Climate Change Threatens Coffee Production

August 29, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

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A new report predicts extreme temperature will cut the world’s coffee-growing area in half within a few decades.

Around 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day worldwide. But that number is set to decrease, according to a report released by the Climate Institute, which predicts that climate change will cut the area suitable for growing coffee crops by up to 50 percent by 2050.

According to the report, the vast majority of the world’s coffee farmers live and work in the ‘bean belt’ — a band around the Earth that straddles the equator. Countries within the belt, such as Colombia and Costa Rica, are highly susceptible to the effects of sweltering temperatures and extreme weather-related pests and disease.

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The effects of climate change on coffee production are already being seen in some places. In Tanzania, for instance, coffee crop yields have fallen by 302 pounds (137 kilograms) for every 1 degree Celsius rise in minimum temperature since the 1960s.

An outbreak of a fungus calledcoffee rust” hit farms in Latin America in 2012. Two years later, the “worst drought in decades” hit Brazil, which produces about half of the world’s Arabica. Climate change is expected to intensify these outbreaks and droughts in the coming years, and a study in PLOS ONE predicted a worst-case scenario in which Arabica is reduced by nearly 100 percent by 2080.

“Companies such as Starbucks and Lavazza, as well as the International Coffee Organisation, have already publicly acknowledged the severity of climate risks,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, in a press release. “Consumers are likely to face supply shortages, impacts on flavor and aromas, and rising prices.”

But Connor adds, “there are things we coffee drinkers can do to assist.” He recommends consumers educate themselves on the issues surrounding coffee and climate change and choose only brands that are “carbon or climate neutral.”

The report, “A Brewing Storm: The climate change risks to coffee report,” was commissioned by the non-profit organization Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand.

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