From rising sea levels to extreme weather and growing food insecurity, the effects of climate change are frightening. For beer drinkers, there might be another pressing worry to add to that list.
In a recent study published in Nature Plants, researchers found that extreme weather, including droughts and intense heat waves, will become more common in many barley-growing regions worldwide. This could lead to dramatic decreases in barley yields, resulting in global beer shortages and a spike in prices.
The team, which included Steven J. Davis, an environmental scientist from the University of California Irvine, and a group of researchers in China, found that “Average yield losses range from 3 percent to 17 percent depending on the severity of the conditions.”
The effect on beer? In the worst case scenario, this could result in a 16 percent global decline in beer consumption by 2100, with beer prices doubling on average around the globe. In a less severe scenario, beer consumption could fall by 4 percent, with a price increase of 15 percent.
Bart Watson, Chief Economist, Brewers Association, provides a strong counter-argument, however.
Watson notes that production methods have continually evolved throughout beer’s 13,000-year history. “Although climate change certainly poses future supply chain challenges for beer,” he writes, “the beer industry is well positioned to evolve even as the global climate shifts.”