How Climate Change Will Affect A Large Sector Of Consumers: Beer Drinkers

Beer fans need not be told that barley is important to the brewing process. Put simply, no one’s going to be cracking open a cold one with ANYBODY without it. But, sadly, barley has a lot of trouble growing during heat waves and droughts, which are both happening more and more often as a result of climate change. The rising temperature of our planet could pose a serious threat to all ales, lagers, and stouts— perhaps this will be what finally mobilizes our world to fix this problem!

Collin Watters, the head of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, told Mashable in an interview:

The extremes are detrimental to just about every crop — but barley is near and dear to just about everyone — or at least people who like beer.

A new study, published by scientists from The United States, United Kingdom, and China, analyzed the effects different degrees of climate change regulation would have on the world’s production of barley. For instance, the study, published in Nature Plants this past Monday, October 15, claimed that if the countries of the world continued on their current course without any regard for climate change (what scientists refer to as the “business as usual” model) the earth’s production of barley would shrink 17% by the century’s end.

Obviously, the lack of barley would have economic consequences. Perhaps most notably, the scientists predict that “today’s average six-pack in the U.S. would cost around $16,” not taking inflation into account. In Ireland, where beer is currently quite plentiful, prices could surge by 200% or more.

Nathaniel Mueller, one of the study’s co-authors who also studies environmental change at the University of California Irvine, told Mashable:

Prices really skyrocket in a high-emissions world…At the end of the day, we’re really dependent upon favorable weather conditions, and farmers have located in places where conditions tend to be favorable. As the climate changes around them, they’ll be increasingly exposed to these extreme events.

Andreas Prein, a “climate and weather extremes” researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research who wasn’t involved with the study, isn’t surprised by its results. The results of climate change have been fairly consistent with our predictions thus far:

We have a high certainty of how things are changing…You get strong rainfall in extremes, or you get nothing. Floods and droughts — both are not good for farmers.

And according to Watters, it’s not just about growing more barley. Farmers must also be able to produce a specific, high-quality strain that has trouble in hotter weather.

Generally, the hotter and drier the climate is, that normally indicates higher protein. And that is bad for making beer.

The good news? Scientists believe that if the countries of the Earth take action within the next two decades, our beer is pretty safe. According to coverage of the study, “under low greenhouse gas emission scenarios, barley crops — and ultimately beer prices — are only impacted in minor ways.” The necessary changes would be very difficult to negotiate politically, but perhaps the technological innovations necessary to save our world will be remembered as one of the greatest human adventures of all time. 

Prein said it best:

It’s in our hands what future we want to see.

H/T – Mashable, Buzzfeed