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A study has shown that the price surge likely to be caused by climate change would have the worst impact in countries that drink the most beer. 

Bengaluru: Here’s a reason for climate-change sceptics to rethink their resistance: The erratic and extreme droughts and heat caused by climate change are leading to a shortage of beer and a spurt in prices of the popular alcoholic beverage, a study has shown.

In a paper published Monday in Nature Plants, researchers said the supply and production of barley, the main ingredient of beer, are expected to drop by almost 17 per cent by 2100, causing prices to double in some areas.

The researchers said the price surge may deprive hundreds of millions of the drink as climate change worsens.

Climate change has already taken a heavy toll on barley. Despite the fact that farmers have been adopting advanced techniques to increase the yield of beer, the price of the beverage has wildly fluctuated over the past few years, especially in the US and Europe.

Study & result

To understand how climate change is going to affect production and prices of beer, scientists at the University of Peking (China), the University of East Anglia (UK), and the University of California, Irvine, (US) created three mathematical computer models for predictions.

Also read: India’s GDP may see 2.8% dip by 2050 due to climate change: World Bank

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First, a global model of the Earth’s climate took into account greenhouse emissions to calculate the various scenarios that may arise over the next century.

The results from this model were then fed into another that calculated how crops — specifically barely — will fare under different environmental conditions. And the results of these two were given as inputs into a third, an algorithm that modelled the economy and showed price fluctuations of barley and beer.

The findings are significant and vary from country to country across 34 global regions.

The study showed that the price surge was highest in countries that drink the most beer: It predicted that a 38 per cent fall in beer supply will lead to massive hikes in its price in Belgium, Canada, Denmark and Poland.

In the UK, the researchers said, beer consumption could fall by between 0.37 billion and 1.33 billion litres, while the price could as much as double. Consumption in the US could decrease by between 1.08 billion and 3.48 billion litres. The biggest consumer of beer today, China, is expected to see a drop of 4.34 billion litres.

Best case not really the best

In the next century, the study predicts, prices will go up by at least 15 per cent in the best-case scenario, and 50 per cent in the practical one. Ireland will face the worst of the price rise, which is predicted to range between 43 per cent and 338 per cent by 2099 under the most severe climate scenario.

“Current levels of fossil fuel consumption and CO2 pollution — business as usual — will result in this worst-case scenario, with more weather extremes negatively impacting the world’s beer basket,” said co-author Nathan Mueller, an assistant professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

Also read: Greening may not be the answer to a warming planet

“Our study showed that even modest warming will lead to increases in drought and excessive heat events in barley-growing areas,” he added.

Decreasing yields would leave less barley for beer production, as its use as food and cattle feed takes precedence. This could potentially see wider adoption of genetically enhanced barley to improve production and yield.

“Our results show that in the most severe climate events, the supply of beer could decline by about 16 per cent in years when droughts and heat waves strike,” said co-author Steven Davis, also an associate professor of Earth system science at the UCI.

“That’s comparable to all the beer consumption in the US,” he added, “Future climate and pricing conditions could put beer out of reach for hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

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