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Climate Change and Your Morning Joe

September 12, 2013
Ethiopian women grade coffee beans.

Ethiopian women grade coffee beans.

I’ve blogged previously on the potential impact of climate change on winelivestock, fisheries, and global food production. But I recently ran across a report from National Geographic on the impact of climate change on coffee production (warning: the story was originally published in 2012).

Coffee is the most widely consumed beverage in the world and the second most widely traded commodity (behind oil). But production of coffee—particularly of the Arabica variety favored by consumers—is restricted to a relatively narrow growing range. Generally grown in the upper vegetation ranges of tropical mountains, coffee has few other areas to shift to as climate changes. So as the global climate begins to warm, areas traditionally dedicated to coffee production will become less viable, forcing consumers to either reduce demand or shift to the more hardy (and less tasty) Robusta variety. And for countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda, Colombia and Jamaica, whose economies depend on coffee production for a sizable portion of their export earnings, that could prove disastrous.

Take Ethiopia as an example. As one of the world’s largest coffee producers, coffee accounts for more than 10 percent of government revenue and 25 percent of the country’s export earnings, Ethiopia is highly dependent on global coffee markets. But since 1960, the average temperature in Ethiopia has increased by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s already been reported that drought and erratic rainfall has ground coffee production in the southern part of the country to a halt. If that trend continues, Ethiopia’s coffee production could disappear and the country that gave the world coffee would no longer be able to produce it.

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