Climate change is such a massive problem, with such potentially catastrophic ramifications, many people have trouble getting their heads around the danger we face.
So let’s put things in simpler terms.
Climate change means you’ll be paying more for coffee, every day, for possibly the rest of your life.
And it may not taste as good.
“U.S. consumers should expect much more expensive and lower-quality coffee because of rising temperatures, extreme rainfalls, and higher frequency of severe droughts,” said Titus O. Awokuse, chairman of the department of agricultural, food and resource economics at Michigan State University.
“Recent studies show that up to 60% of high-quality coffee species are at risk of extinction because of the negative impacts of climate change,” he said.
There. Got your attention now?
Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s a consumer issue.
The cost of food is rising. That’s partly due to supply and labor issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it’s also a reflection of how our planet’s changing climate is affecting crops, livestock and other food sources.
“Prices reflect supply and demand, and if production costs rise or supply becomes more constrained, prices will rise,” said Carolyn Dimitri, an associate professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University.
“Climate change is likely to increase production costs and reduce supply, at least in some years,” she predicted, adding that she would be “horrified” if decent coffee became harder to come by.
“I will pay just about any price for my coffee,” Dimitri said, echoing my own thoughts and, I suspect, those of millions of other coffee drinkers.
Coffee futures recently jumped to the highest level in four years, due in part to extreme weather in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer.
Factor in pandemic-related supply issues, and the cost of coffee beans has risen more than 40% so far this year.
Because caffeine heavyweights such as Starbucks and Nestle buy their coffee supplies well in advance, not all dealers of our daily fix will be raising prices immediately.
But some are already warning of higher retail costs.
J.M. Smucker, maker of Folgers and Dunkin’ ground coffee, said it has no choice but to jack up prices. “We are seeing inflationary costs impacting the entire fiscal year,” the company’s chief financial officer said during a recent conference call.
Coffee is just one item on supermarket shelves that’s getting more expensive because of climate change.
Harsh weather is driving up the cost of sugar. Wheat prices are now at the highest level in nearly eight years.
Corn, soybeans, avocados, almonds, honey, citrus — all are more expensive.
And this isn’t just in America. According to the United Nations, food prices worldwide were up by 33% in August from a year before.
“Climate change is a contributor because climate variability, extreme events and sustained droughts in certain regions can reduce yields and hence supplies,” said Sanford Eigenbrode, a professor of entomology at the University of Idaho.
This isn’t to say we’re doomed. Some experts believe global food production will adjust to a changing climate.
“Climate change will not affect agriculture the same way in all parts of the world,” said Ellen Bruno, an agricultural economist at UC Berkeley. “We have a lot of adaptive capacity.”
In other words, crops that start failing in some parts of the world may thrive in others.
The sweet aroma of high-quality is at risk, said Titus O. Awokuse, chairman of the department of agricultural, food and resource economics at Michigan State University.
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