It’s 89 degrees on a spring day in Ethiopia, and World Coffee Research scientists are touring a semi-forest coffee plantation that shows visible signs of stress. The leaves on the Arabica plants are wilting and spotted with disease. Some of them are falling off altogether. This year, the farm will yield less coffee than ever before. In twenty years, it could be gone altogether.
As global temperatures continue to rise, lower-altitude farms like this one will become increasingly unsuitable for coffee production. The Arabica varietal used for specialty coffee operates within a narrow band of environmental conditions. Move up one degree, and taste is affected. Move up two degrees, and production is affected. And a three-degree temperature change can kill off a plant for good. 1
We can do something about this. As founding members and committed supporters of World Coffee Research, we’re monitoring the effects of climate change on coffee growth, identifying the optimal geographies and climates for each coffee varietal, and providing the ecological and technical training that farmers need to protect their crops and their livelihoods. Together, we’re safeguarding the future of our coffee supply chain, and helping to sustain some of the world’s most fragile and vital ecosystems.
1 Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, SCAA Symposium, 2013