Published 4:51 PM EDT Oct 15, 2018
Now this is getting serious.
Worldwide, over the next few decades, beer could become more scarce and thus more expensive because of human-caused global warming, a study reported Monday.
The production of barley, the main ingredient in beer, is likely to drop substantially because severe droughts and heat extremes will become more frequent as the climate changes, the study says. "Average yield losses (of barley) range from 3 percent to 17 percent, depending on the severity of the conditions," the study says.
In the USA, beer shortages could reduce the amount Americans consume each year by as much as 900 million gallons. That's (gulp) about 9 billion bottles of beer.
"Future climate and pricing conditions could put beer out of reach for hundreds of millions of people around the world," said study co-author Nathan Mueller of the University of California-Irvine.
This is the first study to quantify the effect of climate change on beer, the world's most popular alcoholic beverage.
"While the effects on beer may seem modest in comparison to many of the other impacts of climate change, there is nonetheless something fundamental in the cross-cultural appreciation of beer," said study lead author Dabo Guan of the U.K.'s University of East Anglia.
Researchers used computer models to predict the possible effects of extreme climates on barley yields in 34 regions around the world. They examined the effects of the resulting barley supply shock on the supply and price of beer in each region under several climate scenarios.
On average, beer prices are likely to double as less barley becomes available, according to the study. One of the most affected countries would be Ireland – where beer prices could increase by as much as 338 percent by 2099 under the most severe scenario.
As for consumption, the global amount of beer consumed could fall by as much as 16 percent.
In the worst-case climate scenario, parts of the world where barley is grown – including the northern Great Plains, Canadian prairies, Europe, Australia and the Asian steppe – were projected to experience more frequent droughts and heat waves.
“Current levels of fossil-fuel consumption and carbon dioxide pollution – business as usual – will result in this worst-case scenario, with more weather extremes negatively impacting the world’s beer basket,” Mueller said. “Our study showed that even modest warming will lead to increases in drought and excessive heat events in barley-growing areas.”
The likelihood of weather conditions hurting barley production would increase from about once a decade before 2050 to once every other year by the end of the century, the research showed.
Scientists have long known that barley “is one of the most heat-sensitive crops globally,” but the new study connects that to something that people care about – the price of beer – so it’s valuable, said David Lobell, a Stanford University agriculture ecologist who was not involved in the study.
"Increasingly, research has begun to project the impacts of climate change on world food production, focusing on staple crops such as wheat, maize, soybean and rice," study lead author Guan said. "However, if adaptation efforts prioritize necessities, climate change may undermine the availability, stability and access to 'luxury' goods to a greater extent than staple foods."
The study was published in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Plants.
Contributing: The Associated Press