Climate change could cause global beer shortages, warn UEA researchers

Climate change could cause global beer shortages, warn UEA researchers

USA consumers could see a price increase of about 34%.

Dabo Guan, professor of climate change economics at the University of East Anglia (UK) and co-ordinator of the research, said that efforts to mitigate severe weather effects from climate change will naturally focus on staple goods - and so it could be luxury goods that are most effected by environmental changes.

In more optimistic scenarios, where emissions are brought under control and warming is kept at a manageable level (what climate scientists refer to as RCP2.6), droughts and heatwaves might occur together in about 4% of the years.

Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the world by volume consumed.

Though that looks at the extreme examples, less extreme climate events could still have a significant effect on beer output and price. Instead, a new study says beer prices could double, on average, because of the price of malted barley, a key ingredient in the world's favorite alcoholic drink.

On average, the scientists estimated that global barley yields would decline between three per cent and 17 per cent, depending on the severity of the weather. The king of US beer production remains Budweiser, which produces the No. 1 (Bud Light) and No. 3 (Budweiser) top-selling brands. Using models of both economic activity and climate change, the group made predictions about what will happen to barley production, as well as beer price and consumption.

"Especially for rich people in the developed countries, they have the choice now and, if we don't do anything on climate change mitigation, those choices may not be available anymore", said Guan. About 75% of the world's agricultural land is used for animal production - yet meat supplies only 17% of our calories, she said.


The research anticipates the price of beer will nearly double here, rising by 93pc as a result.

The study actually predicted that northern United States and China could actually see an increase in the amount of barley harvested - but the USA may decide to "increase their exports to meet demand in other countries" instead of making more beer. Inputting a decline in barley supply into their computable general equilibrium model, the researchers consistently found that the ratio of the grain going to beer brewing decreased even more.

Per capita, most of the top-20 beer-drinking nations are in Europe, along with the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

"Taking time as a global culture to really think about where we need to be putting those [agricultural] resources to maximize the quality of our food supply is a question that is becoming an increasingly important", Sluyter said. "This is a paper born of love and fear", he said.

Citing prohibition in the United States and the subsequent emergence of the illegal liquor trade, Prof Guan also warned that the shortage could lead to similar disorder. "People should learn from the past".

"Although some attention has been paid to the potential impact of climate change on luxury crops such as wine and coffee, the impact on beer has not been carefully evaluated".

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