Coffee is social, cultural, and for much of the Western world, coffee is fuel. For many of us, our morning coffee is top priority in keeping up with life's many demands. Unfortunately for coffee junkies worldwide, the coffee industry is being threatened on a global level by the impacts of climate change.
Coffee is the single largest agricultural export from the tropics, with its retail value reaching $100 billion (U.S.) annually. Global coffee consumption in 2012-2013 totalled 145 million 60 kg bags, and is rising due a growing middle class in Asia and higher demand in developing regions such as Brazil, India, and China. While demand continues to rise, supply is over 5 million bags short of last year due to volatile weather patterns -- namely Brazil's 2014 drought.
Are the coffee shortages in Brazil a precursor to increasingly severe weather patterns at the hand of climate change? Growing evidence points to yes. A recent study predicts that by as soon as 2020, regions currently suitable for coffee cultivation will shrink substantially due to disruptions in weather patterns, interfering with global production and trade. Even coffee giant, Starbucks, has conceded to this global threat, the company's sustainability director Jim Hanna saying in an interview four years ago that "if conditions continue as they are -- [there] is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain."
While consumers and businesses worldwide worry about the impact climate change will have on their coffee supplies, many coffee farmers are already finding it difficult to cope with the change in weather patterns. Of approximately 20 million coffee farmers worldwide, smallholder farmers who grow over 70 per cent of the world's coffee farmers are at risk of being displaced or losing their sole source of income.
Addressing such a complex challenge will require more collaboration between farmers, governments and local coffee roasters in our community. As a consumer, you can do your part by supporting coffee roasters with sustainable practices. Support brands that are being proactive about climate change, water conservation, organic growing, energy efficiency and waste reduction. Westcoast coffee companies leading the way include Saltspring Island Coffee, Oughtred Coffee & Tea, Ethical Bean and more. These companies are considering the future of coffee, and taking stand to support farmers and the environment.
Beyond switching to a sustainable coffee roaster, there are also things you can do at home.
The threats of climate change are at the mercy of our everyday lives. Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions at home can protect crops such as coffee, almonds, fruits, vegetables and grains from the impacts of major weather changes. We have to start with small actions that will collectively make a big impact:
- Drive less and bike/walk/use transit more
- Buy local to reduce transportation emissions
- Make your home efficient with thermostats, LED lighting, draft proofing, low flow shower heads and energy efficient appliances
- Recycle and compost your waste, and reduce packaging
- Support green businesses and boycott those that are not addressing climate change
We love coffee. Let's do our part to make sure we can drink it every morning for decades to come.
Follow Jill Doucette on Instagram @JillianDoucette or her company @SynergyEnterprises
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