New research into the effects of climate change suggests pressure on barley crops could reduce yields and drive up prices as temperatures rise. Barley, vital ingredient in beer, is highly sensitive to drought and warming temperatures, according to ScienceNews.org. Both these factors are expected to worsen as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.

The report, published in the journal Nature Plants, estimates that barley yields could be reduced as much as 17 percent by 2099, leading prices to double in some countries.

“If you don’t want that to happen – if you still want a few pints of beer – then the only way to do it is to mitigate climate change. We have to all work together to mitigate climate change,” says Dabo Guan, co-author of the study and a University of East Anglia professor of climate change economics.

The researchers used existing computer modelling of climate projections, and factored in crop responses and market reactions. They found that even in a best-case climate outcome, barley crops would be reduced at least 3 percent, with a 15 percent price increase on average.

Most countries would produce less barley, although some countries like the US and Australia would actually produce more. But because of the global decline, the US would still see a 20 percent decline in beer consumption. Some countries, such as Ireland, could see as much as a 75 percent reduction in consumption.

These changes could have a substantial impact on the price and availability of beer. About 17 percent of the world’s barely crops are used to make beer. The best barley is reserved for beer-making, and these high-quality crops are even more sensitive to climate change than the lower-quality barley used chiefly for animal feed.

Beer is the world’s most popular alcoholic beverage in terms of volume consumed. Guan points out that a decline in availability could even lead to social instability, as it did during the Prohibition era in the United States.

Barley is far from the only crop to be seriously threatened by climate change. Staple cereal crops like wheat and corn face similar projections, a result of a projected increase in pest populations. Wine grapes are also threatened in traditional wine-producing regions due to changes in temperature and moisture levels.

Guan notes:

“This is something I don’t want to see happen. People should learn from the past. If you want to have the choice for not only beer but chocolate, coffee, tea, cigars — all of those crops are very much vulnerable to climate change.”

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