Is your morning cup of coffee in danger… from climate change?
By Lana Turnbull
Climate change is at the heart of the national debate concerning a broad spectrum of issues, from our energy future, to the regulation of industry, and how weather patterns are impacting everything from municipal budgets to commodity prices. It’s something we might think about theoretically, no matter on which side of the issue we stand, but few of us would suspect that it could be a factor in the survival of the nation’s most popular morning habit…that cup of coffee. But is it?
According to the International Coffee Organization, “climatic variability is the main factor responsible for changes in coffee yields all over the world,” as reported in an article in The New York Times in March of last year. Of particular concern are the yields of the Arabica beans, grown in Latin America, which have fallen in recent years, some scientists believe primarily due to weather changes such as unpredictable rains and rising temperatures. The reduction in supply has resulted in higher coffee prices in supermarkets and coffee shops in the U.S. and Europe.
If you can’t face the day without your first cup of joe, don’t panic. The coffee industry is not about to dry up or reach it’s peak any time soon, but the trend toward reduced yields is worth looking at. It’s unclear whether changes in the planet’s climate should receive all of the blame. Some other factors are the high price of fertilizer in Columbia, and labor shortages and devalued currency in Costa Rica, two of the largest producers of coffee in Central America.
Fortunately, coffee, unlike oil is a renewable resource. By increasing production now, some “coffee” scientists say that a coffee crisis in the future can be averted. Agronomists can teach growers to control pests and develop plants that are more suited to the changing weather conditions.
So what’s the big deal then? Is concern about global warming and it’s potential effect on your morning cup of coffee “much ado about nothing?” I don’t think so. I think it is a wake-up call (pun intended) for us to realize how interconnected all of us who share this planet really are. It might be hard to get our heads around the decrease of the polar ice cap, or the rise in sea levels around the world, but most of us would definitely notice if the cupboard was bare when we went to get the coffee for the morning pot.
What this says to me is that no matter who we are and where we live, whether we are rich, poor or in between, whether we are educated or not, and no matter our nationality, we all occupy the same planet. What we do anywhere around this spinning globe affects us all. It’s something to think about, because we all occupy the same home. If we all don’t get serious about taking care of it, we could be in big trouble. We can’t just move to another planet down the celestial block. At least not yet…