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Climate Change Could Drive Coffee To Extinction By 2080 345

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...
  • 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.
  • 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)

  • 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 @09:53AM (#41941813)

    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 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 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.
  • 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 Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @11:55AM (#41942609) Journal
    One of the things that the article does not seem to mention is any study of areas which will become suitable for growing Arabica beans. All they seem to study are the existing locations. As the climate shifts new areas will open up. For example vineyards are becoming more feasible in the south of England due to climate change. So before I'll believe that coffee is endangered I'd want to see a study confirming that there will be no new areas that are becoming more suitable for coffee growing.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:09PM (#41944737)

    I think we can forget about maple anything if you have coffee plantations in Calgary.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor