Coffee and Climate Change—Issues Brewing with Caffeine
Article by Kaitlin Lertora
Photo Courtesy of crossfitoffremont.com
Caffeine has taken a toll on the world, primarily in the form of the coffee bean. It’s there in the morning when a hot shower doesn’t do the trick, and it’s also accessible when we need to stay up to cram for a test. Aside from water, coffee is the world’s leading drink, and its existence is being threatened one day at a time.
There are two primary types of beans: the Arabica and Robusta. Additionally, there are variants of these Arabica beans and in addition to dozens of other less widely produced beans. The main difference between the Robusta and Arabica bean is the caffeine content; Robusta has twice as much caffeine as Arabica, which makes it more bitter and often times less popular. Many people are surprised when they hear coffee is a $30 billion industry and even more so when they hear that Americans collectively consume 400 million cups per day. After hearing this, you can imagine people all over the world are alarmed when they hear climate change is threatening the production of coffee.
Producing coffee is time-consuming and complex. The coffee seed must be soaked in water for at least 24 hours until it can be planted, after which the process of growing the plant can be lengthy. People should begin to appreciate the time it takes coffee farmers to grow beans for people all over the world, because soon enough people may no longer have the luxury of walking down the street to a coffee shop.
Coffee farmers have expressed concern over the rising temperatures and sporadic rainfall patterns which have begun to hinder the major areas where coffee can be grown. Researchers have determined the Arabica bean will take the first hit in terms of suffering—this will be problematic because it is favored by three quarters of the population. People may not be seeing a drastic change in price for coffee now, but some reports have estimated it will double in price within the next few decades (as if Starbucks isn’t expensive enough already!).
Many farmers are shying away from genetically modified crops and produce because of the widespread negative effect on people. You can imagine their concern for coffee’s future existence when scientists suggested genetically modifying the infamous bean so that it can flourish in different parts of the world. In doing so, they would be able to determine which environment would be the most stable for the bean to grow in. Keep an eye out for more information in the news. People will do whatever “beans” necessary to save their favorite drink.