Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world by volume consumed, and yields of its main ingredient: barley, decrease sharply in the event of extreme weather
A team of agricultural specialists and climate economists published a new study Monday in the Journal of Nature Plants, found the connection between extreme weather conditions, such as drought or heat, and the global consumption of beer.
Fig.2 | Average barley yield shocks during extreme event years
Researchers from the University of East Anglia warned that global beer supply could be in jeopardy due to extreme weather conditions affecting the production of barley — the main ingredient in beer.
Their computer models found barley yields could plunge 3% to 17% across the world by the end of the century, which would trigger a 16% decline in global beer consumption and cause beer prices to inflate massively.
The report shows that the consumption of barley, by country, is used primarily for animal feed, with only 17% of the crop used for brewing.
Fig.3 | Barley consumption by country and globally under future climate change
Researchers said that declining yields could have a disproportionate impact on beer production, making a cheap cold beer unaffordable for the working class.
“We made the assumption that farmers may be able to adapt to gradual changes, but it may be harder to adapt to more extreme events,” said Steven Davis, the study’s lead author, who studies environmental impacts of global trade at the University of Calfornia, Irvine.
To model extreme events, the team identified droughts and heat waves that might co-occur during growing seasons.
“The aim of the study is not to encourage people to drink more today,” Dabo Guan, a co-author of the study and professor of climate change economics at the University of East Anglia, told CNN. Instead, the team wanted to show how volatile weather patterns could impact the quality of life for the working class.
In the event of a substantial barley crop failure, computer models show beer prices could double worldwide, and the US would see a 20% collapse in beer consumption — that would be equivalent to approximately 10 billion cans of beer. Places like Ireland could fair worse; beer price inflation would add an extra $21 per six-pack.
Fig. 4| Changes in beer consumption and price under increasingly severe drought-heat events
“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,” said Guan.
The study’s co-author also said global beer shortage would have the most impact on the working class, thus triggering significant social and political consequences for governments.
The Wall Street Journal said brewers and farmers had been geoengineering barley to increase resilience to get ahead of climate changes.
“We have seen there are changes that are already happening,” said Jess Newman, director of U.S. Agronomy at AB InBev, which is currently testing new barley strains among its 4,500 farmers. “We are proactively investing in breeding and crop management to make sure our growers can thrive in the new world.”
Bart Watson, the chief economist for Brewers Association, told WSJ that such extreme effects were unlikely considering current efforts to protect beer’s ingredients. “Not to underrate the challenges of climate change but we’d anticipate the barley system will continue to evolve and adapt,” he said.
The study raises important questions about how the global food supply chain is going to adapt to climate change.
President Trump on Sunday told CBS’ 60 Minutes in an interview that climate change is ‘not a hoax’ but suggested that humans might not cause it.
Trump also said that climate change scientists have a “political agenda,” as the study above is certainly based on fearmongering propaganda towards the working class. Otherwise, why would climate researchers examine beer? Most working class folk wash down their gig-economy woes with a cheap cold beer — what happens if climate change causes price inflation? As explained above, a beer shortage would lead to societal upheavals.
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