Climate change might impact beer production
Updated 12:55, 11-Dec-2018
By Zhao Yuheng
Climate change and beer might be two things that rarely appear in the same sentence but according to an article titled Decreases in Global Beer Supply Due to Extreme Drought and Heat in the scientific journal Nature Plants, if the Earth gets warmer, that Friday-night drink of yours might just get pricier.
The team behind the article used a mathematical model to simulate the effect of "extreme events," such as intense drought or heat on barley production. Barley malt is one of the main ingredients of beer, and 17 percent of world global barley supply is used to brew beer.
The article points out that there is a direct connection between barley and beer production.
Xie Wei, assistant professor at School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences of Peking University /CGTN Photo

Xie Wei, assistant professor at School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences of Peking University /CGTN Photo

"Extreme weather conditions such as drought or heat will impact barley production. Barley is irreplaceable in beer brewing,” said Xie Wei, first author of the article. "So if barley production drops, beer production will also drop, and beer might get more expensive."
Under the worst case scenario simulation run by the team, when global temperatures rise to their highest, global beer supply will drop 16 percent, roughly equal to the annual beer consumption in the United States in 2011.
Prices will also hike due to drop of supply. For instance, a 4.84-U.S.-dollar price hike for a 500 ml bottle is projected in Ireland, almost doubling the previous price.
Quality of that beer might also be affected. "If barley cannot receive enough irrigation during its grain filling period, quality of the protein and carbohydrate in its grain will drop," Wang Xincheng, brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch Harbin Brewery in northeast China, told CGTN.
In fact, the effect of drought on beer production has already been seen. Bloomberg reported earlier this year that drought and heat caused a 30 to 40 percent drop in barley production in European barley producing regions such as Scandinavia and northern Germany during summer 2018, leading to a 35 percent price hike of barley in France this April.
However, Wang said regional fluctuations in barley production are still manageable at the moment.
"We source our barley globally. Barley producing regions are found in North America, Europe, and Australia, as well as northeastern China. If production in one region fails, we can make it up by importing more from other regions,” said Wang.
However, if climate change gets out of control, the impact will be global. Agriculture is incredibly vulnerable to climate change.
Xie pointed out the impact of climate change is not only limited to staple crops.
"We are only using barley and beer as an example of high-added-value agricultural products," said Xie. "In developing countries like China, per capita consumption of staple crops is dropping, but that of products such as dairy, meat, and beer is rising. We projected our model to the not so near future, so consumption of those products might be even higher."
Beer, albeit not essential for human survival, occupies a major part in culture around the world, giving people yet one more reason to care more about climate change.