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Climate Change Could Drive Coffee To Extinction By 2080 345

Posted by timothy
from the right-here-in-ponca-city dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Coffee is the world's favorite beverage and the second-most traded commodity after oil. Now Nick Collins reports that rising global temperatures and subtle changes in seasonal conditions could make 99.7 per cent of Arabica-growing areas unsuitable for the plant before the end of the century and in some areas as soon as 2020. Even if the beans do not disappear completely from the wild, climate change is highly likely to impact yields. The taste of coffee, a beverage of choice among Slashdot readers, will change in future decades. 'The worst case scenario, as drawn from our analyses, is that wild Arabica could be extinct by 2080,' says Justin Moat. 'This should alert decision makers to the fragility of the species.'" Read more, below.
Hugh Pickens continues: "Arabica is one of only two species of bean used to make coffee and is by far the most popular, accounting for 70 per cent of the global market, including almost all fresh coffee sold in high street chains and supermarkets in the US and most of Europe. A different bean known as Robusta is used in freeze-dried coffee and is commonly drunk in Greece and Turkey, but Robusta's high caffeine content makes it much less pleasant to most palates. In some areas, such as the Boma Plateau in South Sudan, the demise could come as early as 2020, based on the low flowering rate and poor health of current crops. The researchers used field study and 'museum' data (including herbarium specimens) to run bioclimatic models for wild Arabica coffee, in order to deduce the actual (recorded) and predicted geographical distribution for the species. 'Arabica can only exist in a very specific pace with a very specific number of other variables,' says Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at the Royal Botanic Gardens. 'It is mainly temperature but also the relationship between temperature and seasonality – the average temperature during the wet season for example.'"
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Climate Change Could Drive Coffee To Extinction By 2080

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  • by csumpi (2258986) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:30AM (#41941685)
    Oh, wait...
    • by Znork (31774)

      If TFA is accurate, "Climate change is happening so fast that caffeine farms would have to move their plantations 50m every decade to survive, he added.", this would be another case of OMG the HORROR.

      Of course, calling them caffeine farms may be an indication that 50m might mean something other than 50 meters and that someone hasn't had their morning coffee. In that case one would hope more care is taken with any units used in actual calculations underlying the cause for alarm.

      • by fatphil (181876) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:11AM (#41941917) Homepage
        Oh noes! By the time they're nearly extinct, 6 decades down the line, they'll have to migrate 300m! That means that their neighbours will of course be in the perfect position for growing arabica. Even if FTA meant 'miles', heaven forfend, at most this means production would move to a neighbouring country.

        This is a total non-story.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jmc23 (2353706)
        How does your brain even come up with something like that?

        My friend has some coffee growing on a small hill, but only on the top 50m is it cool enough to grow. 10 years and she won't be selling coffee.

        • So get her a bulldozer and make a bigger hill. That would be the American way.

          Geez. Some people. Do we have to think up everything?

      • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @01:38PM (#41943419) Journal

        Didn't read the other articles I guess. They meant metres. As in altitude. You can only go up so far before you run out of mountain. Plus there is this funny physical trait of them being kind of conical... surface area seems to get less as you go up. Might not be able to just move to another mountain because it may not have suitable daylight or rain (probably more study needed).

        Evolution is a bitch, and these plants evolved to grow with certain environmental conditions including seasonal changes and moisture. That also leaves out things like symbiotic relationships with other animals like insects, bacteria, mammals, etc. While I am no evolutionary biologist, I would hazard a guess that 50 years is a bit short to for it to adapt too much. But who knows, maybe they can be treated like grapes and moved somewhere else. As long as it doesn't cause some sort of invasive species issue or something equally negative with bringing in non-native plants to another country.

        I know of a possible parallel in vanilla, but it was back in the day when the idea of 'invasive plant species' was not known or understood. Vanilla originated in Mexico. It is actually from the orchid family and took a few centuries for someone to finally figured out sometime in the 19th century how to grow it successfully (i.e. on a commercial scale) outside of Mexico. Granted it wouldn't have taken so long to figure out today, but I think the analogy still holds up if not in an accelerated form. IIRC Madagascar is where most comes from today though some people say that the best still comes from Mexico. Maybe it's a good thing they broke Mexico's lock on vanilla so long ago. Otherwise we would have had even more deadly vanilla gangs and vanilla massacres. We dodged a bullet on that one.

