The world of 2050 isn’t only going to alter our landscapes drastically, but it’s also going to attack the world’s most beloved beverage, all thanks to climate change. A new study published in the PLOS One journal predicts that, by 2050, the land most suitable for coffee plantations will reduce by 50 percent. The study looked at 14 models based upon three varying degrees of temperature change: one where we restrict our greenhouse gas emissions and maintain the global increase in temperature at 1.6°C, one where it goes up to 2.4°C, and the worst one where it even crosses 4°C . And it was found that even in the best case scenario, the world is still going to lose 50 percent of its coffee growing land. The study is backed by the effect of change in rainfall pattern over the PH levels and texture of soil.
Arabica (Coffea Arabica) and Robusta (Coffea Canephora) are the two major coffee species that help the world deal with Monday blues. Out of these, Arabica is more sensitive and vulnerable to climate change. A study by Royal Botanical Gardens, London projects that Arabica can even be extinct by 2080. This list also includes the wild relative of Coffea Arabica, the first ever coffee to have been cultivated in the world. Apart from these, over 60 percent of wild coffee species are already facing the threat of extinction because of climate change, pest attacks, and deforestation. The present situation is such that out of the top five coffee growing countries, Ethiopia is now fifth even after being coffee’s native home. But the situation will still be offset to some extent since countries like China, Argentina, United States and Uruguay are going to see an increase in lands suitable for coffee production.
Over 125 million people are dependent upon coffee production as a source of livelihood. Therefore, the impact isn’t simply going to affect the morning cravings of the working world, but also the work of the world. As per the Fairtrade Foundation, 80 percent of the coffee sold globally is produced on farms smaller than 2 hectares, and therefore, only a handful of these farmers earn fair wages. In Uganda only, over 1.7 million households depend upon coffee production, as per the Uganda Coffee Development Authority. And since coffee requires to be planted years in advance of harvest, resultant crop losses can render the farmers more vulnerable to poverty.
A proposed solution by scientists and farmers involves crossbreeding in order to generate hardier traits to ensure its survival in a tougher climate. But as per Charles Brummer, director of the plant breeding center at the University of California, breeding takes time and since the climate is also constantly changing, the breeders might not be able to keep up with its pace. Adding to the woes of declining potent coffee farmlands, Michael Hoffman, former executive director at the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, warns that with an increase in temperature, pest populations might also increase which would further reduce the output. Another solution suggested by the study is simply ensuring sufficiently dense canopies over coffee plants to protect it from excess sunlight and maintain an average temperature suitable for its survival. This practice is called agroforestry which helps protect looser soil from the risks of erosion during floods and even protect the plants from pest attacks.
In drastically changing landscapes, the world requires its coffee to hold onto its remaining sanity. But as the temperatures rise, the capacity for coffee to grow would keep on reducing. Therefore, big coffee companies are already ensuring that their supply of coffee doesn’t get hampered by reaching down in the supply chain. Starbucks has even procured a 600 acre plot in 2013 to study coffee and figure out ways to save our beloved coffee.