Coffee is increasingly popular. Ethiopia is the home of the popular Arabica bean. Coffee farming generates a quarter of Ethiopia’s export earnings. In 2017, the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) predicts that consumption of the bean will outweigh its production for the third year in a row. Climate change leads to rapidly increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall. As a result, if nothing is done, coffee beans could be in shorter supply, of poorer quality, and selling at a higher price.
Aaron P. Davis, Justin Moat, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey, UK, and colleagues have used a modeling approach in combination with remote sensing, supported by rigorous ground-truthing to understand the influence of climate change on coffee production.
They found that if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue at their current rate, the global temperature could rise by as much as 4°C. 39–59 % of the current growing area for coffee could experience climatic changes that are large enough to make them unsuitable for coffee farming. Unless something is done to restrict global warming, 60% of Ethiopia’s coffee territory could be lost and the amount of land suitable for the Arabica bean in South East Asia could shrink by more than two-thirds.
Solutions include the artificial manufacturing of strains of the Arabica bean which are more resistant to extreme climates and the relocation of coffee areas, in combination with forest conservation or re-establishment. The latter could see at least a fourfold (>400 %) increase in suitable coffee farming area, according to the researchers. However, they also emphasize that the “real solution must be to limit global warming in line with the targets agreed upon at the COP21 Paris climate talks, requiring a collective effort from everyone involved”.
- Resilience potential of the Ethiopian coffee sector under climate change,
Justin Moat, Jenny Williams, Susana Baena, Timothy Wilkinson, Tadesse W. Gole, Zeleke K. Challa, Sebsebe Demissew, Aaron P. Davis,
Nature Plants 2017.