Climate Change May Cause Beer Shortage, Higher Prices

While not everyone believes in climate change, their tune may change if it affects their beer supply. A new study finds that a warming climate could have an adverse effect on the growth of barley—beer’s main ingredient—which means less of the alcoholic beverage for you and me.

The study was published by a team of 10 scientists from China, Britain, the United States and Mexico in the journal Nature Plants. It examined likely climate conditions and determined that barley production could drop between 3 and 17 percent in the future, depending on how bad the climate actually becomes. The result will be a four to 16 percent drop in global beer consumption.

Researchers studied extreme weather events, particularly droughts and heat waves, which could greatly affect agricultural crops.

Canada will be hit particularly hard because even though it has high per-capita beer consumption it has a relatively low amount of total consumption related to its population.

“Some countries with smaller total beer consumption face prodigious reductions in their beer consumption,” according to researchers.

As a result, beer consumption in Canada will drop by at least 11 percent and that’s in regards to the least severe climate event, noted the Huffington Post. When global supply drops, prices will rise. At the very least, the cost would increase 15 percent, while at worst it could double.

The countries that will be affected the most include Canada, Ireland, Poland, and Italy, regardless of how severe climate change becomes. Prices in Canada will rise between 94 cents and $5.69 per 500 ml. In other words, you will pay an additional $3.56 to $21.50 more for a pitcher of beer.

“For perhaps many millennia, and still at present for many people, beer has been an important component of social gatherings and human celebration,” researchers noted. “Although it may be argued that consuming less beer is not disastrous — and may even have health benefits — there is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impacts on beer consumption will add insult to injury.”

However, beer brewers are not giving up the fight. According to Bart Watson, an economist with the Brewers Association, and Chris Swersey, a BA supply chain specialist, “The beer industry certainly understands and is already preparing for shifts in climate.” The pair addressed the study in a new analysis. They point out that barley production has moved north over the years, and Canada now accounts for 70 percent of North American yields.

“Barley farmers have long been active in planting decisions and technological improvements that leave them well-positioned to weather the challenges of climate change,” Watson and Swersey write. “Brewers and the beer industry, in general, are doing the same.”

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