Global warming can put beer at risk. This is the conclusion of a study led by researchers at Beijing University (China) and the University of East Anglia (England), published in the scientific journal Nature Plants: if global warming continues at the current rate, weather events such as droughts and heat waves will affect the main producer regions of hops and barley worldwide – putting both materials in danger of extinction.
According to the statistics, the decrease in the global supply of those raw materials will lead to an increase in beer prices: the price of the liter would duplicate or triplicate, eventually resulting in a dramatic 16% decrease in beer consumption – around less 29 billion liters per year – the equivalent to one year of beer consumption in the United States. “Although not the most concerning impact of future climate change, climate-related weather extremes may threaten the availability and economic accessibility of beer,” says the study.
The decrease in the production and consumption of beer has more severe effects than the increase in prices. In Brazil, the beer industry corresponds to 1.6% of the country’s GDP, and it is responsible for more than 2.7 million jobs, according to the Brazilian Association of the Beer Industry (Associação Brasileira da Indústria da Cerveja).
What can be done about it?
“With all this data (climate change, barley crops, international trade, and socio-economic conditions), we could estimate the impact on the beer, which is essential to a significant number of people around the world,” said Dabo Guan, one of the leaders of the research, in an interview with the BBC.
Today, beer is the third most consumed drink in the world (the first one among alcoholic beverages), only behind water and coffee. 182 billion liters are consumed annually.
Science and technology can at least mitigate part of the problem. Scientist Davis Charles Denby, at the University of California, affirms that it’s possible to replace hops by genetically modified yeast, with genes of mint and basil plants. The method would reduce the environmental impact of the hops production without a loss of quality.
“Besides being an alternative to minimize the impact of a possible extinction of hop, genetically-modified micro-organisms have the potential to bioremediate contaminated waters and soils,” says the Executive Director of the Brazilian Council for Biotechnology Information, Adriana Brondani.
However, Nathan Mueller, who is also a researcher in the same project, told BBC that the solution is simple: to cultivate environmental awareness. “If we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and limit the overall magnitude of climate change, we can help to avoid the worst scenarios simulated in this analysis”, he said.
Content published in June 24, 2019