Some people might turn a blind eye when it comes to climate change but, if it were to result in their daily coffee ritual being snatched away from them, they may well start paying attention. But global warming could indeed be threatening our global coffee supply. The news comes from a perhaps surprising source, none other than mega-coffee chain Starbucks.
The company's sustainability director Jim Hanna told the Guardian in a telephone interview that farmers are already bearing witness to the impacts of climate change, with events like hurricanes impacting crops.
He said Starbucks is getting ready for the possible impacts climate change could have on global coffee supplies.
"What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean," he told the Guardian.
"If we sit by and wait until the impacts of climate change are so severe that is impacting our supply chain then that puts us at a greater risk," he added. "From a business perspective we really need to address this now, and to look five, 10, and 20 years down the road."
Hanna isn’t the first to see the impacts of climate change on coffee production by any stretch of the imagination, however. A recent study by scientists at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), said climate change will help spread the biggest pest threat to coffee crops, a pest called the coffee berry borer. The scientists have forecast that by 2050, populations of the coffee berry borer will increase in southwest Ethiopia, the region where arabica coffee originates from.
In Kenya, the areas that will face most damage include Mt. Kenya, and the Embu and Meru districts. The scientists also predict more problems with coffee berry borer for growers in Uganda, especially around the eastern side of Lake Victoria and Mt. Elgon, where most of the country’s arabica coffee comes from. And even plantations in Rwanda and Burundi will not be spared.
They predict that future Arabica plantations in East Africa will need to move to higher ground, though that in itself isn’t a problem-free solution. Africa’s arable land is expected to shrink by 60 to 90 million hectares as the impact of climate change sets in. Soil conditions at higher altitudes might also not be suitable for arabica coffee. As a solution, the scientists suggest shade trees are introduced into coffee plantations, as a way to help mitigate the impacts of rising temperatures.
The map below shows the future distribution of the coffee berry borer.
Coffee Image: Flickr - Josh Liba