By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why Climategate doesn’t matter (V)

The series explained.

Maple syrup, a New England staple since Colonial times, may become an exotic import as a result of global warming. Sap production from sugar maples is dependent on warm days and freezing nights. But climate change has been accompanied by earlier and earlier springs — and a smaller window for producing maple syrup.

Back as 2004, the Associated Press reported on this trend as documented by the Clark Sugar House in Acworth, N.H., in business since 1896. According to Clark family records, sugar maples were never tapped before March until the mid-1980s. Then, as spring began arriving earlier each year, the timetable was moved back to February.

Three years later the New York Times checked in with Vermont maple-sugar farmers, including Burr Morse, who said he’d missed out on at least 300 gallons of sap because even February had proven to be too late.

“You might be tempted to say, well that’s a bunch of baloney — global warming,” Morse told the Times. “But the way I feel, we get too much warm. How many winters are we going to go with Decembers turning into short-sleeve weather, before the maple trees say, ‘I don’t like it here any more?’ ”

Indeed, according to the Times, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that winter temperatures in the Northeast had risen by 2.8 degrees between 1971 and 2007. The Times story also finds that though the main effect of global warming now is that maple-sugar season takes place earlier in season, eventually sugar maples will be crowded out by trees more suited to a warmer climate.* The New England Climate Coalition has posted state-by-state data here.

Quebec already dominates the maple-syrup industry. If present trends continue — and there’s no reason to think they won’t — then New England’s maple-sugar farms could soon be reduced to museums. Or Wal-Marts.

*Sentence added for clarity.

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Photo (cc) by Melissa and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Rite

    And yet, production is substantially up for Mass, NH, Vermont, and Maine since 2006.

    And, comparing to the 2002-2004 periods, CT is up, Maine is way up, Mass is level, NH is up and Vermont had a tremendous 2009 with good uptrends to 2009.

    In total New England produced 9.1% more gallons in 2009 than 2002 and more gallons in 2007, 2008, 2009 than 2002, 2003, and 2004.


  2. wellbasically

    Much more valuable tree crops grow in the south. If the whole climate thing wasn’t a hoax, and we couldn’t do the maple thing, we’d still come out with better trees, like peaches or pecans.

  3. tobe

    There goes the garnish for my polar bear steaks.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Rite: Do you dispute that maple-sugar farmers have to start tapping their trees a month earlier than in years gone by? Or are you telling us that global warming is good for us?

  4. Rite

    The “trend” of gallons of syrup produced in New england from sources linked above (in 1000s of gallons):

    1992 879
    1993 532
    1994 709
    1995 627
    1996 865
    1997 709
    1998 653
    1999 683
    2000 831
    2001 563
    2002 926
    2003 812
    2004 934
    2005 782
    2006 874
    2007 1011
    2008 1129
    2009 1468

    Appears to be a positive ‘trend’ anyway you measure it, unless trumped by the obvious objectivity of farmer Joe’s recollections of his childhood memories of his great grandfather’s tales of walking miles to tap trees, uphill both ways in weather so cold the truth would freeze and break.

  5. Rite

    No reason to put word in my mouth.

    Neither, I’m telling you that if (your words) “If present trends continue — and there’s no reason to think they won’t —” then we’ll be up to our ass in maple syrup.

    Do you homework: NE production up; Quebec production big, but down.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Rite: See my response to @william. And speaking of doing your homework … try following the links I’ve included before spouting off.

  6. texan

    What’s missing here is the number of trees tapped each year. Could be that the production may be increasing because of an increase in tapped trees as more people place emphasis on all natural products and sales of actual maple syrup increases against corn syrup imposters. Doesn’t change the fact that they are having to tap the trees earlier in the year than before.

  7. william

    You said, “may become an exotic import as a result of global warming” and “a smaller window for producing maple syrup.” and “How many winters…before the maple trees say, ‘I don’t like it here any more?’” all suggesting that the trees were on the verge of extinction and that maple syrup production in North America was nearly dead.

    You really should get your facts verified before posting this nonsense.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @william: I didn’t quote everything I linked to, but this is from the same Times story from which you quote:

      Over the long haul, the industry in New England may face an even more profound challenge, the disappearance of sugar maples altogether as the climate zone they have evolved for moves across the Canadian border.

