Coffee and Climate Change

Climatic variability is the main factor responsible for the varied and often-frustrating coffee yields around the world. Temperature and rainfall are considered the most important weather factors affecting the harvest.

Generally speaking, a great degree of uncertainty still exists regarding how each producing region will be affected, and how it will impact overall coffee worldwide. However, experts expect some changes to occur, most likely due to temperature increases, including:

Quality: Coffee will ripen faster, leading to a drop in quality.

Yields: Different aspects of the metabolism of coffee trees, such as flowering, will be affected leading to reductions in yields.

Pests and diseases: Certain pests and diseases will proliferate and spread to regions where they weren’t previously.

For example, the Brazilian research agency EMBRAPA calculates that a one-degree increase in temperature could reduce by 200,000 km2 the current areas with potential for coffee plantation. A three-degree increase would remove further 320,000 km2, while a catastrophic increase of 5.8 degrees would erase another 310,000.

Adaptation to climate change must occur through the prevention and removal of maladaptive practices. Maladaptation refers to adaptation measures that don’t succeed in reducing vulnerability but increase it instead. Planning for climate change must involve consideration of climate-related risks including those that have slow onset, such as changes in temperature and rainfall leading to agricultural losses, drought and biodiversity losses, and those that happen suddenly such as tropical storms and floods.
Some strategies might include climate and production changes monitoring, possible scenarios mapping migration of plantations, diversification, shade and higher-density planting, vegetated soils and irrigation, genetic breeding, etc.

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