As the planet warms, one place you can still seek solace is a nice, cold beer. But maybe not for long. Or at least not for as cheap. A study published today (Oct. 15) in the academic journal Nature Plants warns that you may pay much more for that brew during severe droughts brought on by climate change in the near future.
Barley, beer’s main ingredient, is particularly sensitive to extreme weather. And climate models predict that extreme heat and drought events will become more common, depending on how quickly humans curb their greenhouse gas emissions.
A team of researchers, led by Peking University’s Wei Xie, modeled the impact that barley-supply shocks in four different climate scenarios would have on the price of beer in some of the world’s most notoriously beer-guzzling countries. In their best case scenario, greenhouse-gas emissions peak by 2020 and average global land temperatures rise less than 3°C over preindustrial levels by the end of the century. In the two more likely scenarios, emissions peak in 2040 or 2080, and temperatures rise 4°C-5°C by 2100. In the worst case, emissions continue to rise throughout the 21st century and temperatures increase by more than 5°C by the century’s end.
The study found that, globally, beer prices are likely to rise by 15% during extreme droughts in the best case and 100% in the worst case. But their findings vary widely by country. Ireland, for example, is predicted to be one of the most affected countries; there, beer prices could rise by nearly 300% under the worst conditions.
The authors also modeled which countries would cut back their consumption the most in response to global beer shortages. They predict that the sharpest drops would occur in the countries with the highest per-capita beer consumption: Ireland and the Czech Republic, where the average person consumes 276 and 274 500-ml bottles each year, respectively. That’s about a six-pack per week.