|Climate change threatens coffee|
|Written by Caroline Haywood,Four Green Steps|
|Tuesday, 04 December 2012 00:00|
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Climate change is likely to threaten your coffee addiction. A recent study by a UK-Ethiopian team predicts that a changing climate could have significant and long-term negative effects on global production of Arabica and Robusta coffee. These two species are the two main commercial types of coffee bean, but they are unlikely to be able to adapt to a change in climate. In an analysis that models the changing climate of current coffee bean plantations over the timeframe 2020 – 2050 – 2080, the best-case scenario is that suitable Arabica coffee bean plantation locations will be reduced by 65% by 2080, due to increased temperatures and decreasing rainfall. The worse-case scenario is that almost 100% of locations will be unsuitable. Not only will temperatures and rainfall make it harder for the plants to survive, but a warmer climate will also introduce threats from pests and diseases that thrive in warmer weather.
This is a dramatic wake-up call, not only for coffee lovers, but for food consumption generally. Climate change is going to have a significant effect on world food production. In particular, changing temperatures and rainfall will negatively affect the length and quality of the growing season in the Mediterranean region, Australia and Africa. In fact, the latest IPCC report suggests that yields from agriculture in Africa could decline by as much as 50% by 2020, as the majority relies on rainfall for water. On the other hand, some regions’ food production capacity will improve. For example, Russia and Canada will see their capacity for growing crops increase. In addition, some crops such as soya and wheat enjoy higher CO2 levels, and yields of these crops may rise by up to 30% with a doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, climate change also causes more extreme weather events, which have a significant impact on any agriculture of crops.
Overall, the world’s ability to feed all 7 billion of its people is going to be under more and more pressure over the coming years. It is suggested that this has less to do with climate change and is caused more by international policy on food distribution. The poorest communities, particularly in Africa, will be hit hardest by climatic changes to food production, as they will be less able to adapt. On the other hand, the richest communities will continue to be able to buy as much food and meat as they require and will have the financial and technical capabilities to adapt their agricultural methods. This inequity can only be solved by trade deals and increasing consumer awareness. Buying local, and asking your local grocery stores to also stock more local product is one way in which you can make a difference.
Image courtesy of Jeff Kubina on Flickr
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