In recent years, scientists have noted the impacts of climate change on crops worldwide. As a result of rising temperatures and widespread drought, coffee crops in Vietnam are suffering. In Pakistan, the recent periods of intense rains and hailstorms have reduced the yields of wheat nationwide. Although there are many measures being taken to prevent further climate change, such as major corporations reducing their carbon dioxide output, global economic expansion is exacerbating the effects of climate change and is actually harming some industries.
It is easy for those in charge of major corporations to ignore the high levels of emissions that their companies generate; however, those running smaller businesses in less developed countries are feeling the aftermath. Scientists from the University of Witwatersrand believe that in Tanzania, the rise in nighttime temperatures in recent decades is greatly decreasing farmers’ ability to produce Arabica coffee. This Arabica coffee is cultivated in the southern and northern highlands along the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and in the Mbeya region, where the majority of small producers are based.
Coffee production in Tanzania has dropped by 46% since 1966, a trend that researchers expect to continue. Over this time frame, Tanzania’s average nighttime temperature has risen 1.4 degrees Celsius, which is not a good sign for the country’s largest export crop. The study providing this data was published in the journal Agricultural and Forests Meteorology and states that for each 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature, Tanzanian farmers are likely to see a loss of approximately 137 kilograms per hectare. This is almost half the nation’s production, which is currently at about 225 kilograms per hectare.
On average, the country produces about 50,000 metric tons of coffee each year, of which 70% is Arabica. The sales from this production account for over $100 million a year and provide 2.4 million Tanzanians jobs. In addition, millions more from neighboring countries are employed in this agricultural industry. However, due to the decreased ability to produce this strain of coffee, farmers are turning to other crops such as cabbage, lettuce, onions, and potatoes to sustain their incomes. So, although the country alone contributes to less than 1% of coffee beans worldwide, the regional economy is at risk to suffer greatly if farmers are unable to continue production of coffee or find alternative crops to grow.
Other countries producing coffee, such as Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Kenya are also at risk for diminished coffee yields due to increased temperatures. Negotiators at recent U.N. climate talks are working towards a global agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, but scientists predict that we are currently on a path to at least 4 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century. Despite having invested heavily in the coffee sector, governments in coffee producing countries have, for the most part, failed to put in place strategies to adapt to climate change.
These coffee producing countries may soon be forced to either move to lower altitudes to maintain the typical quantities of Arabica produced, or substitute it with a species called Robusta, which is grown at lower altitudes and is more climate-resistant.