How much would you pay for a cup of coffee? £2.50? £5? Perhaps you’d even be driven to ten quid if circumstances dictated you absolutely had to get your Americano or Cappuccino fix.
It might sound far-fetched considering the average Starbucks order will only set you back £2.10 right now, but the truth is that it might not be long before you’re forking out more than a fiver to get your daily dose of caffeine, and by the time your grandchildren reach coffee-drinking age they might not be able to afford it at all.
We all know that when high-demand things become low in supply, prices start to rise. For example, petrol costs are skyrocketing and land sells for far more now than it did a few decades ago. You might not think of your simple vanilla latte as being on par with these infinitely more important commodities (well, you might…) but the truth is that coffee demand just keeps on rising and now supply is falling, and falling fast.
Can’t we just grow more coffee plants, I hear you ask? Unfortunately not, as it’s not land or labour that’s lacking, it’s environmental stability. Many coffee plants require a specific range of temperatures to thrive, so with temperatures on the rise around the world coffee farmers are finding that their crops just aren’t producing coffee beans like they used to.
Global warming is having much more subtle and indirect impacts on coffee farming too. Certain species of pest are thriving in the warmer, wetter climate we’re experiencing and devouring coffee crops. Birds too, a key player in the spreading of coffee seeds so that new plants can grow, are falling prey to changing climates and dying or flocking to cooler areas.
To give you an idea of the scale of coffee crisis we’re facing, let me tell you that around 70% of coffee we drink every day comes from the Arabica bean, and 99.7% of wild Arabica coffee could be extinct by 2080. In some areas, it’ll be extinct in a decade or two.
Of course, it will still be possible to cultivate the bean in highly-controlled, temperature-regulated conditions, but the vast majority of coffee plants are grown in poor countries that simply don’t have the means to do this. Coffee, it seems, is an endangered species.
Saving it will take far more than just sorting your trash or reusing plastic bags (although both of those things help), it will require major world changes in how we run our businesses and live our lives in a bid to reduce carbon emissions, a major cause of global warming.
As far as attitudes to global warming go, the general consensus is the same: “it won’t affect me”. You might have escaped the recent flood of tsunamis (pardon the pun), hurricanes and earthquakes to hit various corners of the world, but everyone drinks coffee so yes, soon global warming will be affecting you too.
One can only hope, it seems, that the corporate bigwigs running the world’s most-polluting companies care enough about their morning trip to Starbucks to change their ways and business practises. Unlikely, unfortunately, since they’re the ones who can afford to pay £10 a latte!