Climate Change Could Destroy 88 Percent Of Latin America's Coffee-Growing Regions By 2050


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Mornings are about to get a lot tougher. Marian Weyo/Shutterstock

Climate change is doing some strange things to the planet, and we don’t just mean amping up hurricanes and fueling wildfires. Alcohol is getting worse, and more expensive. Siberia is becoming explosive – quite literally. Economies will crash and the North Pole will end up in Europe.

Coffee is also going to become incredibly expensive and far less available too, if the new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study is anything to go by. According to an international team of researchers, not only are key pollinators that are responsible for the spread of the coffee plant dropping like flies, the areas normally used to grow the crop are becoming too meteorologically harsh.


Ultimately, this means that Latin America could lose about 88 percent of its coffee crop areas by as soon as 2050.

It’s long been acknowledged that increasing atmospheric temperatures will severely hamper the agricultural sector. Even with genetic modification technology, crops are simply unable to keep up with the pace of change.

As the team – led by Costa Rica’s Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center – explains, the story of coffee and climate change is a little more complex, though.

Using cutting-edge computer models, the team found that the rising mercury and its associated climatological effects will see some areas become more suitable for growing coffee, whereas for others, the opposite is true. For example, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Venezuela are going to be hit hard, but Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and Costa Rica will have more arable land by 2050.

Coffee farmers are about to take a hit.  Andre Nery/Shutterstock

Overall, 73 to 88 percent of coffee growing areas across the entirety of Latin America will be lost. This represents a “decline 46–76 percent greater than estimated by global assessments” according to the authors of the study.

The same models revealed that the number of bees in the region will fluctuate wildly. Some areas will see marked drops in bee biodiversity, whereas others will see a modest increase.

Importantly though, all coffee-suitable areas will contain at least five different bee species in the future, no matter what horrors climate change may bring. Around 60 percent will contain as many as 10. This suggests that coffee plant pollination will continue, enough to actually support some lucky farmers’ expected losses in certain cases.

Either way, climate change will affect the lives of 100 million people working in the coffee industry – and no-one will suffer more than the farmers themselves. So yes, it will be annoying to shell out more for your flat white on the way to work, but at least you won’t be made destitute largely thanks to the actions of others.


[H/T: NPR]


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