Wake Up. Our Coffee is at Risk

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.coffee2

*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.coffee3

*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.









19 thoughts on “Wake Up. Our Coffee is at Risk

  1. I think this is a great point to bring up. It can definitely influence consumers to become more aware of our environmental situation. It would be cool to see major coffee companies like Starbucks, Jittery Joes, etc to advertise this issue on their cups or in stores to call for more attention. At the same time, I do not know if it can be successful because there are a number of factors that can lead to climate change. Consumers may not necessarily understand how their actions benefit or damage the environment and they may not put in effort to do anything because climate change is such a broad topic. They might have a difficult time relating coffee back to their everyday actions against the environment.


  2. I certainly did not realize that coffee was such a highly traded commodity among countries. I agree that a shortage of coffee would have sweeping effects on the world in an amount that no one could even predict. I wonder if there are any ways to combat the effects of global climate change on the plant in the short term while policies and changes are made to combat global warming. Is there any possibility to engineer coffee seeds to be able to resist this rise in temperature and still bear the same amount as before? Obviously this wouldn’t be ideal for long term because it just masks the real issue: climate change; but if we could think of ideas such as this to help for short term production i think we would be able to combat this impending doom of coffee.


  3. I did know about the environmental issues affecting coffee growers. The same effects can be seen in chocolate as well. Both crops, coffee and chocolate, are grown in similar climates. There are some that believe that coffee (and chocolate) will slowly become more of a luxury type item as the cost of these goods increase. I really like this article because I don’t think that people take the time to realize just how climate change will affect their everyday life. People are bombarded by the “big picture”, but maybe aren’t versed in the rarely talked about changes.


  4. I agree this is a very interesting topic to bring up. Before seeing this post I had actually already thought about posting one on the very same topic. Almost all of us drink coffee on a daily basis, but many of us rarely think about all of the work that is put into getting the coffee that we just love. With the increasing issues related to global climate change and their relationship to the production of coffee like others, I believe that the these issues will drive up the cost of coffee. Although price might not be an issue for everyone, increasing the price that consumers pay for coffee could potentially make coffee a luxury item for many that are barely able to make it by.


  5. This is an interesting read. It shows yet another consequence of global temperature increasing. Coffee is a commodity product (we don’t need it for survival), so I think the price of coffee fluctuating will help reduce the economic costs of producing the product. Increasing coffee prices that natural come from it becoming more difficult to cultivate. Most people who drink coffee, drink it daily, and are probably willing to pay any increase in price to get their morning fix.


  6. Great blog. I personally hate the effects of coffee but understand that I am not normal. Tons of people drink coffee. The beetles that are pushing into the crop areas will have to be dealt with. Have the amounts of pesticides used on crops increased? Pesticides themselves have a negative environmental effect. So this issue could be almost exponential. The more bugs= the more pesticides. Lower yields per tree= more trees= more land to grow the trees. This could become a much bigger issue.


  7. Thank you for sharing this post! Coffee definitely isn’t one of the first things that come to mind when I think of the effects of global climate change, but after reading this post, I am sure it will be a lingering thought. A limited supply of coffee and higher prices in the future would hopefully open the eyes to a lot of people, but I would love to see action now, before it is too late. I like how someone above mentioned that it would be great to see some of the huge coffee companies like Starbucks, Folgers, Green Mountain and Caribou spread awareness about this issue. Starbucks has an immense amount of power and infuence over people of all ages, and it seems as though this could be a great opportunity for them to stand up and make a difference.


  8. This was an interesting topic because I’ve never heard or considered coffee to be something effected by climate change. I wonder what other crops that grow near the equator would also be at risk. I also wonder what the future of coffee looks like if this were to happen… Maybe the prices will go up high or society will find something new with the same effect. I can’t imagine something replacing coffee as a coffee drinker myself.


  9. Wow, thanks for the article! This topic was an interesting intersection of lots of things we talk about with global warming: more extreme weather patterns, changing habitats various animals, and negative effects on agriculture. I agree with everyone who’s saying this would be a great thing for coffee shops to step up and raise awareness of and rally an effort around, especially with the “environmentally conscious” image a lot of them try to present.


  10. Thanks for posting this blog! Before reading this, I had no idea that coffee has such a big financial and environmental impact. I personally don’t drink coffee, but I do think bringing awareness of the global climate change is important. I feel like many people, like myself does not know the consequences, and it would help if major coffee companies like Starbucks advertises this issue. The map that shows the top producers of coffee near the equator was also an interesting correlation.


  11. I think it will be helpful if climate change is talked about in the more micro scale so that the average person can better understand ways it will impact them in the short term. If more people hear about these smaller effects of climate change and then feel them hopefully they will want to be more proactive to avoid the worst effects of climate change that may still be averted.


  12. With global warming effects, would coffee production be able to move away from the equator? Farther north/south to find the right growing temperature. Of course, this would be a last-ditch effort, chasing the climate towards the poles. Just thought I would add; Siberia, due to warming effects is predicted to have an agricultural boom as soon as 2025, unveiling relatively virgin land for crop planting. While coffee won’t literally grow in Siberia anytime soon, they have researched places that coffee will grow in the future, and they encourage good stewardship of that land to ensure future production.


  13. I knew that coffee was a highly traded commodity, but it never occurred to me how much of the growing area is affected by climate change. I think a lot of the conversations to be had here start with consumer awareness. Some things that could kickstart consumer awareness would be companies going green and marketing as such, including information about environmental issues on packaging, and purchasing coffee from producers who closely monitor their growing practices. Hopefully by hearing about these issues in a digestible manner, consumers will be more inclined to learn about their impact on the planet.


  14. I think this issue is very common in communities that mass and over produce a certain crop/plant. The stress of keeping up with demands often leads farmers and businesses to take extreme measures as much as using extra chemicals modifying the plants and even overusing the populations’ resources such as water and land. It may sound easier when said, but I think one of the best ways to reduce such mass production is to buy local.


  15. Thanks for bringing up this important topic! I really like that you engage our attention with a topic that cuts right to the problem– we all will feel these impacts. (I don’t even drink coffee but I appreciate it as society’s stimulant. People are literally dependent on the bean.) I am bothered that we kind of just want to wait for something terrible to happen before we respond. And that’s partially because we don’t care and don’t know. Personally, I had never even heard of the berry borer beetle before this. It’s too easy for America to be so many steps removed from earthly matters. But our lifestyles are directly tied to the health of the planet. I agree with others that better consumer publicity will do good. Perhaps if people realize just how much climate change is affecting us, we will be inclined toward action.


  16. This was extremely interesting. With everyone’s insane love for coffee maybe this will actually cause us to realize the major impact of rising temperatures. As ridiculous as it sounds, I know a lot of people who will not settle for higher coffee prices!


  17. This is an issue that I did not know existed. I don’t drink coffee myself, but I do realize how important coffee is to others and the economy. Maybe this is something that will bring attention to climate change in ways that the average citizen can see the direct affects of it.


  18. Its also an extremely immediate concern to reduce global warming since, if the coffee bean continues to become a struggle to grow, three outcomes are possible.. Either prices will go through the roof, the coffee farms will be forced to move, or the use of pesticides will increase dramatically in order to combat the bugs.


  19. Thanks for posting this! I had no idea coffee was such a highly traded commodity and in so much danger. I think that stories like this are a really good way to get consumers to become more aware of the issue of global climate change. So many other crops that the world relies on will also be affected and by explaining the imminent threat that climate change will have on our food supplies and prices is a great point for reasons to protect our environment as well as protect our agricultural practices.


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