    • by durrr (1316311)

      We hit peak intelligence by 2000. We'll drive it to extinction by the 2030s if these predictions don't grow any more sensible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Dude, do you think energy companies would be trying to squeeze gas out of rocks i.e. fracking if oil wasn't running out? Face it, oil has peaked. Since 2000 how have gas prices been? Any wars in oil rich regions? Hmmm, yeah, seems like this oil thing could be on the way out...

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        Dude, do you think energy companies would be trying to squeeze gas out of rocks i.e. fracking if oil wasn't running out? Face it, oil has peaked. Since 2000 how have gas prices been? Any wars in oil rich regions? Hmmm, yeah, seems like this oil thing could be on the way out...

        You're comparing apples and muffler bolts. The US is sitting on large amounts of oil [wikipedia.org]. For one reason or another (environmental lawsuits, short-sighted politicians, and that it's easier to buy from someone else) we haven't exploited it yet. Natural gas and the whole fracking thing is a different issue. It's not used out of desperation, but because it's relatively easy to do.

  • Wild arabica is already quite rare.
    • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:49AM (#41942147)

      "Wild arabica is already quite rare."

      Wild arabica was always rare. :)

      This is why it took until the last centuries until we had a global production of coffee even if it has been known for millennia.

      Will the climate change make it dissappear? Probably not, but at least make it rare enough to preclude further harvesting.

  • That's terrible! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by danbuter (2019760) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:39AM (#41941741)
    Thank God I'll be dead before then. Without coffee, life wouldn't be worth living.
    • Since this article is sensationalist BS, you will still have coffee. Beer isn't going anyplace either. Coffee in the morning, alcohol at night: the yin and yang of existence. Or as they said on Star Trek: "I just got to have a little something to jump-start the morning and a little something else to shut down the night."
      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        How is this sensationalist? Nicaragua has seen a temperature increase of 3 degrees celcius over the last 50 years and they have a very low mountain range, meaning they can't just keep moving up.

        Also note, the change in climate has already affected production zones and quantity.

    • by reboot246 (623534)
      I'm 59 soon to be 60. If I'm still around in 2080, I'm not going to be worried about coffee.
  • by Darri (948351) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:40AM (#41941747) Homepage
    At last there's a plausible cause for a zombie apocalypse.
  • Unlikely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:40AM (#41941749)

    Even when the climate changes, there will still be some areas suited to the growing of coffee, and since it is popular, people will try to grow it in those locations.
    Also there will be incentive to genetically modify it so it can grow in more places.

    Of course there may not be enough to go around, but it won't be gone altogether.

    OTOH species that live in really cold climates (like polar bears) will go extinct because there won't be any really cold places left.
    (And polar bears are not as useful to man as coffee)

    • Re:Unlikely (Score:5, Funny)

      by MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:16AM (#41941953)

      (And polar bears are not as useful to man as coffee)

      Actually they have a very important use. They eat the people who count polar bears and tell us their population is declining.

      • They eat the people who count polar bears and tell us their population is declining.

        Well, at least they get to eat cheap fresh meat grown on organic fodder, lucky bastards.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Even when the climate changes, there will still be some areas suited to the growing of coffee

      That's why Juan Valdez is buying up property in Greenland.

    • My first thought was "seed bank those suckers". Then when the climate shift causes wile Arabica to go extinct, introduce it to new habitats.

    • by vvaduva (859950)

      Exactly...this has been happening for million of years on this planet. When one area becomes unsuitable, another area becomes perfect. Adapt or die...

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      Even when the climate changes, there will still be some areas suited to the growing of coffee
      Somehow it doesn't seem as sensational when you think rationally. Of course, if it is getting to hot to grow coffee in one place, then there is almost certainly a close by climate that is coming into it's own as a good place to grow coffee.
      Areas that are desert now were fertile 2,000 years ago, and vice versa. Things change. Areas get hotter, other areas get colder. Some places that used to get lots of rain becom
    • you'll have plenty of cold places for the polar bears.
    • Re:Unlikely (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @12:57PM (#41943095) Homepage Journal

      The problem is *terroir*. Consider a wine grape from Burgundy. Grow it in Sonoma County and it will produce a different wine, albeit with some similarities. Modern oenology allows mass produced wines to achieve consistency even in "bad" years, so climate change is not going to have much effect on a cheap mass produced table wine, short of total collapse in production. Far before your $20 bottle of chardonnay becomes hard to find, many small craft wineries producing maybe 5000 bottles of high end wine will go out of business. The expertise needed to run them won't necessarily migrate to the new ideal areas for cultivation, if they exist, and even if the expertise does move it won't be producing the same wines.

