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Beer and climate change

Ben Domensino, Monday October 21, 2019 - 16:26 EDT


Beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world. Last year, close to 75 million litres were consumed in Australia and according to a recent study, more than half of Australians aged 18-75 will drink beer at some stage each year.

But despite its global popularity, very little research has focussed on how the production of beer may be impacted by climate change.

Beer companies around the world and here at home are already taking steps to curb the future effects of climate change on their industry.

Carlton United Breweries, Australia's largest brewing company, currently receives some of its energy from a solar farm in Victoria and is committed to sourcing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy in the future.

So, how will climate change affect global beer production in the future?

A team of researchers from China, America and the UK recently published a study that sought to find out how climate change might affect the global production of one of beer's the most common ingredients, barley. 

A combination of climate, crop and economic models was used to assess the vulnerability of the global beer supply to disruptions caused by extreme drought and heat events.

This study found that the combination of extreme drought and heat in our planet's barely growing regions is likely to increase over the next 80 years, in response to climate change. This increase is expected to hinder global barley growth, leading to an overall drop in beer production and increase in its price.

Both the overall availability of barley, and the proportion of its that's used for beer, are expected to drop in the future. However, the future decline in beer production will depend on how much our climate changes and how much of the world's barley can be allocated to beer over things like livestock and food security.

Image: Projected global Barley supply during the remainder of this century. The four bars show the recent and projected changes to global barley production and its usage distribution under low, moderate and high emissions scenarios. 

The study also suggests that climate change could have a double whammy effect on our access to beer, with global consumption rates dropping and beer prices rising at the same time.

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