Coffee Lovers Despair, Declines in Coffee Linked to Climate Change

Photo credit: dyobmit/Flickr

While getting ready for work this morning, before I had time to grab my daily cup of joe, I heard a news report that jolted me awake faster than any shot of caffeine could: the world may be close to reaching “peak coffee” levels. The culprit? Climate change.

While most people are familiar with the concept of peak oil — the point at which we hit a peak in global oil production — the idea of “peak coffee” is harder to understand. Unlike oil, which is a finite resource, coffee should be a “renewable” resource, right? Just plant more.

The answer is not quite so simple. Coffee trees it seems are quite fussy, requiring just the right mix of temperature and rainfall to produce a good yield. When this delicate balance is thrown off by changes in weather patterns, coffee production drops and prices climb.

According to the Marketplace radio report:

Places like Colombia have seen their coffee production really just decline pretty dramatically since 2007. And a lot of what’s happening seems to be related to weather issues. So they’re seeing unusual rainfall, they’re seeing unusual temperatures. These things are not good for coffee beans; especially the very finicky, the very precious arabica bean is not interested in big weather changes.

The New York Times adds:

Average temperatures in Colombia’s coffee regions have risen nearly one degree in 30 years, and in some mountain areas the increase has been double that, says Cenicafé, the national coffee research center. Rain in this area was more than 25 percent above average in the last few years.

Is climate change to blame? Many say yes.

While all this is bad news for us coffee lovers, it could be devastating for the 25 million farmers worldwide who depend on growing coffee for their economic livelihood.

After you send a note to Congress telling them let the Environmental Protection Agency do its job of controlling carbon pollution, I suggest stocking up on your preferred brand of shade grown coffee while you still can.

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Published: April 25, 2011