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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 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. []
  • 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.

  • Dark Ages (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @11:11AM (#41942261)
    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 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)...
  • 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.

  • 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 [] , 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.

  • 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 fatphil ( 181876 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:19PM (#41943791) Homepage
    No species which large numbers of humans, in globally influential countries, make profit from is in trouble.
  • Re:That's terrible! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by geoskd ( 321194 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:08PM (#41944207)

    How is this sensationalist? Nicaragua has seen a temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius 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.

    Anytime someone makes claims that are designed to create panic, or abnormal behavior without providing immediate evidential support, we call it sensationalism. The entire point of the article was to increase readership, not provide valuable knowledge. The prediction is far more likely to be incorrect than correct, and as such is simply sensationalistic. In my travels, I have never heard anyone provide any compelling evidence to support the idea that a couple of degree average temperature increase would do anything other than cause some extreme weather for a while,

    The first question that comes to mind is: Why would a two degree increase in average temperature kill the plants? If they were that sensitive to temperature, a hot summer day would be the end of them right now. Rainfall could be an explanation, but farmers don't rely on rain as much as you might think, and global warming could just as likely lead to an increased rainfall, in any given area, as a decrease. The article mentions the increase in disease and pest trouble, but these days, the best pest and disease protection doesn't come from genetic diversity so much as from Monsanto, so again, the article is left with that ugly sensationalist after-taste.


  • by MarkRose ( 820682 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:47PM (#41944543) Homepage

    You do realize that some of the best grain growing areas in North America are in the Peace Region of northern Alberta? It's situated about 500 miles north of the US border.

    West of Ontario it's not all trees, rocks, and water.

    Even in the Canadian Sheild there are pockets of amazing top soil that are currently unusable because the growing season is too short, such as the Clay Belt in the Cochrane District of Ontario.

    The shift northward is happening. Ontario and Manitoba are having record corn harvests []. The corn belt has shifted.

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:50PM (#41945001) Homepage

    Why is there no sugar cane production in southern Portugal today?

    I thought it was because cane sugar production couldn't compete with sugar-beets.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.