Climate change is making your coffee more expensive

November 8, 2012

Climate change has already been blamed for major storms and melting arctic ice, but now it may be coming after your morning cup of joe.

Researchers have found that climate change will reduce the number of suitable growing locations for the Arabica coffee plant, which provides about 70 percent of the world's coffee supply, according to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE.


istock photo

Using computer modeling, researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London predicted that the number of suitable growing locations for the coffee plant will drop  from 65 percent to 99 percent by 2080.

In South Sudan, for example, "the modeling predicted that Arabica could be extinct by the year 2020 due to climate change, and this appears to be realistic given the poor health (lack of seedlings, loss of mature Arabica specimens, low frequency of flowering and fruiting) of the remaining populations observed in 2012."

In Ethiopia, another prime Arabica growing area, "optimum cultivation conditions are likely to become increasingly difficult to achieve in many pre-existing coffee growing areas, leading to a reduction in productivity, increased and intensified management (such as the use of irrigation), and crop failure (some areas becoming unsuitable for Arabica cultivation)." 

The researchers also partly blamed climate change for rising coffee prices, which have reached 30-year highs:

"It is perceived by various stakeholders that some of the poor harvests are due to changed climate conditions, thus linking price increases to climate change."

Much of North Africa has been hit in recent years by erratic weather, drought and food shortages. Last summer, protracted drought in the Sahel region of Africa led several countries in the region to declare food emergencies.

In September, the Ethiopian government announced that 3.7 million of its citizens will require humanitarian assistance between August and December due to a lack of rain in the early part of the year.

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Olga Khazan · November 8, 2012