Climate change effects barley production, global beer supply

Posted October 19, 2018

Countries like Ireland, Estonia and Czech Republic where beer is considered much of a staple will suffer a lot, he believes.

This study follows a recent United Nations report that warned "unprecedented changes" need to be made to combat global warming.

A new worldwide climate and economics study in the journal Nature Plants warns that worsening heat and drought will lower barley yields by 3-17 percent over the 21st century.

Stark warnings about the potential impact of climate change have been issued for years. They used a process-based crop model and a global economic model in order to evaluate the effects of extreme heat and drought under different climate scenarios, from least severe to most severe.

But they added that even average days under global warming conditions will see notable barley crop losses.

Beneath that overall impact, regional differences would be stark.

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The tropical areas of Central America, South America and Africa will bear the brunt of the barley crash, while European countries are projected to experience more moderate changes. Beer cconsumption in China might drop 4.34 billion liters in the most severe climate change events.

In Ireland, a small country with a relatively high per capita beer consumption, prices could go up by as much as 338 percent per bottle. That new study predicting a global beer shortage brought on by global warming doesn't account for all factors.

The researchers found that beer consumption could fall by about a third in Ireland, Belgium, and the Czech Republic and by a quarter in the United Kingdom, while in China, the world's leading consumer of the beverage, it could fall by 9 percent.

The researchers acknowledge that their study has some limitations.

If there ain't no beer in heaven, the same thing might one day be happening on Earth. Then there's the possibility that barley farmers might find ways to adapt.

"This is something I don't want to see happen", he said.

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The Brewers Association, the US trade group, responded to the study by calling it "largely an academic exercise and not one that brewers or beer lovers should lose any sleep over".

Beer is a big user of barley, consuming some 17% of global barley production. "A sufficient beer supply may help with the stability of entertainment and communication in society", Guan said.

Of course, there are those among us who could stand to cut back on beer.

The team's results, published in Nature Plants, show that the future is not looking bright for fans of a pint or two. The impact on beer prices would vary accordingly.

While previous research has looked in detail at what climate change means for essentials like wheat or rice, less attention has been paid to so-called "luxury goods". And, unlike many other food crops, barley grown for beer is required to meet very specific quality parameters.

Caroline Sluyter, program director of the nonprofit advocacy group Oldways Whole Grains Council, said the results of the new study "are in line with other papers".

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