Coffee and Climate: What’s Brewing with Climate Change?

Climate change is threatening coffee crops in virtually every major coffee producing region of the world.

Higher temperatures, long droughts punctuated by intense rainfall, more resilient pests and plant diseases—all of which are associated with climate change—have reduced coffee supplies dramatically in recent years.

Dramatic declines

Because coffee varieties have adapted to specific climate zones, a temperature rise of even half a degree can make a big difference. A long-term increase in the number of extreme and unseasonal rainfall events has contributed to lower crop yields that are threatening the livelihood of coffee growers. For example, between 2002 and 2011, Indian coffee production declined by nearly 30 percent.

Additionally, warming has expanded the habitat and thus the range and damage of the coffee berry borer, a grazing predator of coffee plants. This pest is placing additional stresses on all coffee crops, as is coffee rust, a devastating fungus that previously did not survive the cool mountain weather. Costa Rica, India, and Ethiopia, three of the top fifteen coffee-producing nations in the world, have all seen a dramatic decline in yields.

From coffee plantation to corner café

The declining supply of popular Arabica coffee beans—grown in East and Central Africa, Latin America, India, and Indonesia—is being felt in the pockets of suburban supermarket shoppers and denizens of city sidewalk cafés.

Brands like Maxwell House, Yuban, and Folgers have increased the retail prices of many grinds by 25 percent or more between 2010 and 2011, in light of tight supply and higher wholesale prices.

If you’re one of those people who needs a cup of coffee to get going in the morning, your world may be changing. In fact, it already is. The dwindling supply of coffee is but one example of the many impacts to come due to climate change, and should be a wake-up call for us all.

And really, who wants to be around coffee drinkers who can’t get their morning fix? The time is now to reduce global warming emissions.  

Take action

There is no single solution to climate change, but there are technologies and approaches available now that can reduce global warming emissions by at least 80 percent by mid-century. Visit our Climate Hot Map to see how these methods are best deployed in each region of the world, and see what you can do to help.

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For more than 20 years, UCS has worked with leading experts to educate U.S. decision makers and the public about global warming and implement practical solutions at an international, national, regional, and state level. You can help support this work:

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