Climate Change and Caffeine

By: Melissa Stock  |  November 3, 2016

With midterms approaching, most students rely on coffee to keep them going. As a student body, it’s important for us to be informed about the future state of coffee production. Warming temperatures will threaten the production of coffee in every region of the world. A study from the March 2015 issue of the journal Climatic Change found that climate change “will reduce the global area suitable for coffee by about 50 percent across emission scenarios” by 2050, leading to a decline in the production of coffee. A report by The Climate Institute of Australia estimates that, by 2080, wild coffee will go extinct. The extra warmth will also cause more resilient pests and plant diseases to reduce coffee supplies.

People drink an average of 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day. The commonly grown Coffea Arabica is at risk because it needs cool year-round temperatures and rainfall to thrive, while Robusta (Coffea Canephora) also needs a tropical climate, but can endure warmer temperatures. Increased temperatures will put coffee’s existence at risk. As the temperature warms and weather patterns change, coffee’s production is destined to shrink.

Climate related pains are already beginning to show. The coffee berry borer, an insect that causes about $500 million worth of damage to crops yearly, has begun to spread. Warmer temperatures have expanded its range, increasing the damage it causes. Another perpetrator is a fungus called Coffee Leaf Rust which also inhibits coffees growth.

Due to the fact that climate change is decreasing coffee production, the price of a cup of coffee will increase. Brands such as Folgers and Maxwell House have increased their prices by 25% or more between 2010 and 2011 because of the limited supply of coffee. Not only does this impact our daily intake of coffee, but it also has an effect on the farmers and workers who produce this coffee. Molly Harriss Olson, the chief executive of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, said she was “particularly concerned about coffee producers and the impact warming temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns would have on them.” A report from the International Coffee Organization shows that over 120 million people around the world make their livelihood through coffee production. Most farmers lack the resources to replant their farms at higher altitudes so they will have to give up coffee production and become climate refugees.

Mario Cerutti, Green Coffee and Corporate Relations Partner at Lavazza said, “climate change can have a significant adverse effect in the short term. It’s no longer about the future; it’s the present.” Not only is our major caffeine source at risk but massive amounts of people will potentially be unemployed.

What can you do to help slow down this problem? Next time you go to the store to buy coffee look for brands that support small coffee growers adapt to climate change. There is no one solution to solve the issue of climate change but there are approaches that can reduce global warming emissions for the future.melissa-stock