by Paige Donner
Brace yourselves, your preferred cold brew may soon become a hot commodity.
The price of beer is set to double, triple, even quadruple in the coming years. That’s what a team of international scientists have predicted when they studied computer models looking at a predictive global temperature rise on three areas: climate, crops and economics.
How does beer factor into this scenario? Beer is, of course, made from barley. Only about 17% of the world’s barley production is currently used to make beer, the rest going to animal feed. But with a predicted temperature rise of 1.5°C (to up to 4°C in worst case scenarios) in the coming century, barley production is set to decline by up to 17%, thus driving up prices – by as much as 193% in Ireland.
Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world by volume consumed, and yields of its main ingredient, barley, decline sharply in periods of extreme drought and heat. Although the frequency and severity of drought and heat extremes increase substantially in range of future climate scenarios by five Earth System Models, the vulnerability of beer supply to such extremeshas never been assessed. We couple a process-based crop model (decision support system for agrotechnology transfer) and a global economic model (Global Trade Analysis Project model) to evaluate the effects of concurrent drought and heat extremesprojected under a range of future climate scenarios. We find that these extreme events may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide. Average yield losses range from 3% to 17% depending on the severity of the conditions. Decreases inthe global supply of barley lead to proportionally larger decreases in barley used to make beer and ultimately result in dramatic regional decreases in beer consumption (for example, − 32% in Argentina) and increases in beer prices (for example, + 193% inIreland). Although not the most concerning impact of future climate change, climate-related weather extremes may threaten the availability and economic accessibility of beer.
So if beer is your beverage of choice, especially during the festive holiday season, drink up and enjoy, while you still can!
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