Nearly 90% of Coffee Growing Land in Latin America Threatened by Global Warming

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), one of the world’s most cited and comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific journals, with more than 3,100 research papers published annually, suggests that due to climate change and because coffee production is dependent on bee pollination, by 2050 there will be large losses in areas suitable for coffee production. The study was authored by a global team of scientists from a variety of institutions, including Conservation International’s Moore Center for Science in Arlington, Virginia; the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Vietnam; the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica; the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama; the Rubinstein School of Environment & Natural Resources at the University of Vermont; Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) in France; and the Center for International Forestry Research in Peru.

This new study forecasts significantly greater losses of land suitable for growing coffee than previous assessments which had estimated shrinkage by an estimated 50 percent as global temperatures rise, rain patterns change and climate change causes shifts in ecosystems. The new study suggests that Latin America, the world’s largest coffee supplier could lose nearly 90% of its land suitable for growing coffee by 2050. And within future coffee-suitable areas, “bee richness” or the diversity of bee species will decline 8-18%.

The study notes that the cultivation of coffee beans as a result of global warming “magnifies the need for bee-friendly farm practices and coffee management to reduce the vulnerability of both farmers and the global coffee sector to climate change” including foliage-shade adjustment to reduce temperature stress, increased water efficiency, and soil conservation to improve moisture content.

Coffee production supports the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers around the world. The coffee importers and roasters, included in our coffee directory, who are committed to building and supporting fair and sustainable trade relationships for the benefit of farmers and their exporting cooperatives, families, and communities, will have additional pressure due to climate change in maintaining sustainable development alternatives to industrial coffee producers, while continuing to sell the highest quality coffee. (We urge our readers to support these coffee importers and roasters who are committed to a sustainable environment and fair treatment of smallholder farmers.)

With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly scrubbing a climate website of ‘climate change’, the future of coffee seems even more at risk with this disregard of the impact of global warming. Reporter Lisa Friedman, in her article in the New York Times (10/20/17), cites an analysis from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (which monitors changes to federal environmental agency websites), that describes the amount of removed data with reference to climate change as substantial. 

(Frank W. Barrie, 10/23/17)

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