Could Climate Change Kill Coffee?

Katherine DeFrancesco, Contributor

Climate change is currently taking its toll on plants, notably coffee. As climate change produces higher temperatures and more extreme weather such as intense rainfall and droughts, coffee crops have reduced significantly in yield.

Coffee crops have adapted over the years to very specific climates. While a rise of one degree Fahrenheit in temperature or a more rainy season may go unnoticed by humans, it could be a dramatic change for coffee plants. These specialized plants cannot tolerate unseasonably high temperatures, nor are they hearty enough  to handle intense weather.

Climate change has also expanded the habitat of a predator of the coffee plant. Because of higher temperatures, the coffee berry borer, a insect that feeds on coffee plants, can survive in more extensive territories. This could mean significantly lower yields for the coffee plant as well.

A study published by Nature Plants found that Ethiopia, one of the world’s largest coffee growers, could lose 60% of their farming land by the end of the century. Other countries such as Costa Rica and India have seen significant declines in the past years, as well.

According to CNN, by 2050 the demand for coffee will have doubled, but the land that it can be farmed on will have been cut in half. Prices are already on the rise, as brands like Maxwell House and Folgers have increased the retail prices of coffee by almost twenty-five percent from the start of the decade.

Besides the amount of coffee produced, the quality of the coffee could be hindered by climate change as well. The quality of coffee is higher in cooler temperatures because the plant ripens slower – allowing acidity and sweetness to develop over time.

The coffee problem extends beyond thousands of people no longer having a cup of coffee in the morning – it threatens the economy of countries that rely on the production of the crop. Growing coffee is a huge source of income, and with the reduction of the coffee crops comes a blow to the economies of smaller countries.

Climate change is a growing issue that is proving to be extensive across all aspects of everyday life. Coffee is just one species that could be threatened by climate change – the issue is far more broad than one singular plant. Though it is a small change compared to the expansive threats of climate change, hopefully the lack of coffee will positively inspire everyone to take a greater role in their environmental consciousness.