Not my cup o' Joe! Five fave foods threatened by climate change.
Climate change, and humanity's role in the process that is currently occurring, can be a little abstract sometimes.
The best way to convince people of the impact of even a two-degree rise in global temperatures is to relate it to something they treasure.
We're guessing our readers would rather move to Mars than live in a world without one of these five favourite foods or beverages. They may not be in danger of extinction, but there's some big and not very welcome changes coming.
It almost looks like the weather gods have a specific grudge against the world’s favourite bean – not just because coffee is threatened, but because of the sheer variety of ways climate change is using to kill it off.
First off, heavier rain patterns in central America spurred the growth of a kind of “rust” fungus, killing coffee bushes by spreading over their leaves to block photosynthesis. In Central America, 40 per cent of the crop was hit over six years, and drier weather and strong winds spread the more abundant spores into areas that hadn’t suffered from the fungus before.
Then, down in Brazil, a massive drought last season drove down production by as much as a fifth. The industry bounced back a bit, but the International Panel on Climate change says with global temperatures rising, an increase of just 2.5 C by 2050 could see production down by two thirds in some parts of Brazil, and totally eradicated in others.
THEN, to crown it all, warmer temperatures are allowing certain pests such as the berry borer beetle to thrive in coffee zones, yet another hit to the bean’s fortunes.
Countries not traditionally known for coffee such as Vietnam, China and India may be able to pick up the slack, but globally, coffee production could be down by more than 30 per cent by 2020.
It’s not all bad news: It’s unlikely that ALL coffee will go extinct, and some organizations are breeding new varieties designed to be more adaptable to the changed climate.
But in the medium term, aside from the devastating economic impact on millions of people who depend on coffee for their livelihoods, what it means for people in Canada could be higher prices and, since some of the best varieties are most at risk, a lousier taste.
Yes, chocolate. Like coffee, cocoa plants, aren’t going to go extinct. But in a warming world (with average temperatures increasing by 2C by 2050), the world’s growing areas are going to be badly shaken up.
In West Africa, Ghana and the Ivory coast account for 53 per cent of world cocoa production, and a 2011 report revealed the expected global temperature rise will make large amounts of land currently used for cocoa cultivation unsuitable for it.
Now, like with coffee, the experts say other areas will become suitable over the same period, and current growers in at-risk zones can blunt the impact by changing the way they farm – but that costs money most won’t have, and while it’s hard to tell the shape of it from 2014, there’s a lot of economic hurt in store for the farmers.
As for the consumers, an unstable supply could mean unstable prices, but there’s another problem: Skyrocketing demand in industrializing nations like China, where sales tripled over four years.
New growers in Asia are struggling to keep up with the demand, so either big price hikes are in store, or they’ll have to use cheaper, and less tasty, substitutes for cocoa butter in their products.
Back to the breakfast table, more bad news: Climate change is going to hit the world’s pig herds pretty badly, and for a glimpse at what’s to come, we can look to the incredible drought of 2012 in the United States.
Lower rainfall (half of all U.S. counties were in a drought emergency at one point) means lower grain and soybean yields. That’s already a big problem for global food prices, but the knock-on effect means less food for pig herds.
Farmers were forced to scale back their stock, and similar dry weather in Europe prompted the UK’s pork producers association to warn of higher pork prices.
Brazil and China are also vulnerable, and we’re still waiting to see the full events of the former nation’s extensive drought this past summer, but as climate change brings less predictable (and warmer) weather, expect this to be a more common occurance.
Pork shortages may not necessarily mean higher prices, at least not per pack.
A massive virus outbreak over the last few months prompted supermarkets to quietly reduce the amount of bacon in a particular pack. Of course, that still means less bang for your buck, and some experts say even when the market re-stabilizes, pack sizes could still stay smaller.
NEXT PAGE: Beer lovers, it gets worse.