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Climate Change Could Make Beer Prices Double, Study Says

16 October 2018

Guan also noted that beer crops aren't the only ones likely to be affected by climate change.

But this may not be an option for all of us in the future, with supplies expected to drop and prices expected to surge, according to research published in Nature Plants.

If you crave a pint (or two) at the end of a hard day, brace yourself: climate change is poised to make your favourite lager, ale or IPA more scarce and pricey.

In a collaboration that came about over drinks, an global team of climate researchers has modelled the effects of climate change on barley and beer production. But they said it would affect the quality of life of many people.

During the most severe climate events, the results indicate that global beer consumption would decline by 16%, or 29 billion litres - roughly equal to the total annual beer consumption in the U.S. - and that beer prices would on average double.

Only 17 per cent of the globe's barley is actually used in brewing; most is harvested as feed for livestock.

Beer prices in the wake of these disruptive weather events would, on average, double.

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"The world is facing many life-threatening impacts of climate change, so people having to spend a bit more to drink beer may seem trivial by comparison", said co-author Steven Davis, UCI associate professor of Earth system science. "Average yield losses range from 3 to 17 [percent] depending on the severity of the conditions", according to the study.

Wealthy beer-loving nations, such as Canada, Belgium and Denmark, would see the sharpest price rises.

The impact on beer prices could be gut-wrenching, the scientists have warned - and it'll be even worse in Ireland, with the price of a six pack shooting up £15.

Co-author Dr Nathan Mueller, also from the University of California at Irvine, said: "Current levels of fossil fuel consumption and CO2 (carbon dioxide) pollution - business as usual - will result in this worst-case scenario, with more weather extremes negatively impacting the world's beer basket". Consumption in the US could decrease by between 1.08 billion and 3.48 billion litres, they said.

Britain would also get thirsty during a severe barley crunch, with consumption dropping by up to 1.3 billion litres, and the price of a pint doubling.

Mr Guan said beer price spikes and shortages might even affect social stability, noting the prohibition era in the U.S. saw organised crime supplying illicit liquor.

Saying that the beer industry "certainly understands and is already preparing for shifts in climate", the BA's economist Bart Watson and supply chain expert Chris Swersey write that barley production has always shifted geographically - while production efficiency "continues to grow over time".

Climate Change Could Make Beer Prices Double, Study Says