Climate change could jack up the price of your cold one by nearly double, a new study finds.
In a report published by Nature Plants, an international journal of scientific research, on Monday, researchers said an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, namely heat waves and drought, could reduce barley growth on a global scale.
The decrease in production will consequently lower the supply of barley products such as beer, wine and chocolate, driving up market values. Barley, a cereal grain that brewers ferment to make beer, grows best in temperate climates.
Authors of the study claim it’s the first of its kind in its assessment of how beer will fare in times of “climate-related weather extremes” through the end of the century.
Steve Davis, one of the study’s contributors and an associate professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine, said this is a wake up call for beer lovers everywhere, including himself.
“Beer is a luxury good,” Davis said. “The response of consumers to a change in price is more elastic for these luxury goods than it is for the other uses of barley. Predominately, the other use is feeding livestock.”
He added that in some of these extreme cases, beer production could take a 20% hit.
According to the study, beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world consumed by volume. When looking at extreme climate scenarios, researches saw an average yield loss ranging from 3 to 17 percent depending on the severity of the climate condition.
But, the Brewers Association,a not-for-profit trade association of brewers, said consumers shouldn’t lose sleep over what they call an “academic exercise.”
In a report published on Tuesday, the association said that the small but gradual increase in barley yields over time will be enough to offset sharp dips in the supply due to weather.
Bart Watson, the association’s chief economist, confirmed that climate change does pose its own set of challenges to the beer supply chain, but explained that the industry is prepared for what’s to come.
“Brewers and maltsters have built into their system the idea that you need to have a surplus that you can carry over year after year for these types of issues,” Watson said.
Julien Emile-Geay, an associate professor of climate science at USC, said he hopes the study will personalize the issue for people who “don’t think it’s going to affect them very much.”
“So, if you tell them, ‘well what about your beer and your coffee,’ maybe they’ll start caring. I don’t know what’s next to take away. Maybe pizza,” he said.
He also hopes current lawmakers will leverage the evidence and policy solutions to enact change.
“This is an issue that can only be solved in a bipartisan manner” he added.
When asked if he’d pay a higher price for beer, USC senior Donovan Spencer said he’d find another alternative.
“I like beer and I enjoy beer, but if it’s going to go up in price I don’t think it’s worth making up for the difference,” Spencer said.