Coffee will be extinct in 65 years, courtesy of climate change

By Ha Phuong   September 9, 2016 | 03:00 pm PT
By 2080, climate change may eradicate your daily cappuccino as it will get too hot for coffee beans to survive. 

Coffee is beloved by millions around the world, but supplies are starting to wane, and half of the world’s plantations will be lost by 2050 due to climate change, according to a report by The Climate Institute, Australia.

The report also stated that by 2080, coffee plants, essential for farmed genetic diversity, will disappear from Earth forever.

Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to heaten up the earth’s surface by between 1 to 6 degrees Celsius in the next 100 years, said the United Nations, threatening all kinds of crops, and coffee is no exception.

Coffee crops are tightly linked to climate and weather, especially temperature and moisture. For now, only tropical highlands around the globe have the favorable conditions needed to grow coffee, including Central America, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam and East Africa (its origin). Temperatures can make a big difference to yields, flavor and aroma. Recent unpredictable weather patterns like excessive droughts and hurricanes have hit coffee farmers from Kenya to Vietnam, according to the International Coffee Organization.

The most common varieties are Arabica and Robusta. In Vietnam, 95 percent of the total output is Robusta, which is deemed to be less heat-sensitive than its brother. However, the world’s third largest coffee exporter in 2015 is still facing difficulties as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts that this year, there will be an 8 percent drop in Vietnam's coffee yield. Coffee plantations in Vietnam are also expected to shrink as farmers switch to growing green pepper.

Coffee is among the most valuable export products for developing countries, but climate change is making it too hot to work for both humans and plants. Coffee shortages will affect 125 million people reliant on coffee for a living, and 25 million coffee farmers around the globe, said the report.

With shrinking plantations, the demise of the popular caffeine source will be inescapable.

“We will have much less coffee available and for those who can still produce, the price could go up,” said Peter Läderach, researcher at International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

The future of coffee is not set in stone, but in the next few decades, there is likely to be a dramatic shift in coffee production, the report stated.

But all is not lost. Analysts say that cutting emissions and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees following the target set at the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement would make a big difference, both for individual coffee lovers and for the 125 million people who make a living from the coffee supply chain.

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