Climate Change Could Lead To Global Beer Shortage


He pointed to a fall in barley yields in the United Kingdom this spring as proof of climate change's effect on the crop. Malted barley gives beer much of its flavour, yet if it is too hot or there isn't enough water during critical growing stages, the malt can not be extracted. Although the frequency and severity of drought and heat extremes increase substantially in the range of future climate scenarios, the vulnerability of beer supply to such extremes has never been assessed.

The report, released Monday, details how the world's most popular alcoholic drink is under threat as extreme heatwaves and droughts will increasingly damage global barley crops. In addition to this, lesser supply of beer can preeminently impact the availability and economic viability of the beverage, leading to unreasonable price increases in some nations. This in turn would ultimately result in "dramatic" falls in beer consumption and a rise in beer prices. The greatest losses in barley yields are predicted to occur in tropical areas like Central and South America, and Central Africa.

But the overall trend is clear: at a global level, barley yields will at best - under the optimistic scenario - decrease by 3%.

Drinkers in the United Kingdom would be forced to cut back their consumption by 25% in a worst-case climate change scenario, and in the U.S., 14% fewer bottles would be opened.

Many companies realize the risks of climate on barley, 17 percent of which is used to make beer. This means declining yields will hit beer production extra hard.

In the worst case estimate, this could result in a global beer consumption reduction of 16-percent, which works out to 29 billion liters.

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So if other effects of climate change like rising temperatures and more severe storms aren't enough to get everyone's attention, maybe this will.

The researchers suggest changes in barley supply due to extreme events will affect the barley available for making beer differently in each region, as the allocation of barley among livestock feed, beer brewing, and other uses will depend on region-specific prices and demand flexibilities as different industries seek to maximise profits. This consumption, however, varies greatly across major beer-producing countries. We predict a 32% drop in Argentina, for example.

Similar methods have been used for many studies on staple foods such as wheat and rice, as well as wine - but not previously for beer.

The new study, then, "raises a lot of important question about how our food supply is going to adapt to a changing climate", she said.

Rather, their goal was to illustrate how personal the effects of global warming could actually be.