Climate Change Could Lead to Global Beer Shortage, Study Finds

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As a recent and very dire United Nations report on climate change made clear, rising global temperatures are poised to cause a host of catastrophic effects-extreme heat, floods, increased poverty-within the foreseeable future. In China and the US, the barley yield is actually predicted to rise, but "not enough to offset the global decrease", the study says.

"Our results show that in the most severe climate events, the supply of beer could decline by about 16 percent in years when droughts and heat waves strike", he said. The impact on beer prices would vary accordingly. While Irish imbibers might be willing to make the finanicial sacrifice, but in poorer countries, like China, the decrease in beer consumption will be more marked, according to the researchers' predictions. Overall, consumption is expected to fall by 16%; equal to roughly how much beer was imbibed in the United States in 2011.

"Current levels of fossil fuel consumption and Carbon dioxide pollution - business as usual - will result in this worst-case scenario, with more weather extremes negatively impacting the world's beer basket", said co-author Nathan Mueller, UCI assistant professor of Earth system science.

"However, if adaptation efforts prioritise necessities, climate change may undermine the availability, stability and access to "luxury" goods to a greater extent than staple foods". In terms of how the public should take the news, Dr. Guan was adamant on one point: "Our aim is not to encourage people to drink more beer now".

The study did not consider climate change's affects on other staple ingredients of beer such as hops. Climate change "may not affect our bread", he said, "but it will affect our beer."The idea for the study came up at - where else? - a bar, Dr. Guan said".

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Dabo Guan, a professor of climate change economics at the University of East Anglia and the study's lead author, said beer issues pale in comparison to other climate induced problems, including food security, storm damage and fresh water scarcity.

Countries where beer is now most expensive, for example Australia and Japan, are not necessarily where future price shocks will be the greatest. Ireland, for instance, is expected to see an average price hike of 193 percent in the worse case scenario. "Average yield losses range from 3 percent to 17 percent depending on the severity of the conditions". For example, prices of beer can jump by a huge 193% in Ireland in the times to come. "Another way climate change will suck".

The study, published in Monday's journal Nature Plants indicates in countries like Ireland, where cost of a brew is already high, prices could triple.

The study was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the British Academy and Philip Leverhulme Prize.