The effects of climate change and land degradation are coming for some of our favorite foods in the near future. Our daily lives are about to be affected, as we will probably see shortages in such absolute necessities as chocolate, nuts, peanuts, and…
Coffee?!? The struggle will most definitely be real if we don’t have our coffee.Will life even be worth living without it?
Ben & Jerry’s, the iconic Vermont-based ice cream parlor chain, says climate change is headed for our grocery stores.
Cocoa production for chocolate could drop by 50 percent by the year 2050. The plants need humid air and warm, but not hot temperatures, but climate change is making it hotter and dryer.
The vast majority of the cocoa is grown in western Africa, where plants can’t be moved to higher altitudes to shelter them from the increasing heat. As a result, chocolate production is likely to drop dramatically.
Do you care now?
This next part is nuts: The trees that produce our pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and pecans need a cooling period in winter to trigger their growth in spring. As winter temperatures rise, the trees become much less productive.
Peanuts, which are actually a legume, require just the right amount of rain to succeed. Droughts brought about by climate change threaten their production as well, including here in the southern U.S., China, and India.
What would Jimmy Carter say?
Coffee beans are one of the most threatened crops, with one study saying the land suitable for growing coffee could disappear by 100 percent by the year 2080. (You read that correctly.)
Climate change is helping spread pests and disease killing the coffee plants, while droughts, extreme rainfall, and warmer temperatures are exacerbating the problems everywhere.
It’s not just the plants that are threatened, of course.
The New York Times notes five plants and animals that aren’t adapting fast enough to the early arrival of spring and the late arrival of autumn. Life is truly miraculous and precisely timed to changes in temperature and the seasons – a “complex ballet.”
When that timing is off by as much as a month, thanks to climate change, it causes a “phenological mismatch.” Species may not be able to adapt through evolution when the changes come so fast. Andrea Santangeli, a postdoctoral researcher at the Finnish Museum of Natural History, said:
“If you look at the past history of climate on earth, there has never been such a dramatic, rapid, change in the climate. Species have to respond really fast,” he said, “that’s really unprecedented.”
One example: The Snowshoe hare’s fur coat changes from white to brown to help it camouflage from predators. If spring comes early, and you’re a snow-white bunny, that’s like putting a “Please eat me” sign on your back. Not good.
Currently, spring is coming early by a couple weeks, but soon it may be more like eight weeks, and that’s an awfully long time to go about with that sign on your back. Scientists are hopeful the hares can adapt quicker than expected to the climate, adapting over 5 to 10 generations rather than millions of years.
But lightning-fast evolution probably won’t be possible for many animals and plants.
For plants like coffee beans, the warmer temperatures lead to flowering as much as two months early, which lowers the quality of coffee beans and they remain on the tree longer as it becomes hotter and dryer. Scientists are trying to develop hybrids that can survive climate change. (see the video at the end)
Things aren’t looking good for species in America either.
Scientists report that climate change will be the:
“…Fastest-growing cause of species loss in the Americas by midcentury.”
Land degradation, habitat loss, and pollution are other factors that will contribute to a drop in biodiversity.
If we continue to elect apathetic and ignorant politicians and leaders, the irreplaceable biodiversity of our plants and animals will be lost forever. We need to actively confront the problem now.
“In the Americas, about 31 percent of all indigenous species are believed to have been lost since European settlers first arrived. Under a ‘business-as-usual’ trajectory, and accounting for other threats, such as habitat loss, the report suggests that this number could climb as high as 40 percent by 2050.”
It can be summed up this way by the Lorax:
“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Maybe when the climate change deniers notice their coffee is more expensive than their daily Big Pharma prescription drugs, they’ll begin to care “a whole awful lot?”
See how coffee growers are trying to develop coffee that can survive climate change from PBS below:
Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube.