Is Coffee Really Going Extinct?

Oy vey, you guys... oy vey. If a new report out of The Climate Institute is to be believed, coffee might be going extinct. Go ahead — take a minute and catch your breath. You OK? Cool. Now that you've had a moment to collect yourself, let's talk about this dire prophecy and whether or not there is anything we can do to change it (*typed as I sip my giant thermos of iced java swirled with my latest obsession, Salted Caramel Mocha creamer*). 'Cause even if you think this news won't have much bearing on you by the time it comes to fruition, we need to think about our kids. Our children will grow up and need coffee too, like we did before them.Think of the children!

So here's the 4-1-1. According to researchers at The Climate Institute, the amount of viable coffee farmland is expected to be cut in half by 2050 due to rising temperatures, threatening pests, and fungi — all of which, in the context of coffee, are caused by global warming. By the year 2080, wild coffee will likely cease to exist at all. Anywhere. That's a bitter pill to swallow this early in the morning, I know. And, while I hate to be the harbinger of doom here, this seems as good of a time as any to point out that no coffee means no Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Sad but true, fellow autumn lovers.

Getting serious for a minute, though, this startling decline won't just affect those of us who depend on coffee for our daily jolt. There are 120 million people worldwide whose livelihoods are wrapped up in coffee production — there are 70 countries which export beans, with many of these exporters in the "coffee belt" being poor or third-world nations. Since the export of coffee beans in order to meet the growing demand of consumers brings in a hefty sum of $15 billion per year, you can see how losing that revenue stream could be devastating for these countries.

Can anything be done to save coffee, then? It's hard to say. Since coffee's decline will reportedly be due to the adverse affects of global warming, climate control will be at the forefront of this battle. Alas, there is no single solution to this problem. As always, we can all do our small part by practicing eco-friendly habits like recycling and driving fuel-efficient cars. So there's that and praying to the java gods, naturally, as well as purchasing sustainable coffee. But staying knowledgeable about the current status of coffee and how it is being affected also ensures that, if proposed, you can be a part of any other solutions suggested along the way. To that end, here are a few things you should know about what's happening or expected to happen shortly in the wide world of coffee production and consumption.

1. Flavor and Aroma Will Suffer

Of the 100 species of coffee trees, we only rely on two to produce the beans that make our tasty beverages: Arabica and Robusta. While most cheaper or instant coffees use Robusta, which is more bitter, gourmet coffee purveyors rely on the smoother taste afforded by Arabica beans. But with the availability of Arabica beans on the decline, more coffee companies will likely turn to the cheap and more readily available Robusta beans.

2. Prices Will Rise

I know what you're thinking: isn't it enough that I plunk down 5 bucks a day for my current coffee addiction? Well, in the near future, the answer will likely be no. If you want the good stuff (see above), you'll have to pay a premium for it. "Looking ahead, it is hard to see how consumer prices cannot be anything but badly affected by the projected long-term decline in growing area and other impacts of a more hostile climate," the Climate Institute's report warned.

3. Coffee Consumption Will Cause Deforestation

Today in more news that will majorly dismay coffee lovers, there will be dire consequences for the environment as a direct result of the drive to keep coffee production up for its drinkers. As suitable coffee farmland diminishes over the next few decades, experts predict coffee production will move away from the equator and into the mountains — a move which will cause deforestation.

4. Warmer Temps Will Open the Door to New Threats

In fact, we've already seen this play out in real life. In 2012, a stretch of unusually high temperatures and rainfall in Central America led to an outbreak of Coffee Leaf Rust, a fungus that previous could not survive in the mountain area due to cooler temps. In the Congo, a pest known as the Coffee Berry Borer has also become a big threat to coffee-producing nations — hotter and wetter conditions have allowed the beetle to expand its territory, making carnage of coffee plants in the process.

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