Chocolate: What’s climate change got to do with it?

It’s 3 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. What would you do for a chocolate snack to help you through the midweek slump?

There’s a lot we’d do for chocolate. (Seriously. Did you know that 70% of people would give up their passwords for a chocolate bar?) Whether it’s the cheap and cheerful treat getting you through the afternoon, or a decadent egg on Easter morning, it’s definitely one of life’s little luxuries — which explains why worldwide we eat a staggering 7 million tonnes of the stuff every year.

But what if one day we couldn't get our chocolate fix so easily?

That day might be coming sooner than you think — and it’s not just because you’ve had one too many forays into the Mini Egg jar. To find out what’s really happening, let’s first take a detour to Bolivia to find out where chocolate comes from.

Ivana, 10, is from a cocoa-growing community. She explains how cocoa trees are grown and produce cocoa:

Ivana’s family is one of the millions around the world who make a living from farming cocoa. That’s not only good for us chocolate lovers — it’s a strong crop and can help growers earn a steady living.

So far, so good. But things are changing.

Cocoa trees like these flourish in rainy, humid areas near the Equator, making areas of Latin America and West Africa perfect for producing cocoa. In fact, more than half the world’s chocolate comes from cocoa grown in just two countries– Ghana and the Ivory Coast .

But climate change is reducing the areas of land suitable for growing cocoa. By 2060, half the cocoa-producing countries in West Africa could be too hot to grow it any more. In fact, by 2020 — just five years away — we could be one million tonnes short of the cocoa we need to satisfy our growing cravings. Now there’s something to chew on as you tuck into your Dairy Milk.

“We can’t depend on the seasons any more. We don’t know what will happen.”

Cocoa farmer Abraham Noza

The impact is being felt by growers in Latin America, too. Abraham Noza, a Bolivian cocoa farmer, has noticed the effect on the cocoa harvest. “There is much uncertainty about the weather — we can’t depend on the seasons any more. We don’t know what will happen,” he says.

Reduced supply and increasing demand mean rising prices — this might sound like good news for producers, but increased prices often aren’t passed on to the growers. And if climate change reduces suitable land for growth, that means less to sell , so families like Ivana’s and Abraham’s may no longer have a steady income from cocoa to rely on.

What does this mean for us? Your afternoon treat could be a distant memory: John Mason, from the Nature Conservation Research Council in Ghana, has predicted that “in 20 years chocolate will be like caviar. It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it.”

So could the future of chocolate look something like this?

Well, not yet. But if we don’t tackle climate change, cocoa production could diminish, and prices will rise — making our beloved chocolate an expensive luxury, and having a serious impact on the livelihoods of cocoa farmers around the world.

There’s a lot we’d do for chocolate. If we act now and act together, we can protect our Easter eggs, and the livelihoods of families like Ivana’s. And if that’s not a good reason to tackle climate change this Easter, what is?

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Love chocolate? So do we. We can protect what we love from climate change — from our food, to our families and our futures — by asking politicians to act. To find out what you can do, sign up to The Climate Coalition’s mailing list: http://fortheloveof.org.uk/signupnow/

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