Climate scientists have warned for years that rising global temperatures will lead to a litany of apocalyptic consequences. Hurricanes and wildfires could get stronger, diseases could spike, and parts of Miami and Manhattan could be underwater.
But a new report published in the journal Nature Plants suggests yet another unpleasant consequence: Our beer could get a lot more expensive—or we could lose it entirely.
“If the people in the U.K. and the U.S. [...] still want to have a pint, we have to work together to fight climate change,” said Dabo Guan, a professor of climate change economics at the University of East Anglia.
Conducted by an team of researchers who came up with the idea while, coincidentally, drinking beer, the study is based on the well-known fact that global climate change will likely lead to severe weather events, including droughts, in many regions of the world.
The researchers examined the impact these possible events would have on 34 world regions that produce barley, the key ingredient in beer. They found that if one of these weather events struck, global barley yields could plunge anywhere between 3 and 17 percent, with the greatest declines occurring in tropical regions like Central Africa and Central and South America.
The researchers then analyzed how a decline in barley yield would impact the world’s beer consumption in today’s economy.
It wasn’t good. In the worst climate scenario—where temperatures are on track to rise 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100—global beer consumption would decline by about 16 percent, and prices would double. That 16 percent decline, the paper notes, is roughly equal to the amount of beer consumed in the United States alone in 2011.
According to the latest IPCC report, the Earth is dangerously close to that worst-case scenario. The report predicts that without drastic change, global temperatures will rise about 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.
The good news? Progressive climate action can save both our beer and our planet. In a less severe climate scenario, where temperatures rise less than 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, consumption would decline by only 4 percent, and prices would only rise by 15 percent.
“I really hope U.S. policymakers will see these studies,” Guan said, expressing hope that politicians would “change their minds and come back to the Paris Agreement.”
But if that doesn’t happen, this phenomenon could hit beer-loving countries the hardest. In China, which consumes far more beer by volume than any other nation (and coincidentally, is the world’s biggest climate polluter) beer consumption could drop by 4.34 billion liters if temperatures rise more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in the U.S., where we’re not doing so well at protecting the climate either, consumption could decrease by up to 3.48 billion liters.
Smaller countries could also face significant losses. Although nations like Argentina would only lose about half a billion liters in the worst scenario, that would mean a 32 percent loss of their total supply.
What’s worse, that loss of supply could also lead to major price hikes under the more drastic climate predictions. Ireland, which leads the world in per capita beer consumption with a near-unbelievable 276 bottles per person each year, would see a predicted $4.84 price rise for each bottle of beer.
“It may be argued that consuming less beer isn't itself disastrous, and may even have health benefits,” the paper concluded. “Nevertheless, there is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impacts on beer availability and price will add insult to injury.”