A Grande Problem
By Caleb Rudge
Illustrated by Hillary Cianciosi
Coffee is ground into college culture. But for the second most traded commodity in the world after oil—and perhaps the only reason students make their 8 a.m.'s—the future looks grim. Researchers in Ethiopia have discovered that by 2080, 65 percent of coffee’s habitat will have disappeared. The worst case scenario is 98 percent. The culprit is climate change, and if we don't curb our emissions, the whole world is going to suffer, especially on early mornings.
Although there are 25 varieties of coffee plants, all the coffee we drink comes from two species: Coffea canephorea and Coffea arabica, with 70 percent coming from the latter. Every coffee plant in the world is traced back to Ethiopia, so there’s less than one percent coffee genetic variation. This makes the coffee plant an easy target for health complications caused by change.
Disturbance—whether it be caused by increased rainfall, higher temperatures, or changes in soil composition—has major effects on the productivity of the coffee plants. Coffee plants are only productive in climates with temperature variations of four to six degrees Celsius. With such a low variation in genetics, it may be impossible imminent changes that are coming in the when one falls, they all fall.
Global climate change isn’t specifically targeting coffee. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, crop yields are predicted to decline two percent every 10 years. Scientists say land deemed infertile in the regions close to the poles may open up, but this won’t make up for the arable land lost due to heat waves, desertification, or increased storms in store for farmland closer to the equator. In a world that’s expected to carry two billion more people by 2050, this could have dire consequences for the already billions of hungry people.
Every day college students take for granted their cups of coffee. It is the constant that keeps us alert, focused, and smiling. The coffee plant itself takes for granted its ecosystem, spending millions of years adapting to a specific niche. Let’s show the plant our appreciation by allowing it's continued survival in it's special ecosystem.
In case global climate change hasn’t instigated any social distress yet, the caffeine buzz attained from that morning cup o’ joe should start stimulating public environmental concern. A world without polar bears sounds bad, but a world without coffee sounds downright depressing