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Could We Be Living in a World Without Coffee Soon?

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In the U.S., coffee is everywhere you go. There seems to be a coffee shop on every corner, in every grocery store, and in every gas station. The popularity of coffee is increasing as new generations of coffee drinkers come “of age.” But, despite how disconnected we are from the source of our morning stimulant, coffee is still an agricultural crop, and global production of coffee is feeling the negative effects of global warming. A world without coffee is becoming a real possibility. Here is a look at the current state of the coffee industry, and what the future looks like for coffee lovers.

A certain segment of the U.S. population, and the current administration, are having trouble coming to terms with the state of climate change, and humanity’s role in it. While politicians battle over science and semantics, real change is happening to the global environment due to the amount of particulates in the atmosphere. The science shows clearly that the global climate is warming. The areas most effected by this warming are those around the equator because they are the warmest places on the globe. The rain forests that act to remove carbon from the atmosphere are disappearing, and drought, higher temperatures, and unpredictable weather are replacing them. Unfortunately, equatorial areas are the native coffee growing locations, and global warming is devastating global coffee production. This situation could lead to a world without coffee.

A recent study shows that the suitable area for coffee growing will be reduced by 50% by 2050, and the most popular variety, Arabica, will be the most adversely effected. The change in temperature and rainfall is already causing a reduction of coffee yields by about 200 million pounds in last year’s harvest. The reduced production is causing real issues for the coffee industry that is seeing an increase in demand for the product. This situation will lead to higher prices for lower quality products. Scientists are currently attempting to engineer strains of coffee that are more resistant to fluctuations in temperature, in hopes of addressing the three degree (C) average rise in temperature in the coffee belt.

Another issue leading to a world without coffee is a fungus called leaf rust that is becoming more common because of higher temperatures and humidity in the coffee belt. $2.5 billion dollars worth of coffee have been lost to this disease in the last five years. Scientists, funded by the coffee giant Starbucks, are currently using selective breeding to attempt to find coffee strains that are resistant to this disease, but there is still a lot of research and experimentation that need to be done to prevent a world without coffee.

Global warming is threatening the world’s most beloved sipped stimulant. If the warming trend is not reversed, or new strains of the coffee plant are not engineered to withstand the change, we could lose our lattés and espressos in favor of a world without coffee. The current leader in the efforts to reverse this trend is Starbucks, for obvious reasons. The company is attempting to reduce their carbon footprint, while implementing a more grass roots movement to help the growers. They are also funding research to find rust resistant plants. If something is not done soon, the people of earth may not have access to this beloved beverage as soon as next century.

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