      “One hundred to 200 years from now,” Dr. Perkins said, “there may be very few maples here, mainly oak, hickory and pine. There are projections that say over about 110 years our climate will be similar to that of Virginia.”

      Dr. Perkins and Tom Vogelmann, chairman of the plant biology department at the University of Vermont, said that while new sap-tapping technology is helping sugar makers keep up syrup production, for now, at some point the season will become so short that large syrup producers will no longer get enough sap to make it worthwhile.

      “It’s within, well, probably my lifetime that you’ll see this happen,” Professor Vogelmann said. “How can you have the state of Vermont and not have maple syrup?”

      Do you dispute that global warming has forced maple-sugar farmers to start tapping their trees a month earlier than they used to?

  8. william

    More facts here from the USDA –

    “The 2009 U.S. maple syrup production totaled 2.33 million gallons, up 22 percent from 2008
    and the highest on record since 1944. The number of taps is estimated at 8.65 million, up 4
    percent from the 2008 total of 8.33 million, while the yield per tap is estimated to be 0.269
    gallons, up 17 percent from the previous season. Vermont led all States in production with
    920,000 gallons, an increase of 30 percent from 2008. Production in Maine, at 395,000 gallons,
    increased 65 percent from last season.”

  9. Newshound

    It is amazing that global warming is controversial, even political.

    It is amazing too, that some of the “green” alternatives are not that environmentally harmless. For example, the person who thinks it is okay to drive extra miles per year because they have a hybrid car, or use extra electric because they have a windmill or solar panels. All of this equipment, batteries, turbines and blades and generators, machinery, and automobiles consume energy and natural resources in the creation during the manufacturing process.

    We do not simply have a practical, modern, easy-to-adapt, economically efficient, socially acceptable proven solution to these diverse problems of contaminating the atmosphere and our planet but even without that all of us should be accepting and respecting certain basic elementary facts, and perhaps the first of which is to be aware, more careful and respectful.

  10. lkcape

    It is also somewhat arrogant to think that man is immune for natural selection, whatever the reason might be.

  11. Rite

    I followed your links and read them, although you assume otherwise. Rather rude of you.

    I suggest you (re)read your own links, but this time, critically read them, rather than tilting instinctively toward the global warming boogy monster.

    First you link to a 2004 article, then ratify that single data point it with a 2007 article, both of which anecdotally theorize global warming will harm maple output. Note, the articles are anecdotal and to the extreme talking about 2 farmers. You disagree?

    Anecdotal or not, good theory! Some people might wish to actually test it. Apparently not you, but let’s pretend.

    First, the trend. You got that backwards. Seriously. Production up. Ok, I think that says output’s going, you know, up. Not down. Certainly, that doesn’t support your theory that maple syrup in VT is on the decline. 2009 was the best sap flow since 1944 according to

    I’ve objectively shown the trend is up; it appears to be YOUR burden to now show that despite that healthy trend, that new england maple are doomed for the museums.

    Second, tapping time’s earlier, support by the Clark family records. Must be global warming you say.

    Well those Clarks might be example of the good record keepers and maybe not. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, assume they’re the best. i) Are they tapping earlier for some reason other than warmer new england winters or some other reason? and ii) are they illustrative of other sugaring farmers.

    So, why tap earlier, if not because of the temperature?

    Simple, because they can: i) Science brings us PFA to suppress ‘infection’ around the tap hole ii) studies indicate early taps don’t harm the tree or reduce flow and iii) plastic nondecaying taps means farmers can tap earlier and not risk missing the flow. Presto, high production regardless of the date of the flow.

    But why was 2005, to pick a year, so lousy as to trigger NYTimes articles?

    It was because it was too cold!

    Yet, despite the cold, tap times were still early, because it was good farm practice to do so, from the link above:

    New Hampshire – February 1
    Connecticut and Massachusetts – February 2
    Vermont – February 4
    Maine – February 14

    Of course, much the same as some religious zealots see the face of Jesus in a cracker, others see global warming in a bucket of syrup.

    Frankly, it’s conclusions drawn so hastily and ignorantly as yours that causes people to disbelieve global warming. (He’s lying about the maple syrup connections. How many more lies are there?)

    And last, let’s look at some data. Your link:

    You say: “The Times story also finds that though the main effect of global warming now is that maple-sugar season takes place earlier in season, eventually sugar maples will be crowded out by trees more suited to a warmer climate.”

