Study Claims Global Warming Will Cause Beer Shortage, But There’s One Big Problem

A study that claims global warming could harm barley production and raise beer prices relies on a climate projection that’s increasingly been called into question by experts.

Probably not very much. That’s because the study’s headline-grabbing results rely on a global warming projection that’s increasingly been called into question by experts.

The study, published in the journal Nature Plants on Monday, found that global barley production could drop as much as 17 percent on average under a “business as usual” scenario. That would “result in dramatic regional decreases in beer consumption and increases in beer prices,” the study found.

“Although not the most concerning impact of future climate change, climate-related weather extremes may threaten the availability and economic accessibility of beer,” the study’s authors wrote.

Barley is the main ingredient in beer, and projected increases in “extreme drought and heat” could hurt barley production. Many media outlets ran with the study’s alarming findings.

“It kind of adds insult to injury. There’s a heat wave, so you want a beer. But it costs more,” co-author Nathan Mueller, a University of California-Irvine researcher, told BuzzFeed News’s “The Latest Victims Of Climate Change: Beer Drinkers.” “It hits close to home for people.”

“Climate change mitigation is the only way. Everybody in the world needs to fight,” co-author Dabo Guan of Tsinghua University in Beijing told The New York Times in “Heat and Drought Could Threaten World Beer Supply.”

However, the study’s headline findings of a nearly 20-percent drop in barley production is based on a scenario of global warming that’s been deemed “exceptionally unlikely” by experts in the field.

Two University of British Columbia scientists published a study in 2017 calling into question use of the “business as usual” scenario, called RCP 8.5, for global warming predictions. RCP8.5 was used in the United Nations’ 2013 climate assessment.

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