Quirks & Quarks

Beer shortages could be a result of climate change thanks to barley crop failures

A bottle of beer in Canada could cost twice as much in the future, according to climate change professor Dabo Guan.

A bottle of beer in Canada could cost twice as much in the future, says climate change professor

A bottle of beer in Canada could cost twice as much in the future thanks to climate change. (Eric Thomas /AFP/Getty Images)

Originally published on October 20, 2018.

Climate change could create a shortage of barley crops in the future, forcing beer drinkers to shell out more money for a bottle of ale.

Barley is the primary grain used to make beer. But according to a multidisciplinary team of scientists from economics, agriculture and climate change studies, barley could be in trouble. They've calculated that if we continue on our current emissions trajectory, we could lose up to 17 per cent of the world's barley. That scenario predicts a 4 C to 5 C increase in global temperature.

Severe droughts and extreme heat events can quickly suck the water from crops. This can be fatal in short order, said Dabo Guan, a professor of climate change economics at the University of East Anglia in England and a co-author on the paper.

Both the poor and rich will be hurt by climate change

Barley for beer, of course, will not be the only crop affected by climate change. Important staples like corn, rice and wheat will also be affected. Guan said this study of beer was in part to show that climate change will impact everyone, not just poor countries.

"While people in developed countries might not suffer from famine when climate change hits, their luxury essentials — coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, cigars —  will get hurt, and as a result, their quality of life will decline."

Beer is considered a luxury essential. Only the top quality barley are used to make beer, the rest go to feed animals. (Francois Nascimbeni/AFP/Getty Images)

The study predicts that Canadians will see a doubling in price of a 500 ml bottle of beer from $2.50 to $5, and a consumption drop of 30 per cent.

China and U.S., the two largest beer consumers in the world, will see their consumption drop by 20 per cent and prices shoot up by 50 per cent.

Canada is the eighth-largest beer consumer in the world and will only be affected moderately by climate change.

Eastern European countries will get hurt the most, according to Guan. Beer prices in Czech Republic, for example, are going to shoot up seven-fold because European countries will lose most of their barley, and will have to rely on other countries for imports.

"If we still want to keep some luxury crops, we need to work together to mitigate climate change," said Guan.