Global warming posed to threaten barley stock, Ireland could be hit hardest

Beer drinkers are being warned that global warming could affect the price of their pint.

A new study published this week acknowledges that climate change will drive both heat waves and droughts in the latter half of the 21st century, negatively affecting the availability of barley, one of the main ingredients in beer.

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The study found that “decreases in the global supply of barley lead to proportionally larger decreases in barley used to make beer and, ultimately, result in dramatic regional decreases in beer consumption (for example, − 32% in Argentina) and increases in beer prices (for example, + 193% in Ireland).”

The study went on to say that in periods of extreme weather, global barley production could drop as much as 3% to 17%.

Professor Dabo Guan, a member of the research team behind the new study, said: “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.”

“If you still want to still have a couple of pints of beer while you watch the football, then climate change [action] is the only way out. This is the key message.”

Professor Steven Davis, another member of the research team, said, “Future climate and pricing conditions could put beer out of reach for hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

In the worst case scenario, Ireland is forecast to be among the most severely hit, with the price of a pint nearly doubling, and the consumption of beer dropping by about a third. In the best case scenario, the amount of beer drank in Ireland could fall by up to 13%.

Reuters explained that many countries keep reserve stocks of staple crops like corn, rice, and wheat to help in the event of shortages, but barley is not typically included.

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While the news is concerning, some top farmers aren’t too worried just yet. Dwight Little, president the Idaho Grain Producers Association, said, "If warming happens as they say it will, my impression is that it will come in small incremental increases over a long time, and that allows farmers time to change.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, has already started adopting new measures to work around climate change, including a ‘winter barley’ in Idaho that uses moisture from melting snow, cutting the need for irrigation. The company is also dedicated to cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions.