Sure, the ice caps might be melting, hundreds of animals could go extinct in the coming decades, and coral reefs might soon be a thing of the past, but at least we can enjoy a nice cool beer while climate change wreaks havoc on our planet, right? We wouldn’t count on it.
A new study, published today in Nature Plants, has estimated that extreme drought and heatwaves sparked by climate change could dramatically decrease barley yields across the world. As a result, we will see global beer shortages, sharp falls in beer consumption, and surges in beer prices.
Researchers estimate unmitigated climate change has the potential to slash global beer consumption by up to 16 percent, leading to beer prices doubling on average. Even in less extreme scenarios, beer consumption could fall by 4 percent and prices will rise by 15 percent. It also looks like beer prices will spike the most in “relatively affluent and historically beer-loving countries" such as Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Germany.
“Many foods will experience a decline in yield, but luxury goods will be more sensitive to climate change impacts,” lead UK author Dabo Guan, professor of climate change economics at the University of East Anglia, told IFLScience.
“For example, barley," he added. "Only a small fraction of good quality barley is used to make beer, about 17 percent. The rest is grown to feed animals. It’s this good quality stuff usually used for beer that will be much more vulnerable when the effects of climate change happen.”
To figure this out, the researchers modeled the impacts of extreme climate events, driven by climate change, on barley yield in 34 world regions. They then looked at how the resulting barley supply stock would affect the supply chain and change the price of beer in each region.
Scientists spend a lot of time studying how climate change could affect crop yields – and rightly so. It’s estimated that climate change could cause over half a million deaths due to poor diet by 2050, namely among poorer populations of low and middle-income countries. While the effects of beer shortages are undoubtedly less disastrous – and in many respects could be considered a very “first world problem” – everyday life in the developing world will have to undergo some big changes if climate change is left unchecked.
Professor Guan explained: “When climate change really takes effect, poorer populations in developing countries will suffer the most due to problems with food security. In richer developed countries, we may also experience some hunger, but it’s our lifestyles that will be seriously compromised.
“If there’s an alcoholic beverage shortage, we may suffer from social stability issues, such as 'the Black Market.' Whenever there is a shortage, illegal activities can often happen.”