    It “finds” no such thing. The article in fact says: “There is no way to know for certain, but scientists are increasingly persuaded that human-caused global warming is changing climate conditions that affect sugaring.”

    Your link to the climate data says: “Over the last century, the average temperature in Burlington, Vermont, increased 0.4 F.”

    Wait a minute! Are you implying that a .4 degree rise, is a global warming sign from God, a shortened sap season that imperils our hallowed syrup to a museum and will plunge VT into servitude to those beaver skinnin’, maple tappin’, mounted Canooks!

    Yes, yes you are. Let’s summarize your post: global warming is causing farmers to tap earlier and even so, threatens to drive the US maple-ers out of business.

    I’ll summarize, i) temps are up in VT by .4F over the past 100 years; ii) there’s no causal link to show that farmers are tapping earlier because of the .4 F temp rise; iii) production is up, not down.

  12. Ben

    I’m pretty sure _climate change_ doesn’t matter. That is, nothing we do with current technology is likely to stop it. And while we’re assessing the possible effects of climate change on humankind, it would be foolish not to also consider the possible economic effects of the proposed “solution”. If climate change is going to happen anyway, it will be much easier to deal with without draining the world economy in a futile attempt to stop it.

  13. Rite

    And re: earlier tapping times, it is noteworthy to observe that in “The New England Farmer” published 1867 that:

    “If a succession of warm and sunny days occur in February, the sap will start where trees stand in sheltered places, but open to the south.

    A bright sun has a wonderful power upon
    trees. It makes the sap active at once, but it
    seems to become dull again on the approach of
    cold, …”

    Suggesting that in the 19th century sap runs in February are no more unusual than today, folksie farmer bob’s records and tales notwithstanding.

    Of course my grandfather walked both ways uphill through the snow to school. That much is certain and accurate.

  14. Newshound

    Thank God the maple syrup supply is safe into the future.

    Let’s hope it’s the same for human life.

  15. Lafcadio Mullarkey

    To sum up: 1) maple syrup production and tapping times are not (so far) evidence of global warming 2) to point this out doesn’t mean one is a global warming skeptic.

    Even if true and it means that in 50 years VT farmers have to switch to producing pecan syrup, it’s not exactly the most compelling reason to be concerned. Mmmm, pecan syrup. And the old-time stuff will come from north of the border. Oh no!

    Who cares about this when WaterWorld is our future.

  16. I really don’t care whether maple syrup production is up or down or whether it’s doomed to extinction.

    Let’s just stipulate that it is.

    So what?

    How does that prove that climate change is man made?

    The climate has been changing for 4 billion years, often more radically than humankind’s blink-of-an-eye existence.

    Just because the climate is changing doesn’t mean it’s man made.

    And that’s the crux of climategate — a bunch of scientist conspiring to doctor the evidence that it’s man made.

    Here’s a fascinating video. I highly recommend the entire 10 minutes.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Howard: You are mischaracterizing Climategate, but so have the media. It’s not about whether global warming is human-caused — it’s about whether it exists at all. It does.

      So then we come back to the CO2 problem. What evidence do you have that CO2 has no effect?

  17. Newshound

    A visit to Children’s Hospital just as an overview of children, which is only one class of our citizenry, afflicted with cancer and other illnesses, some of which are most likely related to toxins in our environment, should be sufficient for all of us to be aware of our human lifestyle, consumption of resources and disposal of toxins, including automobile exhaust, plus trucks, cars, planes, heating and cooling buildings, manufacturing of products we use, etc.

  18. Leonard Weinstein

    Dan Kennedy,
    Climategate is ONLY about the human cause, not if there is warming. I do not know where you got the opinion it is only about warming. Natural variations in warming and cooling have always happened over time. The slight recent warming trend has now stopped, and a cooling trend seems to be on the way, probably for the next few decades.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Leonard Weinstein: By the way, I see you have the same name as a well-known global-warming skeptic. If you are the same person, please tell us: why are you right and nearly all of your colleagues in the scientific community wrong? Is it a “hoax” — a word I see used in conjunction with your name quite a lot, although I’m not sure if you’ve used it. Is everyone stupid but you? Please tell us.