      Similarly you aren't going to see any climate driven change in the taste of a cup of Maxwell House, although prices may rise or fall depending on how climate change affects supply. For example if climate change makes growing arabica beans unprofitable in some regions, those regions might start to plant the hardier and cheaper C. robusta. The result may be cheaper supermarket coffee. Or not.

      What you are more likely to lose are certain high end varietal coffees like Ethiopian Harrar (my personal favorite) that are grown in areas which are vulnerable to changes in climate. It is possible (although not certain) that ideal conditions for coffee may appear in other places to compensate for the loss of current varietal coffee plantations, but it will take years, possibly decades to find these places and develop an international market and reputation for their product.

  • by aglider (2435074) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:41AM (#41941753) Homepage
    We only drink coffea robusta, from Brasil!
    • nasty nasty nasty plant.

      Maybe this is a case where GMO can help.....make Arabica as robust as Robusta or lower the caffeine level of Robusta so it tastes better.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:46AM (#41941783)

    Jesus H. Fucking Christ, and we wonder why way too many people pooh-pooh climate change claims.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:46AM (#41941785)

    NOAA and other reports have already stated that global temperature has no changed in 15+ years of monitoring. There are some warming trends in the northern hemisphere, but there are cooling trends in the southern hemisphere. Ice levels at the north pole are shrinking, but Antarctic ice levels are setting new records highs. There has been zero net change globally.

  • by Andy Prough (2730467) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:59AM (#41941845)
    then I'll start bicycling to work.
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:03AM (#41941867) Journal

    Look at a map of the world.
    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that as agricultural regions shift poleward even slightly, the amount of arable land favorable to crop-growing will greatly increase.

    Moreover, I recall from the 1970s concerns that the breadbasket areas of the US were going to be 'exhausted' by the intensive farming (which hasn't happened, but let's go with it)...warming of the climate, shifting optimal growing regions northward in the US will essentially 'open' virgin lands barely farmed for more intensive processes like multiple crops per year. One would suspect that as some particular, marginal soil fades from viability to grow a specific species of coffee, others will be discovered.

    To suggest it's going to be "extinct" is just FUD like claiming redheads will be extinct....something so obviously tragic that everyone will be "inspired to action" without really thinking about it.

    • by smugfunt (8972)

      It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that as agricultural regions shift poleward even slightly, the amount of arable land favorable to crop-growing will greatly increase.

      That seems rather a complacent assumption to me (I am not a rocket scientist). While northern lands may warm up there is no guarantee that rainfall patterns there/then will be conducive to agriculture. There is also the effect of day lengths on some species to consider. Probably a bunch of other variables too (I am not a botanist). We may well end up with a cornflake glut but no coffee or orange juice to drink with them. The bad possibilities outnumber the good, it seems to me.

    • by Guppy (12314)

      It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that as agricultural regions shift poleward even slightly, the amount of arable land favorable to crop-growing will greatly increase.

      Cylindrical map projections can be deceiving, those high-latitude areas aren't as big as they look. In addition, the expanding areas are largely dominated by a few relatively well-industrialized nations, while some lower-latitude agricultural regions will shrink; causes would include excessive heat, changes in precipitation, inundation or salt-water infiltration of low-lying land (especially fertile delta areas) or disturbances of flow in glacier-fed rivers (some glaciers will actually grow, but again most

    • by istartedi (132515)

      I recall from the 1970s concerns that the breadbasket areas of the US were going to be 'exhausted' by the intensive farming (which hasn't happened, but let's go with it)

      Google for "california central valley" and "salination". Get back to us.

    • I recall from the 1970s concerns that the breadbasket areas of the US were going to be 'exhausted'...

      Watch the movie Soylent Green for a taste of the hysteria. See old men weep at the sight of shriveled vegetables and scabby scraps of beef. See detectives shake down hookers for a spoon full of jam.

    • by seyyah (986027)

      Moreover, I recall from the 1970s concerns that the breadbasket areas of the US were going to be 'exhausted' by the intensive farming (which hasn't happened, but let's go with it)...warming of the climate, shifting optimal growing regions northward in the US will essentially 'open' virgin lands barely farmed for more intensive processes like multiple crops per year. One would suspect that as some particular, marginal soil fades from viability to grow a specific species of coffee, others will be discovered.

