Hot Planet, No Cold Ones? Climate Change Could Cause Beer Shortage

Katie Ramirez
October 16, 2018

Barley growing regions including the northern Great Plains of the U.S., the Canadian prairies, Europe, Australia, and the Asian steppe were all likely to experience more frequent droughts in years to come as a result of global warming, the study in the journal Nature Plants reported.

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As a result, the cost of beer could soar.

The findings suggest that total beer consumption decreases most under climate change in countries that consumed the most beer by volume in recent years.

The cost of a pint of beer could rise sharply in the US and other countries because of increased risks from heat and drought, according to a new study that looks at climate change's possible effects on barley crops. These countries are expected to be impacted the most due to the large quantities of beer they brew from imported barley.

Forty-three percent of Americans said beer was their favorite type of alochol in 2016, according to Gallup, with 32 percent saying the same about wine and another 20 percent sticking by hard liquor.

Even in less severe extreme events, beer consumption drops by 4% and prices rise by 15%.

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Under four different weather models that were created for the years from 2010 to 2099, the world's barley growers would see "yield losses [that] range from 3 percent to 17 percent depending on the severity of the conditions", the researchers say.

Only 17 per cent of the globe's barley is actually used in brewing; most is harvested as feed for livestock. Places like Ireland could see a price hike on beer of up to $21 extra for a six-pack, according to Business Insider.

"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", said Prof Dabo Guan, at the University of East Anglia, one of the research team.

Beer prices were predicted to rise most in wealthy beer-loving countries such as Belgium, Canada, Denmark and Poland.

Beer prices could double worldwide and the USA could see 20% decline in beer consumption-that's about 10 billion cans of beer. He also suggested that beer price hikes and shortages could affect social stability, comparing the situation to the Prohibition era in the USA, which saw the rise of organized crime based on the supply of illicit liquor. Few people would complain if global warming ruined Brussels sprouts, he added.

Britain would also get thirsty during a severe barley crunch, with consumption dropping by up to 1.3 billion litres, and the price of a pint doubling.

In the United Kingdom, the researchers said, beer consumption could fall by between 0.37 billion and 1.33 billion litres, while the price could as much as double.

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