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If you need more proof that climate change is destroying the world, consider your favorite foods and beverages. Changing temperatures, unpredictable rainfall, and record droughts are affecting production of honey, coffee, chocolate, and bourbon—just to name a few. Do you want to live in a world with no coffee, no chocolate, and no bourbon? Didn't think so.
During the last 18 months, bread shortages have become a frightening reality. Since last year, grain prices worldwide have nearly doubled as a result of heat, drought, and wildfires in Russia, as well as floods in Australia. Damaged wheat crops this past year played a factor in the Arab Spring uprisings, as bread has long been the levy against starvation. And this year's climate assault on the world's wheat crops is only the beginning, experts say. Over the next 20 years, expect bread prices to rise 90 percent. In response to a wheat shortage, companies like Glencore and Cargill have moved to monopolize the market, setting themselves up for extreme profit if the world's wheat continues to decrease.
Climate change isn’t only melting icebergs, it’s also softening the beloved chocolate bar. A 3 degree temperature increase could dramatically reduce cacao crops in Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire. This would have a drastic effect on the regions in Africa that depend on the cacao trees for cash. Demand for cacao is so high that pickers can simply pluck cacao pods off the trees and turn them around immediately for quick cash. Thankfully, while chocolate supplies are decreasing, they aren't disappearing.Growing regions may shift from their current locations to more suitable, cooler climates about 200 miles inland in both Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire, keeping the revenue in those countries. And a decrease in cacao crops could have a positive effect on the overall quality of the chocolate market.
Already a delicate crop, coffee is taking another hit from climate change. Affecting nearly every region that grows coffee—Brazil, Vietnam, Africa—climate change is pushing altitudes for coffee higher and higher up mountains and changing rain cycles. We’re already seeing dwindling coffee supplies jack up the price of a cup of joe—between 2010 and 2011, companies the U.S. like Maxwell House and Folgers increased their prices by 25 percent. This has prompted the revitalization of the boutique coffee trend. Specialty roasters and high-end shops are selling coffee at a higher price, but they are also offering higher-quality beans.
The production of Kentucky bourbon is predicated on reliable changes in temperature due to seasonal weather patterns. By meddling with weather patterns, climate change threatens to throw off the temperature changes that give bourbon its oak flavor and amber color. If bourbon isn’t aged in Kentucky for at least a year, it can’t be called Kentucky bourbon. And with a predicted 3-degree rise in temperatures across the state over the next 100 years, it’s possible that bourbon will never be aged in the same way in Kentucky again. That could lead to bourbon and whiskey produced in the rest of the continental U.S., but purists would likely object.
One of the early indicators of climate change’s larger effects on the world has been the mass number of bee deaths. And with the decrease in bees come a decrease in something only bees can produce: honey. That sticky-sweet alternative to sugar isn't totally lost, though. Honey bees have been known to adapt to diseases, so they might cope with fluctuating temperatures, too.
For a while, it appeared that peanut production would benefit from climate change—peanuts were responding positively to rising levels of carbon dioxide—but a hot, dry summer in the peanut producing-South has left America with a shortage of its ballpark favorite. A lack of peanuts doesn’t just mean less shells on the ground at a baseball game, it also means less peanut butter: Peanut butter prices have already begun to rise. But because peanuts do respond well to high levels of carbon dioxide, it's conceivable that peanut production will bounce back next year.
Agave crops in Mexico could be an indirect victim of climate change. Droughts in northern Mexico may destroy all agricultural production, which leaves farmers and governments susceptible to pressure from the United States and Europe to grow corn crops for ethanol-based products. Farmers may ditch lower payouts from agave for profitable corn crops, which would mean less tequila and more ethanol. But since agave is not a direct casualty of climate change, chances are that boutique tequilas will remain, in the vein of specialty coffee and chocolate.
Warming in California’s wine country could cause a 50 percent drop in the amount of wine grapes produced by 2040. But other parts of the country are experiencing a rise in temperatures too, which means wine production could migrate instead of dying out. Warmer temperatures in regions like the Finger Lakes in upstate New York and the Puget Sound in Washington State could create new growing areas for wine grapes. Say hello to the new Napa Valley.