Drama of global warming: threat to world beer production

This seems anecdotal in view of the other current environmental tragedies linked to global warming, but a study published in Nature indicates that a threat hangs over beer. Indeed, the major climate changes that have been occurring in recent years are threatening beer, which is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world, due to a significant drop in barley production.

Increasingly frequent and severe drought and heat could lead to a substantial drop in barley yields around the world. With a domino effect on the production, consumption and price of beer.

Beer: a big consumer of barley

In recent years, the beer sector has consumed around 17% of global barley production, but this share varies widely across major beer-producing countries, ranging from 83% in Brazil to 9% in Australia.

The results of this Chinese study reveal potential average yield losses ranging from 3% to 17%, depending on the severity of climatic conditions. In Europe, depending on the vagaries of the weather, the average supply can decrease by 27% to 38% in Belgium, the Czech Republic and Germany.

The study then assessed the effects of the lack of barley supply on the supply and price of beer in each region, under a series of future climate scenarios.

Climate change will make beer more expensive

Following the most severe climatic events, global beer consumption would decrease by 16%, or 29 billion liters (approximately the total annual consumption of beer in the United States).

The price of beer would double on average (+193% in Ireland, for example). Even in less extreme cases, beer consumption would fall by 4% and prices would rise by 15%. The effect in the countries is disparate.

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The volume consumed in China (largest consumer) would decrease more than in any other country depending on the severity (4.34 billion liters for the most serious events).

In the UK, beer consumption could fall by 0.37 to 1.33 billion litres. In countries where consumption is lower, the reductions would be huge (-32% in Argentina).

From a health perspective, that’s not bad news, although there’s nothing to say that it wouldn’t cause a shift to other alcoholic beverages. But we should not rejoice for all that, because it is again a sad observation of the consequences of global warming.

Xie W. et al.Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heat. Nature Plants, 4.964–973


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