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Beer Prices and Global Warming: Get Ready to Pay More for a Cold One

It's eventually going to get too hot for a cold one.

Climate change deniers may not be able to deny the rising cost of beer in the near future, new research warns, due to a drop in viable barley under hotter temperatures. Rising costs of beer may not seem like the end of the world, but it could be a symptom of it.  If global warming trends keep moving in the direction scientists estimate, beer prices could triple in certain regions. Although this not the only reason to be concerned about global warming, it could make it easier to bring up at a party.

“Under higher-warming climate scenarios, we find 100-year drought and heat events occur every three years, decreasing barley yields by an average 17 percent in those years, and increasing the price of a 6-pack in the U.S. by $1-8,” study co-author Steven J. Davis, an earth system scientist at the University of California, Irvine’s Department of Earth System Science, wrote on Twitter. “Another way climate change will suck.”

The more money people make, the more they want to spend it on resource draining products including booze, studies show, despite the fact that this is not environmentally sustainable. But as climate change threatens the supply of alcohol and other indulgences like meat and cheese, the demand keeps going up. A growing body of research has looked at how global warming could affect stable crops like rice and wheat, less has focused on the impact it will have on luxury goods, like beer.

In order to determine this, Davis and his colleagues projected heat and drought trends using the AgMERRA dataset — weather pattern analysis from NASA used to project agricultural outcomes based on data from 1981 to 2010. Then they applied these projections to four different Earth System Models, in order to estimate a range of climate change scenarios as well as agricultural yields and economic conditions. Overall, they found that between 2010 to 2099 barley farmers could see their crop yields drop anywhere from 3 to 17 percent. While that seems like a wide range, regional factors play a role. Ireland, which consumes the most beer, could see the cost of their pints triple, and Poland, Italy, Canada, South America, and other surrounding tropical islands could get hit hard as well.

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In the U.S., oddly, the barley yield is projected to rise, but the national increase is not enough to offset the global decrease.

The study was limited by challenges anticipating consumer behaviors and population trends, and projections were based on current numbers for both. Researchers also did not take into account innovations barley farmers and brewers are taking to adapt to warmer climates. And it’s worth noting that drinking less beer may be better for everyone’s health, but that doesn’t mean climate change is not an issue. Based the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recently published Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC, unless dramatic systemic changes occur, global temperatures could reach a tipping point where people may not survive long enough for beer to become a rip off — but don’t raise a glass to that.

“It may be argued that consuming less beer isn’t itself disastrous, and may even have health benefits,” study co-author Dabo Guan, a Professor in Climate Change Economics the University of East Anglia said in a statement. “Nevertheless, there is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impacts on beer availability and price will add insult to injury.”