The Surprising and Saddening Impact of Climate Change on Beer
According to a recent report presented at the United Nations – Climate Change is very real and is sure to cause catastrophic changes in the foreseeable future. Flash floods, extreme heat waves, increased poverty – are about to become the order of the day.
If that hasn’t got you scared – then, we’ve got something that strikes a chord with all you fellow beer lovers out there.
According to a recent study published in Nature.com, the production of the world’s best-selling alcoholic drink is about to be significantly impacted by climate change.
Wondering WTH does Climate Change have to do with your Beloved Beer?
Impact of Climate Change on Barley Production & Yield
Well, let us explain. As you beer aficionados know, barley is one of the four main ingredients (the other three being water, yeast, and hops) is a crop that is extremely sensitive to heat and drought. The study had a team of international scientists collaborating to determine the impact of barley scarcity on beer availability and pricing, in the coming years.
The scientists used advanced computer models to predict the future outcomes. They used various scenarios to create a range of results. The worst case scenario being that carbon-di-oxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption continued at the same levels throughout the rest of this century.
The detailed results of the study were published in Nature Plants. Perusing the gist of the study, one can find that the future isn’t all that good for beer lovers.
If the above mentioned severe climatic events were to occur, the yields of global barley crops could drop by a whopping 17%. When barley production drops, beer prices are sure to increase. In some cases, they can even double, which is predicted to drop beer consumption by 16%.
Even if industries, nations and the entire world were to wake up to the effects of climate change and reduce carbon-di-oxide emission and fossil fuel consumption, barley would still bear the brunt of even modest climate change.
In the mild global warming scenario, barley yields could still drop by 3% causing beer consumption to fall by 4% and the prices to increase by 15%.
In the Global Scheme of Barley Consumption – Beer isn’t at the Top
Just a minor quantity of the overall global barley yields – around 17% – is used for making beer. The rest of the barley is mainly used to feed livestock. If barley supplies were to reduce, then the priority would be using the grain to feed animals and putting beer production on the back burner.
Impact of Climate Change on Barley will hit Different Nations Differently
For instance, in Australia, climate change could be a boon. Higher temperatures could make it easy to cultivate barley in some regions. On the contrary, regions like Central Africa, South America, and Central America would be the most hit by climate change.
Similarly, fluctuations in beer prices will also vary depending on the region. Developed and wealthy nations that consume the higher beer per capita will be the ones most hit by the price rise.
Ireland is one of the top nations with high beer consumption per capita and the study states prices in Ireland could shoot by a whopping 338% per bottle. On the other hand, in countries like China where the per capita income is way less, the increase in beer prices could lead to a massive reduction in beer consumption.
Impact of Climate Change on Water Used in Making Beers
That the world is rapidly approaching a water crisis is no new news. Remember the zero-day, in Capetown earlier this year? By the year 2025, around 1.8 billion people will face absolute water scarcity and a major portion of the rest will live under “water-stressed” conditions.
With water scarcity, people will be forced to make significant shifts in the way water is used. The recent water crisis in California meant that craft brewers had to come up with innovative solutions like – making beer from recycled water, digging new wells in the towns, where their breweries are located and so on.
Impact of Climate Change on Hops
A few experts predict that the biggest disaster to beer because of climate change will be to hops and not barley. Since hops are not a consumable crop, it will be dropped down the priority list, when the earth becomes hotter and drier.
Even now, the prices of hops have skyrocketed especially for highly popular varieties like Cascade. This doesn’t mean your favorite brew won’t have flavors like floral, bitter and so on. But, it just means that these flavors will come from other ingredients like gruit and not hops.
Additionally, one of the best benefits of hops is that it’s more than a flavoring agent. It also acts as a preservative. So, when beers lose hops, they are likely to get more synthetic preservatives.
Impact of Climate Change on Yeast
Yeast is one of those micro-organisms that is pretty hard to kill. Climate change will not have much of an impact on yeast, and it will continue doing what it does – eating sugars, releasing gases and converting sugars into alcohol.
As you can see, climate change is not something that belongs to a far-distant future. But, it’s here and is causing major drawbacks in all aspects of life – including your favorite brew!
When we speak of climate change, people often fail to look at the personal impacts. Melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels all seem and feel like far-off threats that have no impact on our day-to-day lives.
But, small changes don’t happen at once. Instead, they tend to sneak up on us. For instance, now a hoppy beer may cost a few bucks extra. But, these little changes keep on piling. And, a decade from today, you may be shocked to find that an IPA or witbeir costs double of the other beers, or they may even stop existing.
If we don’t pay attention right now, some of our finest beers will slip away from us. Sure, climate change has far bigger impacts like the planet dying, but then, we’re getting off track. For us, here, it’s all about the beer!
Isn’t it time, that we all wake up to climate change and demand the right actions from our policymakers and governments? If not for other reasons, at least to preserve our favorite drink?