Published: Tue, October 16, 2018
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Hot Planet, No Cold Ones? Climate Change Could Cause Beer Shortage

Hot Planet, No Cold Ones? Climate Change Could Cause Beer Shortage

Less than 20 percent of the world's barley is made into beer.

Barley growing regions including the northern Great Plains of the USA, the Canadian prairies, Europe, Australia, and the Asian steppe were all likely to experience more frequent droughts in years to come as a result of global warming, the study in the journal Nature Plants reported. China could also see a drop in consumption and Davis "joked" the US could see a decline in areas such as keg stands and beer pong tournaments, as six packs could rise the equivalent of an extra $20 in Ireland and other countries.

Just 17 percent of the world's barley crops are harvested to brew alcohol, while most of it goes to feed livestock.

Key brewing nations are forecast to be among the worst hit, including Belgium, the Czech Republic and Ireland.

The findings come a week after a dire United Nations report described the consequences of risky levels of climate change including worsening food and water shortages, heat waves, sea level rise, and disease.

"Decreases in the global supply of barley lead to proportionally larger decreases in barley used to make beer", said lead author Dabo Guan, a professor of climate change economics and the University of East Anglia in Britain.

Britain would also get thirsty during a severe barley crunch, with consumption dropping by up to 1.3 billion litres, and the price of a pint doubling. "If you don't want that to happen - if you still want a few pints of beer - then the only way to do it is to mitigate climate change".

Several scientists who weren't part of this study said it was sound and perhaps more effective way of communicating the dangers of global warming.

Guan and colleagues calculated the impact of severe weather events under different future climate scenarios - ranging from a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to our current "business as usual" trajectory - on yields in the world's 34 most important barley-growing regions.

The next step was to estimate how these "barley supply shocks" would affect the production and price of beer in each region.

Global warming is likely to cause a major drop in global yields of barley - a vital ingredient for brewers.

"Although some attention has been paid to the potential impacts of climate change on luxury crops such as wine and coffee, the impacts on beer have not been carefully evaluated", he said, according to ScienceDaily. He added that "there is something fundamental in the cross-cultural appreciation of beer".

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