Global warming is likely to wipe out half of the coffee growing area in Ethiopia, the birthplace of the bean, according to a groundbreaking new study. Rising temperatures have already damaged some special areas of origin, with these losses being likened to France losing one of its great wine regions.
Ethiopia’s highlands also host a unique treasure trove of wild coffee varieties, meaning new flavour profiles and growing traits could be lost before having been discovered. However, the new research also reveals that if a massive programme of moving plantations up hillsides to cooler altitudes were feasible, coffee production could actually increase.
Coffee vies with tea as the world’s favorite beverage and employs 100 million people worldwide in farming the beans alone. But climate change is coffee’s greatest long-term threat, killing plantations or reducing bean quality and allowing the deadly coffee leaf rust fungus to thrive. Without major action both in the coffee industry and in slashing greenhouse gas emissions, coffee is predicted to become more expensive and worse-tasting.
The research combined climate-change computer modelling with detailed measurements of current ground conditions, gathered in fieldwork that covered a total distance of 30,000km within Ethiopia. It found that 40-60% of today’s coffee growing areas in Ethiopia would be unsuitable by the end of the century under a range of likely warming scenarios.
But the study, published in the journal Nature Plants, also shows that major relocation programmes could preserve or even expand the country’s coffee-growing areas. “There is a pathway to resilience, even under climate change,” said Aaron Davis, at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in the UK, who conducted the work with Ethiopian scientists. “But it is a hugely daunting task. Millions of farmers would have to change.”
However, by 2040, such moves uphill will have reached the top of Ethiopia’s mountains. “It literally reaches the ceiling, because you don’t have any higher place to go,” Davis said.
The impacts of global warming are already being seen as temperatures have been rising steadily in Ethiopia for decades. Farmers report a longer, more extreme dry season and more intense rain in the wet season, with good harvests much less frequent than in their parents and grandparents’ time.
Read More: theguardian