Unchecked climate change throughout the world is set to cause global beer prices to soar, researchers have warned.
Scientists predict increasing droughts and heatwaves could lead to a 17 per cent drop in barley – a key ingredient in beer – grown in the key agricultural production hubs of Australia, parts of Europe, Asia and the US, according to a study published Tuesday morning (AEST) in the journal Nature Plants.
That drop in barley production means beer prices on average would double, even adjusting for inflation, the study warned. Beer prices could almost triple in Ireland.
“Although it may be argued that consuming less beer is not disastrous – and may even have health benefits – there is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impacts on beer consumption will add insult to injury,” the paper stated.
The findings come a week after a dire United Nations report described consequences of dangerous levels of climate change including worsening food and water shortages, heat waves, sea level rise, and disease.
Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 1.5 degrees (Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.
Beer study co-author Steve Davis of the University of California told the Associated Press the beer research was partly undertaken to drive home the unpalatable message that climate change is disrupting all sorts of aspects of our daily lives.
Worldwide barley is used for a multitude of purposes, mostly feeding livestock. Less than 20 percent of the world’s barley is made into beer.
In Australia, where just eight per cent of barley is used in beer production, the study suggests beer exports could be curbed to ensure domestic supplies.
The situation would be different in the United States, Brazil and China, where at least two-thirds of the barley goes into beer production.
If emissions of heat-trapping gases from the burning of coal, oil and gas continue at the current rising pace, the likelihood of weather conditions hurting barley production would increase from about once a decade before 2050 to once every other year by the end of the century, the study found.