Climate Change and Coffee

Coffee grows best in tropical climates, but the effects of climate change can negatively impact the production and growth rates of these plants. In fact, we’re already beginning to see the negative impacts in parts of Africa.

Ethiopia

A 2017 study from Nature Plants depicts the repercussion climate change has had on massive coffee producers, like Ethiopia; in recent years, there has been an increase in “the uncertainty of yearly weather patterns,” especially during the wet season, when rain now only occasionally falls. This means that the country’s dry seasons are longer and hotter. Though tropical climates are necessary for coffee’s production, coffee plants rely on ample amounts of shade, which provide a cooling canopy for these plants. And with Ethiopia’s rising temperatures, which are projected to rise three degrees Celsius by the 2060s and five degrees Celsius by the 2090s, there may not be enough shade for that cooling canopy.

Heating Up

Despite the hotter temperatures, coffee’s popularity has not decreased. But coffee drinkers should be aware that coffee supply may not be able to meet demand. The World Coffee Research Institute forewarns that “by 2050, we need to double world production, but suitable land will decline by half.” The Institute is working with farmers across the world discovering solutions for fertile, coffee-growing land, and working to get ahead of known diseases, like coffee leaf rust disease, which disintegrates the plants.

But coffee consumers should be warned that, according to CNN’s Nancy Coleman, the coffee that is able to persist despite climate change might result in higher quantities of lower-quality robusta beans being planted instead of high-quality arabica. And since countries like Ethiopia depend on the growth of arabica beans to comprise a significant portion of their economy, there will inevitably be subtle, but long-term effects of climate change on coffee.