Climate Change is Coming After Your Morning Coffee
Coffee beans are under fire. The southern crops are literally burning, and seriously threatening your next cup of coffee. Coffee plants are sensitive to temperature changes and extreme weather conditions that come with climate change.
We’re drinking more coffee by the day. Starbucks opened more specialty coffee locations in the past 10 years than the whole America collectively had in 1991. The world consumes 2.25 billion cups of coffee each day, mostly in the developed world.
“Climate change is going to play a bigger role in affecting the quality and integrity of coffee,” Howard Schultz told Time.
Starbucks owns 4,000 locations just in China — the famous tea-drinking nation. Imagine your workday, your state of flow, and the Sunday morning without a cup of coffee. From a coffee lover to a coffee lover, here’s the rundown of the coffee problems, and what we can do to support the fight for the survival of our favorite drink.
The coffee bean issue
The world might run out of coffee by 2050 due to climate change, according to the latest IPCC Special Report. Long draughts and unfavorable soil might drive the coffee beans to extinction. The change might hit Latin America by 88%, which means that 9/10 coffee farmers might close their shop for good in the following years.
“Over 90 percent of coffee production takes place in developing countries — mostly South America, while consumption happens mainly in the industrialized economies.”
Even if you don’t believe in climate change, it’s hard to overlook the desperate Columbian farmers pleading for understanding. Climate change is destroying their crops, their land, and their chance for survival.
The coffee beans need a specific set of environmental conditions to grow.
- Coffee beans take 3–4 years to grow
- Rich soil, reliable rain, and the right attitude
- Temperature between 64°F and 70°F (18°C–21°C)
- Only 35 countries currently have the right conditions to grow coffee beans
- Coffee grows only in the global Coffee Zone: Latitudes between the Tropic of Capricorn at 23 degrees south latitude to the Tropic of Cancer at 23 degrees north latitude
Zona Cafetera in Columbia used to satisfy 80% of the global demand for coffee beans. Now, Zona Cafetera is witnessing the mass exodus of coffee farmers. The coffee production has been falling 10%–15% each year in Columbia.
You can’t blame farmers for looking to pursue stable work elsewhere. And, you really can’t get your morning coffee without that farmer nurturing coffee beans to life. The story repeats itself in Costa Rica, Brazil, Vietnam, and other big coffee-producing nations.
“Climate change is good,” says William Corrales Cruz, a small-coffee-farm owner in the Costa Rican region of Naranjo. “If you sell rust.”
The story is not about blame and pointing fingers. Climate change is real, and it’s happening right now. The big coffee companies have reached the bottom of their supply chain to produce and protect their crops.
Howard Schultz told Time about the company’s plantations in Costa Rica. Illy family, the Italian coffee producers, invests millions each year in farmers' education and raising awareness. Illy’s coffee school educates 30,000 baristas, farmers, and coffee producers around the world each year.
“We’re ensuring that farms build resilience to climate change and are able to earn a good income from coffee are essential to sourcing a long-term supply of high-quality coffee for our consumers.”
– Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO of Nespresso
We’re talking about the collective effort to save coffee beans that don’t recognize national borders, immigrant status, or party affiliation. The collective interest is greater than petty politics and individual bottom lines.
Hence this story too, from a coffee lover to a coffee lover. We can help in this fight by raising awareness and understanding the harsh realities that coffee farmers face every day.
Types of coffee
You’re generally drinking two types of coffee. The taste and the price range usually tell the difference. While Arabica is rich and sweet in taste, Robusta is more bitter, infused with much more caffeine.
Arabica coffee makes for 70% of global coffee production. The Arabic trees are usually 20ft high, and grow best at high altitudes. Robusta is another story. The plant is easier to maintain and yields more coffee. Robusta is used in cheap coffee beans and instant coffee powders.
Help save coffee beans
Man-made climate disruption is real for 97% of climate scientists. However, climate change issues have been highly politicized in the American political arena.
The stance on climate change serves as a dividing line between red America and blue America. Unfortunately, the coffee beans won’t be saved by Donald Trump’s views on the climate change hoax.
The question of climate change is highly polarizing because it hints at the individual responsibility for global issues. Nobody wants to take the blame for global issues.
Without digressing too much, let’s look at the list of possible things you can do today to help coffee farmers sustain their business, and help others adjust to climate change:
1. Fair trade
Farmers hold the key to coffee's future. Small farming facilities produce 95% of all coffee beans. And Fair Trade coffee agreements ensure better margins for coffee producers. When farmers are paid fairly for their work, they can cultivate more land and create sustainable systems for coffee production, leading to better coffee communities and better future prospects.
Fair Trade might not be super-effective, as most of the global trade is not without flaws, but it’s definitely something worth exploring when you’re buying your next bag of coffee. Fair Trade coffee products have the stamp somewhere on the packaging. Here are a few fair-trade coffee brands to look out for on your next grocery run.
Check your next coffee bag for a fair trade stamp, and enjoy the better quality and more organic coffee blends.
Next time you have $10 to spare, think of coffee charities. I know that the world is buzzing with billion problems right now, but don’t forget that coffee is one of burning issues too. You can hardly help everyone, and fighting one evil doesn’t mean you’re actively helping another.
You can help fund various programs that educate farmers and help fight global change. Here are four charities worth exploring:
- The Coffee Trust: Helping Guatemalans Prosper
- CRS Coffeelands: Better Farming Via Water
- Coffee Kids: Empowering The Next Generation Of Farmers
- Grounds For Health: Giving Women Access To Medical Care
3. Curb your carbon footprint
The real change can happen bottom-up too. You can be the person you want others to be. Starting today, try thinking more about the following things:
- Meat consumption
- Carless littering
- In-home recycling
- Gass consumption
- Deodorant use
- Shut off electric appliances you’re not using
You don’t have to commit to neck-bending lifestyle changes to help curb human-made global pollution.
4. Raise awareness
The global issues are your issues too. You can choose to say something about it. America is a prime example of how powerful is your speech is. You have a saying in all of this. The 16-girls in Sweeden have a saying in all of this mess.
However, you don’t have to be a buzzkill at parties. Simply start with the following:
- Share an article or a video talking about the coffee bean issues
- Talk with your friends about what you just found out
- Mention the coffee problems to your parents
- Engage in public forums around climate change
- Propose watching a documentary or a movie with Climate Change as the central topic
To me, coffee smells like home. Imagine a world without coffee. Do you want to live in such a world? Many fail to understand how global issues translate to their everyday life. Climate change might sound like something that's far away and maybe a problem for the upcoming generations.
Unfortunately, if we collectively continue down this road, you might soon wake up without your favorite morning drink.
You don’t have to go far out of your way to help the world be a better place. Simply doing any of the four things above is already helping. And if more people like you do the same thing, maybe we don’t have to imagine the world without coffee.