Global Warming and Coffee: What You Need to Know


Global warming, regardless of the causes, is an increasingly serious issue, affecting everything from ecology to agriculture. It’s an issue that the scientific world has been tracking for decades, though only recently has it become front and center in mainstream society. With temperatures slowly but steadily rising and weather patterns changing sporadically, the effects of these changes are showing their impact in many different industries.

Unfortunately, one of the industries affected by global warming is coffee farming and production, especially in areas that already struggle with economic and environmental problems. Even regions that grow coffee at elevation, which has more predictable weather patterns, are struggling to produce high-quality coffee beans from the rising temperatures. Global warming may not seem like a coffee problem, but it has the potential to drastically change it as we know it.

Coffee’s Ideal Climate

Weather prediction is part of the game when it comes to coffee farming, which helps a farmer know how the harvest will go each year. Coffee plants are temperamental and delicate with specific growing needs, especially Arabica plants that make up over 70% of the global coffee production each year. They can handle direct sunlight, but Arabica plants at elevation are grown in shade to protect them from the sun. They also need adequate rainfall, which is why areas like South America are so favorable for coffee farming. Coffee plants need a balance of sunlight and rain, which is why global warming is an issue. Without the proper balance, the coffee plants don’t produce as high-quality beans as they should.

Image Credit: Chris Howey, Shutterstock

Coffee and Climate Change

Before diving into global warming and sifting through the thousands of possible causes, it’s important to understand the relationship between coffee and climate change. 30 years ago, growing coffee at elevation was not even possible in most areas, due to the low temperatures and the lack of necessity to move the plants higher.

As the global temperature started to rise, farmers in mountainous actually benefitted from the temperature increase. It allowed them to grow coffee in higher places because it was the perfect temperature for coffee plants to flourish, without the unpredictable rains and weather patterns closer to sea level.

However, the increase in temperature hasn’t stopped, so the ideal locations to grow coffee beans are slowly slipping away. With more unpredictable rains causing plants to rot or mold from excess water and hotter temperatures burning the delicate plants, the sweet spots on the mountains are becoming bitterer than the beans they’re growing.

Yet, hundreds of coffee farms across the world have no elevated plots or no other places to plant, while also dealing with climate change and global warming. Since weather is becoming harder to predict, coffee farmers are struggling to produce the amount of coffee they once did even as little as 10 years ago.

It’s also important to state that many coffee-producing countries are not as economically strong as others, so losing any product can be a life or death situation. It can cause a drop in overall global coffee production for that country, causing even more economic strife than before. In other words, climate change and global warming are not only huge factors in yearly yields of coffee, but they can also easily wipe out an entire coffee plantation with one drought or flood.

Image Credit: elizabeth franco, Pixabay

What Could Happen to Coffee in the Near Future?

There’s no sure way to know what will happen in the future in terms of global warming and coffee, especially with the mainstream society starting to stand up against climate change nay-sayers. While we can guess what will happen to our beloved coffee, there are some predictions as to what could happen:

  • Farmers Switch to Robusta Beans – Arabica beans have been the big seller globally, but the problem is with the delicate nature of the coffee plants. One prediction that is already starting to happen in certain areas is that farmers are ditching Arabica plants for Robusta, the second most popular coffee bean in the world. Although Robusta beans are not as tasty and can be bitter, some farmers would rather deal with shorter growth times and less fussy plants to ensure a more bountiful harvest. However, Robusta beans are not invincible and can still burn in excessive heat.
  • Huge Drop in Overall Coffee Production – As we stated above, there’s a scary yet seemingly realistic prediction that a major loss in coffee production will happen within the next three to four decades. Not only will coffee be more expensive, but it may also not even taste as good as it used to due to climate change and global warming. Even if the switch to Robusta is the future, the coffee we enjoy now may never be around again.

 

Conclusion

Global warming is a serious issue that is impacting many farming industries, coffee included. The rising temperatures and the sporadic weather patterns are making it difficult for farmers to produce high-quality coffee, which will only grow worse as global warming continues to heat the earth. While we can be hopeful that it won’t continue to impact the coffee industry, the reality is that it will become more expensive as time goes on.


Featured Image Credit: PhotosOfTheWorld, Shutterstock

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