  19. Leonard Weinstein

    Dan Kennedy,
    The CO2 issue is actually about the sensitivity of feedback of water vapor. The best information available supports a negative feedback, and thus no problem. The so called ocean acidification problem has been shown to be no problem at all. Thus the only CO2 effect is BETTER plant growth. The burden of proof is not on the skeptics to show no problem, it is on the supporters of the hypothesis of AGW to show there is a problem (read some science books to understand how science works).

  20. Steve Stein

    Leonard: “a cooling trend seems to be on the way, probably for the next few decades.”

    What data do you have to support that contention? Yes, it’s true we haven’t had a warmer year than 1998, but every year (except for one) since then has been warmer than every year before then in the past 150 years.

    If you have a model that predicts a cooling trend, I’d love to see it!

  21. Dan Kennedy

    @Leonard Weinstein: Ah, if only I would read some science books, I would understand that you are right and the overwhelming majority of climate scientists are wrong. Maybe they should read some science books too, eh?

    As for what Climategate is about, every piece of information that’s come out suggests that some scientists may have been trying to exaggerate the extent of global warming — at least that’s what they’ve been accused of. What does that have to do with whether humans caused it or not? Nothing, that’s what.

    The nonpartisan has posted an excellent analysis of Climategate.

  22. rite

    Which is precisely what you did in your post. Exaggerate either intentionally, or negligently, causing any reasonable person to wonder what else you’ve exaggerated in attempts to further some global warming agenda. That’s what Climategate is about.

  23. rite

    BTW, regarding your criticism that George Will cherrypicked data showing cooling since 1998. How dishonest you say, right?

    Yet you cherrypick data showing warming in New England winters from 1971. Cherrypicking, I say, because if you select 1990 to 2009 there’s a cooling trend.

    Try it:

    Adjust out some of the El Nino outlyers and it’s an even greater cooling trend. The large El Nino effect was 1997 – 1998, so isn’t the 1990 cooling trend forward THAT INCLUDES EL NINO WARMING meaningful? At least as meaningful as your selection of 1971. If not, why not?

    For God’s sake man, show some respect for objective journalism.

  24. @Dan. First, watch the video I posted. One of the things it does is puncture a whole in the “most scientists” fallacy.

    Also, as for this, “So then we come back to the CO2 problem. What evidence do you have that CO2 has no effect?”

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. This is a logical fallacy. You’re asking me to prove a negative. I won’t even take the time for that. It’s up to those who believe there is a C02 problem to prove it.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Howard: I have now watched the video. It is a truly loathsome exercise in intellectual bullying, as Monckton spends 11 minutes throwing alleged facts and figures at a woman who is somewhat knowledgeable, but who clearly has not prepped for a debate. Moreover, Monckton says things that are patently untrue.

      Let’s start with his assertion that there has been no global warming for the past 15 years, and that there has actually been cooling for the past nine. As we know, the World Meteorological Organization and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just last week announced the results of studies showing that the current decade is the hottest yet recorded, that the ’90s come in second and that the ’80s come in third.

      Monckton also claims there has been no change in global sea ice, another falsehood. From the Washington Post this past April:

      The satellite data released by NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that the maximum extent of the 2008-2009 winter sea ice cover was the fifth-lowest since researchers began collecting such information 30 years ago. The past six years have produced the six lowest maximums in that record, and the new data show that the percentage of older, thicker and more persistent ice shrank to its lowest level ever, at just 9.8 percent of the winter ice cover.

      I recently posted findings by NASA that the Antarctic ice cap is beginning to shrink as well.

      Further, Monckton wants all of us to play scientist, which sounds nice, but which is actually quite pernicious. Unless I’ve got a Ph.D. in climatology, I’m not going to pretend that I’m qualified to look at raw data and substitute my judgment for that of leading experts. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t know what the hell I was looking at, and with all due respect, neither would you.

      Finally, I am not sure what you mean by saying it hasn’t been proven that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere, unless you also believe it hasn’t been proven that smoking causes lung cancer. The Internet is loaded with easily understood scientific explanations of how the process works. Unless you have some reason to believe that scientists are making this up in order to achieve world domination, then you really have no reason to doubt it.

  25. mike_b1

    rite, more germane to George Will and cherrypicking is that the very researchers who did the study — University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center — have publicly said he cherrypicked their data — not to mention, mischaracterized the results.

    This is what the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center had to say about Will:

    “We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows [sic] that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.”

    Amazing how politics trumps physics among the GOP.

  26. Rite

    <quote Amazing how politics trumps physics among the GOP.


