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Climate change could cause beer shortage, scientists warn

Last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that if governments don’t act on climate change within 12 years, there will be additional threats to the global environment.

>> On AJC.com: We have 12 years left to act on climate change, UN warns

Scientists have linked global warming to such environmental events as escalated intensity of hurricanes and melting Arctic ice. Now, a new study from climate researchers in the United States, China and Britain suggests a beer shortage is brewing due to climate change.

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The report, published in the journal Nature Plants, warns that drought and heat will impact barley production, though only 17 percent of the world’s barley is used for beer. But in the United States, Brazil and China, at least two-thirds of the barley goes into six-packs, drafts, kegs, cans and bottles.

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Using a process-based crop model and an economic model, the researchers examined the effects of heat waves and drought, not the general warming that will also affect where barley is grown.

That means beer prices on average would double, even adjusting for inflation. In countries like Ireland, where cost of a brew is already high, prices could triple. Beer is currently the most popular alcoholic drink by volume consumed.

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“Although not the most concerning impact of future climate change, climate-related weather extremes may threaten the availability and economic accessibility of beer,” researchers wrote.

“Our aim is not to encourage people to drink more beer now,” study author Dabo Guan of Beijing’s Tsinghua University told the New York Times. “Climate change mitigation is the only way. Everybody in the world needs to fight.”

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As The Associated Press reported: “If emissions of heat-trapping gases from the burning of coal, oil and gas continue at the current rising pace, the likelihood of weather conditions hurting barley production will increase from about once a decade before 2050 to once every other year by the end of the century.”

Read the full study at nature.com.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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