      I guess you are expecting farmers to move to the virgin lands of Alaska? Because north of the 'breadbasket' areas of the US are the heavily farmed 'breakbasket' areas of Canada.

  • Most cheap is more likely.

  • by nomad-9 (1423689) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:04AM (#41941883)
    About disappearing stuff, like oil, coffee, etc. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the necessity to have something in place of what is poised to disappear, will drive new technological breakthroughs to meet market need.

    By 2080, we'll probably have the technology to mass-produce artificial coffee, as no serious entrepreneur will ignore the potential for profit with the millions of caffeine-starved coffee drinkers looking for a substitute beverage.

    Of course, before that, the increasing rarity of coffee will drive prices high, natural coffee will become a luxury, and some will make big bucks.

    As for other things still found in the wild right now, natural coffee will be a thing of the past. The following generations will have no notion of it. Eating & drinking entirely artificially-produced products will be the definition of normality, Sad but true. As for coffee lovers like myself, there's a bright side: most of us will be dead by 2080.
    • ...with vertical agriculture you won't need much arable land: http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/11/05/2115238/singapore-builds-first-vertical-vegetable-farm [slashdot.org]. This form of farming is " 5 to 10 times more productive than traditional farms."
    • Dark Ages (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rsilvergun (571051)
      Thousand years of no progress. Those of us who were paying attention to human nature a are a little worried. For the most part the rich and powerful kinda like technology at the moment. But then I'm here in the USA and we've managed to make 'progressive' a bad word. At the risk of getting into politics, conservatives worry me. A lot. Most of them are either poor and terrified to lose what little they have or really really rich and can't imagine it getting any better.

      Plus, A lot of the really rich ones ar
      • by khallow (566160)

        But then I'm here in the USA and we've managed to make 'progressive' a bad word.

        Who is being progressive?

        At the risk of getting into politics, conservatives worry me. A lot.

        The fight in the US is over centuries and millennia old ideas. Not my idea of progressive, especially when some of the more radical and fresh ideas come from the nominally conservative side.

        When Bain Capital shuts down a profitable factory in the States

        Bain Capital would never get involved with a profitable business. Their niche is recycling failed ones and making a profit in the process.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Thousand years of no progress. Those of us who were paying attention to human nature a are a little worried.

        I guess I see more wrong here. "Paying attention to human nature" means you've been ignoring what's going on. When the massive changes in us and our societies, the empowerments that we've made through technology and knowledge can be dismissed as "no progress", it calls into question what in the world you mean by "progressive". Because you are ignoring the most profound progress out there.

        Plus, A lot of the really rich ones aren't trying to create new wealth, they're trying to monopolize the old wealth.

        "A lot" is not the same as "most". At some point, we really need to recognize that most people, rich and poor create weal

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        A lot of the really rich ones aren't trying to create new wealth, they're trying to monopolize the old wealth. When Bain Capital shuts down a profitable factory in the States you'd think somebody would come along, say hey, I can make money doing that! and reopen it. They don't. That's because the guys at the top all just sorta agree not to step on each other's toes (aka compete)...

        It has little to do with competing and a lot to do with ROI. A huge problem with the US today is that we have a lot of the economy structured around a low cost of labor but in fact have a very high cost of labor. This means that in order for things to work it is necessary to find someplace where the cost of labor is low - or we have to restructure the economy.

        This means that once the production from a factory has moved to a lower-wage location it isn't coming back. Sure, it might be possible with enough

    • As for coffee lovers like myself, there's a bright side: most of us will be dead by 2080.

      I'm going to upload my brain to the cloud, you insensitive clod!

    • by n6kuy (172098)

      By 2080, the Coffee plant will have been GMO'd to grow even in the harshest of environments, and produce it's coffee beans already ground and roasted.

  • by TimHunter (174406) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:16AM (#41941949)

    But we know what plants crave. Brawndo. It's got electrolytes.'

    '...Okay - what are electrolytes? Do you know?'

    'Yeah. It's what they use to make Brawndo.'

    'But why do they use them in Bawndo? What do they do?'

    'They're part of what plants crave.'

    'But why do plants crave them?'

    'Because plants crave Brawndo, and Brawndo has electrolytes.'

