Although Global Climate Change poses a huge threat to the world, most people don’t seem to care. The general attitude seems to be that, “global climate changes won’t affect me, so why should I care?” However, one major import that most adults rely on everyday is at risk: coffee. Ironically, coffee is the second most traded commodity throughout the world right after oil. Every major coffee producing region in the world is currently being affected by higher temperatures, longer droughts, and tougher pests. The root of the issue, as always, seems to be global climate change.
Growing coffee beans requires a particular climate for the plants to really thrive. Coffee trees often grow in tropical or subtropical regions, as a coffee tree requires heat, humidity, and copious amounts of rainfall. The largest producers of Coffee in the world are Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia,and Columbia. The two main types of coffee beans are Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta. Arabica beans are most popular, accounting for seventy percent of all coffee beverages, and these beans currently bear the heaviest risk.
Global climate change will harm the coffee plant by increasing temperatures, driving unwanted pests to growing regions, and increasing chances of severe droughts in growing regions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that, in Brazil, a temperature rise of just 3oC will reduce suitable coffee growing areas by two-thirds. The coffee decline occurs because with temperature increase, the coffee tree’s metabolism increases dramatically and results in lower yields.
*Image source: coffeeforless.com.
As seen in the image above, the major coffee producing countries lie close to the equator at similar latitudes. These countries’ economies are heavily dependent on coffee. As seen in the image below, most of the countries are in the same region expected to have the largest decrease in agricultural yields as a result of global climate change.
*Image source: Cline W., 2007, Global Warming and Agriculture
Although temperature increase poses a huge threat to the coffee tree directly, it also drives an ominous predator into coffee growing regions. The berry borer beetle usually prefers warmer temperatures at lower altitudes. Unfortunately, increase in temperature has driven the beetle to the higher elevations where coffee trees grow, and these beetles wreak havoc on Coffee Trees. It is estimated that 500 million USD of damage is inflicted by these beetles each year.
The effects of drought would be far-reaching as coffee farmers are concerned. In Brazil, in 2014, a drought hit Brazil that was so severe it caused 140 cities the ration water. The result on the coffee industry was devastating. Much of the crop yield that year was destroyed, and coffee prices shot up more than 50% that year. These intense droughts are only expected to increase along the tropical regions of the world.
The coffee decline that’s expected would have serious economic consequences. Coffee accounts for around half of the net exports of tropical countries. It is estimated that coffee provides economic opportunity for 125 million people around the world, including people in developing countries who would have no other alternatives to make a living if not for coffee. In the United States alone, coffee had a market worth 225.2 billion USD in 2015, and it is responsible for 1,694,710 jobs in our country’s economy.
The coffee decline is just another threat posed by global climate change; however, it may be one to cause the average person in developed countries to demand action. Although our morning perks are at risk, the economic consequences of the bean’s demise are far more serious.