Dean Hutton / Bloomberg on Getty Images
Research released this week predicts that beer prices could double as global temperatures rise and the weather become more volatile as barley shortage has caused a sensation in the global media. Twitter and major news agencies spread the terrible headlines widely. But brewers and barley breeders say, do not drown your worries yet: you have a plan.
The newspaper, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Plants warns of "serious supply disruptions" from barley. The authors predict that global drought and heatwave global yields could fall 17 percent in the future and that beer prices could rise disastrously.
However, some authors of the beer industry consider the results exaggerated. "Although climate change is a cause for concern, this study is not a good indicator of what will happen in the real world," says Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, a Boulder-based trading group. Colo Watson believes that industry, especially the agricultural sector, will adapt as the planet's climate changes, thus avoiding significant impacts.
Also, Dwight Little, president of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, represents wheat and barley farmers in Idaho, the country's highest barley-growing state.
"If the warming happens the way it says it, then I have the impression that it will come in small, incremental increases over a long period of time, allowing farmers to change," he says.
In their paper, a team of 10 scientists from China, the United Kingdom, the United States and Mexico warns this crop damage caused by worsening droughts and heatwaves could cause global beer production to drop 16 percent. This will lead to an increase in world beer prices, which may double on average. The study also warns that a strong crop yield will hit the brewers disproportionately. This is because ranchers who feed their animals with barley have to compete with beer producers for a limited supply of grain. And under such economic conditions, beer will be lost.
"Our analysis showed us that we are likely to prioritize food over the luxury beverage," Steven Davis, co-author of the newspaper and associate professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine, tells The Salt. "In many cases, affluent consumers will simply pay more for their beer, but someone has to give up barley, and it looks like the beer industry as a whole is going to get by less."
Overall, consumption could fall by 29 billion liters. That's about as much beer Americans drank in 2011, according to the study.
The study confirms earlier findings on crops and climate change. A 2017 study from the University of California, Davis, predicted that higher spring and summer temperatures could reduce the yields of many grains important to beer by the end of the century. He predicted that winter wheat yields would decline by 21 percent, winter barley by 17.3 percent and spring barley by 33.6 percent.
The new natural plants headlines in major news agencies on Monday: "Climate change could double the cost of a beer," Wired ; and "Heat and drought could threaten world beer supply," warned the The New York Times the same day.
But Greg Koch is not particularly worried.
"I saw the headlines, but I did not take the Clickbait," says Koch, co-founder of Stone Brewing Co., San Diego. Koch is deeply concerned about the many ways humans affect the planet negatively, but he is a little frustrated that humans have a relatively insignificant consequence of human activity – beer shortages.
"It's a bit shortsighted," Koch adds:
Little of the Idaho Grain Producers Association does not believe that barley farmers are hit as hard as Davis and his co-authors predicted.
"There are many things that farmers can do to adapt to the changing climate," Little says. Farmers routinely deal with "extreme" weather conditions, often by adjusting their planting schedules. In some cases, where extreme heat or drought threatens a culture on irrigated land, farmers can often simply apply more water, which can compensate for the heat effects.
"I just do not see that we can not produce as much as breweries" Little says. "
In their research, Davis and his colleagues studied extreme weather events, especially droughts and heatwaves, which could increasingly occur simultaneously – a double Agricultural crop hit Davis says that if people do not significantly reduce their fossil fuel consumption – the leading cause of planet warming pollution – weather events are so extreme that they occur only once every 100 years, as often as every 24 months, says Davis.
"And that's just the frequency of them," he says. "The severity is likely to increase as well."
As far as the impact on the beer industry is concerned, there is an important caveat to research – and One Davis explains in advance: In his modeling, he and his co-authors all took factors other than the Earth's climate e remain stable in the future.
"All of our analysis is based on the world as it exists today, and therefore we do not include any projections of economic growth or population growth in these results." Davis says. The idea is to isolate and better understand the specific effects of warming without making the factors more difficult.
The UC Davis Study 2017 did more or less the same thing.
Watson of the Brewers Association believes that these assumptions have led to exaggerated effects of global warming on beer production. He says the research "builds up a set of unrealistic assumptions." Barley production is already shifting, according to the US Department of Agriculture, quoted by Watson in a recent blog post, rising in Canada, indicating a northern shift in latitudes that could remain cooler in a warmer future.
Davis agrees with these adjustment efforts In this way, the barley industry could be protected from any impact, but it sticks to the conclusion of the paper.
"We have already made great strides in creating new crops and producing more out of less land and in places where conditions can be tough," he says. "Even now, it seems hard to guess that they will develop a variety of barley that can withstand the extreme weather events."
Davis has contributed to numerous other studies that analyze the causes and effects of climate change: meat production in Brazil and deadly air pollution in China and mass mortality from heatwaves in India. In fact, Davis and his colleagues in the introduction to their analysis point out that a price increase for beer is "not the most worrying impact of future climate change".
When asked if he and his colleagues want to build on the new findings Further research, says Davis, he is not sure.
"We are interested in beer, but we also do not want to make that the core of our efforts to mitigate climate change," he says.