If you hate the cost of Starbucks, here is some terrifying news. Rising temperatures associated with climate change could lead arabica coffee, one of the world’s most basic commodities, to extinction in 70 years, a new study has found.
Commercial coffee growers could still cultivate crops on plantations in the right conditions, but the loss of wild arabica’s genetic diversity would make it hard to beat threats like pests and disease.
According to the study, led by researchers at Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in collaboration with scientists in Ethiopia, 38 to 99.7% of the areas suitable for wild arabica growth could disappear by 2080 if rising temperature predictions pan out. The researchers used computer modeling to analyze the influence of rising temperatures on wild arabica. The result was a “profoundly negative influence” on the wild arabica population.
“The extinction of arabica coffee is a startling and worrying prospect,” said lead author Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at the Royal Botanic Gardens. He added that these predictions were “conservative,” since large-scale deforestation, which is happening in coffee regions such as Ethiopia and South Sudan, was not taken into consideration. Pests, diseases, flowering times, and bird reduction were also not included, which could also contribute to a larger risk of extinction.
About 4.86 million tons of cultivated arabica coffee are produced every year, accounting for more than 60% of global coffee production and valued at $16 billion in wholesale trade. This trade is crucial to the economies of Ethiopia, Brazil, Sudan, and other countries, so the extinction of the crop could have devastating effects on the global economy.
Image CC licensed by Kenneth Hong: Arabica coffee beans