the heat too, as rising temperatures cause reductions in the strawberry’s crop cycle duration.
Turkey: A shift in the regions where turkeys will nest might make this holiday staple harder to get
Wine: Extreme weather is shaking up famous French vineyards. Hailstorms and periods of drought and heavy rain are wreaking havoc throughout wine country.
NOAA’s predictions for a snowy Christmas doesn’t look great for much of the United States this year, and it’s predicted these traditional scenes will become rarer. Between 1966 and 2010, snow cover and sea ice declined in much of the Northern Hemisphere, and snow is expected to continue to decline for the next century, says the National Snow & Ice Data Center.
No snow may change our future image of Christmas in the northern hemisphere, but the problem is much bigger: Snow reflects the Sun’s energy into space, helping to keep the planet cool. Snowpacks provide water for communities far downstream. Ski resorts depend on snow for their business, and animals depend on snow for shelter and warmth. All this is lost when precipitation doesn’t come or it falls as rain.
While many of the traditions will not disappear or they will continue to evolve despite global weather challenges — there will always be new and surprising ways to create your own holiday traditions, like the ugly holiday sweater and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan. Which, we have learned have only grown in popularity!