A new report by Sydney, Australia-based think-tank the Climate Institute says that due to rising global temperatures, by the year 2050 the world’s coffee supply will be cut in half.
“Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world every day, with nearly half of Australians drinking coffee regularly,” says John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute. “Yet coffee is just one of a multitude of things increasingly subject to negative climate impacts, and its negative flow-on effects.”
According to the report, climate change is expected to negatively impact both the quality and cost of coffee over the upcoming decades as extreme weather events, droughts, pests and crop diseases become more prevalent in coffee-producing regions within the equatorial “bean belt,” which includes major coffee-producing countries such as Brazil, Columbia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
A $19 billion (US) industry, coffee production has tripled in volume since the 1960s and is still growing at a rate of 5 per cent annually. Coffee consumption supports the livelihood of an estimated 25 million farmers worldwide, the bulk of whom are smallholders with little capacity on their own to adapt to a changing climate and its effects, according to the Climate Institute. In Mexico and Central America, for example, a mostly indigenous workforce of 8.5 million people are employed by the coffee supply chain.
And many of the countries where coffee exports represent a significant percentage of exports are already feeling the effects of global warming. Some like Vietnam and the Central American producers, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, have been ranked in the top-ten for suffering climate-related damage since the 1990s. A 2012 outbreak of coffee leaf rust – blamed on abnormally high temperatures combined with high-altitude rains – hit more than half of Guatemalan crops and caused producers to lose up to 85 per cent of their crops.
“The coming decades are likely to see dramatic shifts in where and how much coffee is produced worldwide,” says the report. “Regional studies suggest rising temperatures could render much Mexican coffee unviable by the 2020s and most of Nicaragua will lose majority of its coffee zone by 2050.” In Tanzanian, arabica bean production is expected to dip to “critically low” levels by the year 2060.
Commissioned by the development advocacy group, Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, the new report calls for more climate-consciousness among consumers when choosing their coffee brands and coffee providers and to demand action of companies and governments so that the coffee industry becomes more sustainable and carbon-neutral.
“Without strong climate action, the areas suitable for growing coffee could halve in a few decades, pushing production upslope, away from the equator and into conflict with other land uses, such as nature conservation and forestry,” says Connor. “By 2080 wild coffee, an important genetic resource for farmers, could be extinct.”
In Canada, coffee is the beverage of choice, with 88 per cent of Canadian adults drinking coffee daily at an average of 3.2 cups per day.