Prost, ganbei, cheers: Climate change means less beer

Climate change could cause beer prices to soar - study

Climate change could reshape the barley and beer market, the researchers say, depicting a situation in which China, which now drinks more Budweiser than the U.S.

The scientists used climate change models to anticipate the impact of extreme weather conditions on barley crops over the next 80 years, as well as the impact of yields on beer supply and prices in a number of countries including the Czech Republic, China, the UK, Poland, Germany and the US. The key question was obvious and direct: How much more will we pay for a pint of beer?

Beer is the alcoholic beverage most consumed on the planet, but it may well be that by some time, this beverage became a luxury product.

"In the long term, adaptation efforts might offset mean damages to barley production from climate change through changes in agronomic practices, cultivars or barley-growing areas; however, extreme events are hard to manage under any climate regime", the researchers write in the study.

Even under the two middle-range climate models used in the study, beer consumption is forecast to fall by an average of around 2 billion liters in China alone. A best-case scenario would see drinking fall by 4% and a 15% price rise.

Global temperatures are expected to increase the price of beer because barley - the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverage - is easily affected by heat and droughts, as noted by CNN.

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People's diet security is equally important to food security in many aspects of society. In the US, consumption could decrease by up to 3.48 billion liters. Assessing the impact of heat extremes and concurrent drought, the team has predicted that climate change can result in average barley yield losses of approximately 3% to 17%.

"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. One factor to consider is that barley is mostly used to feed livestock, and beer is ultimately more dispensable than meat.

The issue has been recognised by Danish brewery giant Carlsberg, which has started preparations in response to the challenge of climate change.

"Our results show that in the most severe climate events, the supply of beer could decline by about 16 per cent in years when droughts and heat waves strike", said co-author Steven Davis, also an associate professor of Earth system science at the UCI. Places like Ireland could see a price hike on beer of up to $21 extra for a six-pack, according to Business Insider. "That's comparable to all beer consumption in the U.S. Future climate and pricing conditions could put beer out of reach for hundreds of millions of people around the world". A decrease in the global supply of barley leads to a dramatic regional decrease in beer consumption and an increase in beer prices. Less barley means less beer.

The next step for Guan was to determine the supply chain reaction to estimate price increases.

"Really, the countries who love beer will suffer a lot", he said.

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