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Has Our Perk Peaked?

As continually displayed with events like last year’s super-storm Sandy, environmental turmoil is getting personal, or at least more overtly so.

Major disasters lay in the wake of climate change, but some are less obnoxious, instead tearing passively at the tethers of society and threatening what has become a staple to a majority of the population’s daily life.

I am referring, of course, to coffee.

Whether it is freshly dripped grounds from the tin in our kitchen, the incessant sipping from dainty cups outside the local cafes or a robust mug of Joe to compliment a late night in a grease spoon diner. Coffee has become a familiar friend, a vice to billions, and one powerhouse of international trade, coming second only to oil as the world’s most traded commodity. But due to ongoing climate change, coffea arabica, which comprises 75-80 percent of all the world’s commercially produced coffee, may become extinct well within our lifetime.

Last year, the Royal Botanical Gardens in collaboration with scientists in Ethiopia conducted a study on the effects of climate change on the arabica coffee plant.

For their research, two types of analysis were performed, a locality analysis and an area analysis, of which the locality analysis report proved more informative. This report found that, at best, there will be a 65 percent reduction in suitable localities. Because the coffea arabica plant is so delicate, it is not flexible enough to adapt to the changing environment.

In the worst case scenario, wild coffea arabica will be extinct by 2080. Though in the forests of South Sudan it may be extinct as soon as 2020.

This is without factoring in other threats like deforestation and a population loss of native birds, who play a major role in distributing the wild seeds of the coffea arabica plant.

Coffea arabica was originally endemic to Ethiopia, and there a majority of it is still grown today. Of course, its production has also spread to Kenya, Jamaica, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Hawaii, to name just a few.

In many of these countries coffee is no moonlighting trade and is often the main source of income. If coffee production were to cease due to climate change, these countries would undoubtedly receive a hard blow economically, to say the least.

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