Brewing truth: Climate doomsayers’ cooked up coffee crisis

Every day, people across the world wake up to news about climate change affecting their lives.  With the seeming randomness of a roulette wheel, the doomsday clique of the climate world daily selects a fresh topic to sow seeds of anxiety among the populace.

Popular things easily recognized — even cherished — by people are continually identified as being at risk of being damaged or destroyed by climate change.  Coffee, for example, is a commodity experiencing a surge in popularity, and there are no prizes for guessing what climate doomsayers are saying now.

Yes, coffee is now said to be under threat from man-made climate change.  CNN, in a recent article, made this statement: “climate change poses a huge threat to the coffee business and to farmers.”  Keeping with its customary approach of presenting climate change as a threat to all manner of things, CNN quotes the Inter-American Development Bank as warning that “rising temperatures will reduce the area suitable for growing coffee by up to 50%.”

Is this claim true?  If so, plenty of people would be affected, because coffee is selling like hot cakes.

The brew is a staple in nearly 98% of households in Brazil.  According to the 2023 National Coffee Data Trends Report, coffee consumption in the U.S. has hit a 20-year peak, with over 50% of consumers gravitating toward specialty coffee.

Even in my home country, India, there is a sudden deluge of boutique coffee shops.  Some chains have opened as many as 50 branches within a span of five years, and that is not an easy task in a country of 1.3 billion tea-lovers.  India is now the eighth largest producer of coffee beans.

More than 99% of global coffee production comprises the arabica and robusta species, which are just two of over 140 different species in the Coffea genus.  Coffea, especially arabica, depends highly on soil fertility and temperature.

The purveyors of climate apocalypse are particularly interested in the temperature aspect, as it provides a legitimate pathway for indulging in climate scaremongering.  Despite widespread concern about increasing warmth, satellite temperature data collected from 1979 to 2023 indicate that there has not been a significant rise in temperatures.

Despite widespread concern about increasing warmth, global satellite temperature data collected from 1979 to 2023 indicates that there has only been a modest rise of less than one-degree C in temperature.

Besides, it is widely acknowledged that modest warming since the Little Ice Age and increased atmospheric CO2 since the Industrial Revolution have boosted agricultural production and the general greening of ecosystems.

Scientists in Brazil have discovered that “carbon dioxide fertilization offsets negative impacts of climate change on arabica coffee yield.”  They say that the CO2 fertilization effect will cause a net increase of the average Brazilian arabica coffee harvest by the years 2040–2070.

CO2 enrichment studies in Latin America show that elevated CO2 increased photosynthesis by 40% and increased the efficiency plants' water use by approximately 60%.  Higher CO2 eventually caused a 7–14% increase in plant height and a 12–14% increase in yield.  Another study showed that there were significant increases in all leaf area and biomass markers in response to increased CO2.

The research indicates that we might already be reaping the rewards of increased productivity rates in both arabica and robusta coffee varieties thanks to the recent rise in atmospheric CO2.  This reality is reflected in the plantations across the globe.  Production in South America and Southeast Asia have shown increases in yield during the past two decades.

Brazil and Vietnam are the top two coffee bean producers.  Both countries have seen remarkable increases in their yield, with Vietnam's production climbing from 0.54 tons per acre in 2002 to 1.11 tons per acre in 2021.  Meanwhile, Brazil's yield has also shown significant growth, rising from 0.49 tons per acre in 2002 to 0.87 tons per acre in 2020.

Even if the temperatures were to increase dramatically, experts say that coffee cultivation would be possible in cooler regions at latitudes away from equator or at higher altitudes.

So sit back and drink that morning cup of Joe.  Climate is not going to steal your coffee, and thank CO2 for keeping the plantations productive.

Vijay Jayaraj is a research associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia.  He holds a Master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, U.K.

Image via Pxhere.

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