  • by BobK65 (2541842) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:31AM (#41942045)
    Just more expensive FUD produced by modelers. Wholesale prices have fallen by 30% in the last year and Brazilian coffee growers expect a record coffee crop this year. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/coffee-prices-fall-but-not-at-starbucks-2012-11-08 [marketwatch.com]
  • You can have my Hummer when you wrest it from my cold dead hands.

    Anyway, this is why God made FourLoko.

  • by Exitar (809068)

    I will be dead long before.

  • ... raising the price of coffee.

  • by pnot (96038) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @10:53AM (#41942161)

    Here's the paper. [plosone.org] What's the fucking point in open access if nobody bothers linking or reading the research?

    Five links in the summary, NOT ONE OF THEM TO THE FUCKING PAPER THAT REPORTED THE RESEARCH. Naturally the Telegraph article doesn't link to it either. Apologies for shouting, but this really fucks me off. Yeah, I know, if I hit the fourth link in the summary, there's another link three screens down that page which would take me to the article. Whoopee.

    Would it have killed The Telegraph, Hugh Pickens, or Timothy to do us this small courtesy? As it is, the Telegraph sensationalizes the abstract, Slashdot sensationalizes the inaccurate Telegraph article, and 1000 idiots then argue about completely irrelevant points suggested by free-association from the title, because they couldn't be arsed to read the summary.

    Henceforth I shall be tagging these stories "wheresthefuckingpaper".

    Sorry I'm so grumpy folks, haven't had my coffee yet :-). I'm off to read the paper now -- why not join me?

    • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday November 10, 2012 @11:57AM (#41942619)

      Would it have killed The Telegraph, Hugh Pickens, or Timothy to do us this small courtesy?

      Hugh Pickens is the reincarnated Roland Piquepaille [wikipedia.org] , and as "old-timers" know, Roland was primarily interested in pimping his blog, as is Hugh. A linky to the actual paper would drop that click-through, and thus blog popularity and profit.

    • I doubt if more caffeine is what you need right now.
    • Would it have killed The Telegraph, Hugh Pickens, or Timothy to do us this small courtesy? As it is, the Telegraph sensationalizes the abstract, Slashdot sensationalizes the inaccurate Telegraph article, and 1000 idiots then argue about completely irrelevant points suggested by free-association from the title, because they couldn't be arsed to read the summary.

      And that is exactly what is going on. Some of the up-modded comments are true groaners.

  • 2081: Grad student enrollment drops to dangerously low levels.

  • by prefec2 (875483) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @11:23AM (#41942361)

    The IT industry, teachers, researchers and may more depend on their morning dose of coffee. When that is gone, this will be the end of the Western civilization. However, we could adapt to tea. Tea has a wider range of flavors than coffee so it is not necessary to invent all these untasteful coffee mixtures, which only exist to give people who have not to make many decisions every day, a chance to do so, by answering 5 questions to get a coffee. However, we still have subway and can make seven decisions until we get to the food.

    However, we most likely do not need any coffee by 2080, because our industry will be crashed for good, as they do not want to adapt to the necessities of reality. Then we will all sit at home without jobs. I do not need coffee to cry in my pillow. It is contra-productive to drink coffee and stay in bed. So, no big deal when there is no coffee anymore.

  • Any prediction of more than five years from now should be treated with a grain of salt. This one is not even worthy of consideration.

  • We live in the time of Peak Coffee production. It is all downhill from here. The world has a finite supply, and we are pumping it at unprecedented levels. Levels which cannot be sustained indefinitely. In fact, we may have to introduce artificial controls to limit how may pounds per day are sold on the global market. We are not trying to artificially inflate the price to make ourselves richer, we are just looking out for your future... /parody

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:16PM (#41944783)

    "...The taste of coffee, a beverage of choice among Slashdot readers, will change in future decades.

    Oh, so climate change will be to blame for the change in coffee taste? Gee, and here I thought it was the double-mocha-pumpkin-spiced-triple-vanilla-chai shit that everyone pays Starbucks $5 for that might have something to do with it.

    The few who know and respect the actual flavor of coffee will likely go unaffected by this, other than perhaps higher prices paid, which is the standard cost for rarity (look what bean aficionados pay today for rare varieties). The rest of the "coffee" drinking world will somehow learn to adapt...when the next seasonal flavor comes out.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:45PM (#41944967) Journal

    Don't let Starbucks find out about this, or your $5 espressos will become $10.

     

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