WORLD – A study involving the University of East Anglia (UEA), has warned that the increasing widespread and severe drought and heat may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide, affecting the supply used to make beer.

According to the study, the notion of how big business will contribute to the fight against climate change is one of the key issues being debated after a leading body of experts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued its starkest warning yet.

FoodIngredientsFirst reported that many key players in the food industry are setting ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on waste.

Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the world by volume consumed. Although the frequency and severity of drought and heat extremes increase substantially in a range of future climate scenarios, the vulnerability of beer supply to such extremes has never been assessed.

In recent years, the beer sector has consumed around 17% of global barley production, but this share varies drastically across major beer-producing countries, for example from 83% in Brazil to 9% in Australia.

Results from the new study reveal potential average yield losses ranging from 3% to 17%, depending on the severity of the conditions.

Decreases in the global supply of barley lead to proportionally more significant declines in barley used to make beer.

In the UK, beer consumption could fall by between 0.37 billion and 1.33 billion liters, while the price could rise as much as double, while consumption in the US could decrease by between 1.08 billion and 3.48 billion liters.

“Increasingly research has begun to project the impacts of climate change on world food production, focusing on staple crops such as wheat, maize, soybean and rice,” said co-ordinator of the research and the lead UK author Dabo Guan, Professor of Climate Change Economics at UEA’s School of International Development.

“Although some attention has been paid to the potential impacts of climate change on luxury crops such as wine and coffee, the impacts on beer have not been carefully evaluated.

A sufficient beer supply may help with the stability of entertainment and communication in society.”

Much has been made of the various sourcing challenges throughout Europe and the rest of the world in recent months as harvests of several crops have been affected by drought.

Europe experienced a dry spell and above-average seasonal temperatures, including numerous heat waves, earlier this year. And barley is also being affected, which can affect the global beer supply.

“While the effects on beer may seem modest in comparison to many of the other – some life-threatening – impacts of climate change, there is nonetheless something fundamental in the cross-cultural appreciation of beer,” added Guan.

“It may be argued that consuming less beer isn’t itself disastrous and may even have health benefits.

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.”