• Researchers have uncovered a link between severe weather conditions, such as extreme drought or heat, and the global consumption of beer.
  • Rising global temperatures could hinder the production of barley - the main ingredient in beer.
  • Without enough supply to meet demand, the world could face a 16% decline in global beer consumption, with beer prices skyrocketing across nations.

Rising global temperatures affect not only our safety, but what we eat and drink as well.

In recent years, scientists have uncovered a link between climate change and our consumption of popular items like wine and coffee. Now, an upcoming study from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has found a link between extreme weather and how much beer we drink.

Instead of attempting to predict future events, the researchers asked themselves a question: What would happen to the beer industry tomorrow if it experienced the most severe form of drought or heat anticipated by scientists in the coming years?

According to the researchers, whose findings will appear in Nature Plants, these extreme weather conditions could spur a 16% decline in global beer consumption. That's equivalent to 29 billion liters, or the amount of beer consumed annually in the US.

The issue is one of supply, not demand. In the event of a modern climate-related disaster, farmers could have trouble producing barley - the main ingredient in beer.

That's bad news for the global beer market, which is predicted to reach R111 trillion by 2022. It's also bad news for consumers, who could see beer prices double worldwide.

The effects would be particularly acute in China, the world's biggest beer consumer. If extreme heat or drought were to strike tomorrow, the nation could see its consumption decline by around 10%, or more than 12 billion cans of beer. By contrast, the US could see its consumption decline by up to 20%, or nearly ten billion cans of beer.

The study predicts the largest price increases in affluent, beer-loving countries like Ireland, whose six-packs could cost an extra R315 each.

In addition to these economic effects, a global beer shortage might have a number of social and political consequences. According to one of the study's authors, Dabo Guan, climate change could ultimately trigger a new kind of prohibition, wherein beer becomes a luxury good that's no longer available to the working class.

"We're not writing this piece to encourage people to drink more today than they would tomorrow," said Guan. "What we're saying is that...if people still want to have a pint of beer while they watch football, we have to do something about climate change."

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