    Media fabricates the end of US maple syrup as we know it because of global warming, and you are amazed at GOP politicalization of physics.

    Pretty sure that neither side has a monopoly on spin.

  27. Leonard Weinstein

    Dan Kennedy,
    I am the skeptic you refer to. To be clear, I initially also accepted the AGW position because it seemed reasonable on the surface. Only after a deep study of the papers was it clear that it was wrong. I think the vast majority of supporters of AGW did not go into the depth needed to see the flaws. However, there are large numbers of scientists that do not agree with the AGW position, despite what you think you know. However, voting is politics, not science. Even one correct position trumps any number of wrong ones. Please seperate GW from AGW. Climate goes down (see ice age scare in the early 70’s) and then it goes up. That is natural variation. The issue is about human causes. I think there is some human cause, but that it is small and non-threatening. Read:
    for my analysis.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Leonard Weinstein: Thanks for checking in. I might read what you’ve posted at some point, but I’m not going to make it a priority. Why? As I argued yesterday, it is ridiculous for those of us who lack the expertise to play scientist. If you cannot convince your colleagues in the scientific community, then what does it matter if you can convince someone like me? I can’t even solve a quadratic equation.

      I am amused by your statement that “there is some human cause, but … it is small and non-threatening.” Let the caveats begin! As I have noted before, global-warming skepticism seems to have evolved over the past 10 years from: (1) there is no global warming; to (2) there is global warming, but human activity plays no role; to (3) there is human-caused global warming, but we shouldn’t worry about it. I think we know what (4) will be.

      Please note I am not saying that you have personally made that journey; I wouldn’t have any idea. But it does sound as though you’re just a step or two away from being labeled by Glen Beck as part of the conspiracy.

  28. mike_b1

    Leonard, it is my understanding that the vast majority of scientists who actually study climate and the like agree that the Earth is generally warming. You point to periods of warming and cooling and call that natural variation. But you are looking at a few decades of data, whereas the specialists are looking at millenia. I trust the bigger data pool. With all due respect, I’m going to go with them on this one.

  29. Steve Stein

    Leonard, thanks for checking back in. You wrote earlier : “a cooling trend seems to be on the way, probably for the next few decades.”

    Again I ask:
    What data do you have to support that contention? Yes, it’s true we haven’t had a warmer year than 1998, but every year (except for one) since then has been warmer than every year before then in the past 150 years.

    If you have a model that predicts a cooling trend, I’d love to see it!

  30. Leonard Weinstein

    Please read my previously enclosed writeup. It lays the case out for being skeptical in non-technical terms. You clearly have not looked at both sides of the issue, so are not familiar with honest disagreement. The recent exposure of climategate makes clear that the skeptics (many whom actually agree that there is an AGW problem, but that the degree and causes are different that the CAGW positions) have been correct in their claims that the extreme positions are bogus. As to your claims on Monckton actions, he was trying to show that most people with strong AGW views, who are even activists, don’t have a clue what the facts are they are supporting. Nothing he said was in error.

    Steve Stein,
    Even some supporters of AGW now admit there will be a period of possibly 10 to 20 more years of level to cooling (with some up and down variation superimposed). No model predicted the present trend before it happened. You are entitled to believe anything you want, but you have no reasonable basis for your belief.

  31. Leonard Weinstein

    You have got to be kidding. The entire AGW case is based on the last 1,000 or so years, with emphasis on the last 150 years. The fact that a MWP 1,000 years age was as warm or warmer that the present, and the LIA, from 1300AD to 1850AD, was unusually cold has now been re-verified (it was previously agreed to, but AGW needed it to not be so to make the case that the recent temperature was unusual). Note that I said re-verified. Even IPCC early versions agreed to it, but the hockey stick from Mann seemed to refute that. That work of Mann has been conclusively shown to be wrong. There is now no basis for AGW except models that claim large positive feedback from water vapor to increases in CO2. Those have not been supported by data, and in fact seem to be wrong. Data prior to those times only show that temperature went up periodically, and CO2 FOLLOWED by about 800 years, not the other way around. The cause is that warmer sea water releases CO2.

  32. Steve Stein

    Leonard – I didn’t say what my beliefs are. You, however, did: “a cooling trend seems to be on the way, probably for the next few decades.”

    I’m still waiting for you to give some data to back it up.

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