Save our planet, save our coffee
Coffee is an important part of life for many people around the world. It isthe second most traded commodity in the world, right behind crude oils and derivatives. There is hardly a college campus left in the U.S. alone that doesn’t have its own Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. As such, the fact that climate change is greatly affecting the growth of coffee plants is usually met with shock and outrage.
The optimal temperature for growing Coffee arabica, the most common coffee tree, is around 64-70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s mostly grown in tropical areas. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, climate change threatens coffee crops in virtually every coffee producing region in the world.
Rising and falling temperatures, long droughts, infrequent but intense rainfall, more resilient pests and plant diseases are all associated with climate change and all greatly affect the growth of coffee crops. Varying temperatures outside the safe zone of 64-70 degrees can stunt or even accelerate the growth of the coffee plants, which may sound okay, but in reality it causes lower quality beans to be produced. Droughts and heavy rainfall are obviously not good for any kind of plant, either drying them out completely or drowning them to the point of not being able to use them for anything. Pests, such as the coffee carry borer, an insect that burrows into the coffee plants and eats them, and plant diseases, such as coffee rust, have become more adept at resisting the measures taken to prevent them from ruining the plants.
All this makes it much more difficult to grow successful coffee crops, creating a more competitive market, which in turn forced coffee companies to raise their prices. Brands like Maxwell House, Yuben and Folgers have increased their prices more than 25 percent since 2011.
Luckily, scientists are as addicted to coffee as the rest of the world, so they’re working hard to develop strains of coffee plants that are able to stand up to the affects of climate change. According to the Chicago Tribune, a hybrid plant called the Centroamericano and several other hybrid breeds are slowly making their way into the coffee market. World Coffee Research, an industry-funded non-profit group, has, as of this summer, launched field tests for more than 40 varieties that they say will change coffee growing as the world knows it.
Julia Stevens, a senior, studies English and secondary education. She is a copy editor for Le Provocateur.