According to a new study from the University of East Anglia (UEA), intense climate change could cause beer supply shortages. Severe drought and heat will increasingly impact barley yields around the world, potentially causing a “dramatic” rise in beer prices and major declines in beer consumption.
While beer production has consumed an average of 17 percent of the world’s barley in recent years, this consumption varies drastically across major beer-producing countries. For example, 83 percent of barley in Brazil is used for manufacturing beer compared to just 9 percent in Australia.
The study has found that potential barley yield losses range from 3 to 17 percent, depending on the severity of future conditions.
The researchers determined that global beer consumption would decline by 16 percent, or 29 billion liters, during the most severe climate events. This is equivalent to the annual beer consumption in the United States and would cause beer prices to double on average. Even during less severe climate events, beer consumption prices could rise by 15 percent.
Study co-author Dabo Guan is a professor of Climate Change Economics at UEA’s School of International Development.
“Increasingly research has begun to project the impacts of climate change on world food production, focusing on staple crops such as wheat, maize, soybean, and rice.”
“However, if adaptation efforts prioritize necessities, climate change may undermine the availability, stability and access to ‘luxury’ goods to a greater extent than staple foods. People’s diet security is equally important to food security in many aspects of society.”
Professor Guan said that this is the first research to carefully examine the potential impacts of climate change on beer. He also said that a sufficient beer supply may be helping with the stability of communication in society.
“While the effects on beer may seem modest in comparison to many of the other – some life-threatening – impacts of climate change, there is nonetheless something fundamental in the cross-cultural appreciation of beer,” said Professor Guan.
“It may be argued that consuming less beer isn’t itself disastrous, and may even have health benefits. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impacts on beer availability and price will add insult to injury.”