Your morning coffee and your favourite chocolate are now under threat from climate change
We tend to think mainly about the big picture impacts that climate change will have on us, like hurricanes, droughts and sea level rise. While these are really important to talk about, there are also some smaller, more quirky ways that climate change will affect our everyday lives, such as how it will threaten some of our favourite foods.
Recently, I’ve seen many of my Facebook friends posting about how they are fundraising for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. As part of this, they’re giving up coffee, chocolate and/or avocado for two weeks to raise money for climate advocacy. Why coffee, chocolate and avocado specifically? Well supposedly global warming could challenge our ability to produce these foods. I started wondering how exactly that could happen, so I did some investigating. (Side note: I couldn’t find much information on the link between avocado and climate change, so I’m sticking to just coffee and chocolate).
(Image by Cloud seeker on Flickr)
Coffee is really popular worldwide – I know many people who can’t function without their morning cup of coffee. Yet, it could become harder to grow coffee thanks to climate change.
The coffee plant, in particular the Arabica variety, can only grow within a narrow range of temperature and rainfall. Ideally temperatures should be between 15°C and 25°C and the rainfall levels should be between 1400 and 2000 mm per year.
In Central America for example, the average temperatures are on the rise and there are terrible droughts in some places while there are extremely heavy rainfalls in other areas. Millions of people there rely on the coffee industry to make ends meet and they are particularly vulnerable to the severe consequences that climate change will have on coffee growing.
There’s another issue that climate change could bring for coffee lovers. Sometimes fungi can grow on the coffee beans when they are in hot and humid conditions. These nasty fungi can then produce certain toxins that can sometimes be harmful for humans in high quantities (although thankfully much of the toxin is taken out when they process the coffee). Yet scientists in Brazil are worried that, as climate change raises the average temperatures in these coffee-growing areas, it is possible the fungi could become more abundant and spread even more of the toxin (although more research is needed on this topic). This seems rather concerning, as toxin-flavoured coffee doesn’t sound very appetising to me.
(Image by Brrrr! It’s Cold in Here! on Flickr)
Climate change could also have terrible consequences for delicious chocolate. Global warming could increase the amount of pests and diseases on the cocoa plants. It could lead to the cocoa leaves wilting and/or more of the cocoa seedlings could die off. All these factors would make it much harder for the farmers to grow the cocoa.
So the next time you’re enjoying a scrumptious bar of chocolate or a great cup of espresso coffee, take a moment to reflect on how global warming could interfere with these delicious treats.