Worldwide, 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed per day. Over 25 million people depend on coffee farms for their economic livelihood, and it’s estimated that 500 million people have some economic connection to coffee. That’s 1 in 12 people. So when we hear that climate change is projected to cut the global area suitable for coffee production by as much as 50% by 2050, this is something that should concern us all, whether we’re coffee farmers or just can’t start our days without coffee.
The fingerprint of climate change on coffee growing regions is already present, in the form of rising temperatures, drought and changes in precipitation. What’s more, the climate changes at work are altering the range and spread of various coffee pests and diseases, such as coffee leaf rust, which hit Central America in 2012 following unusually high temperatures and rains, causing crop damage equivalent to US$500 million and a drop in production of 2.7 million bags. Coffee farming in a changing climate presents a huge challenge for farmers; faced with the choice of costly, uncertain adaptations or simply giving up on coffee growing, many may opt for the latter. For their part, consumers will feel the impact of these changes in the form of supply shortages, impacts on coffee flavor and aroma, and rising prices.
However, there are organizations in the coffee community that are recognizing and acting on this increasingly urgent threat to the future of coffee. Several leading coffee companies have set up the “initiative for coffee & climate,” which provides farmers with the training and tools to better respond to climate change. Smallholder assistance programs are cropping up.
Here in the Twin Cities, Peace Coffee is a strong example of a fair trade coffee company that works hard to be part of the solution – and, they were recently recognized by Civil Eats as one of the 10 most sustainable coffee businesses in the U.S. Locally, they bike-deliver all the coffee they can, and they became one of Minnesota’s first public-benefit corporations in 2014. In 2015, Peace Coffee contributed nearly $25,000 to the Coffee Farmers Resilience Fund, whose goal is to support experiments to deepen organic agronomy and provide on-farm trainings in climate-resilient practices to coffee producers and farmer organizations. Through this fund, 41 people were hired to strengthen cooperative technical support, 4,417 coffee farmers received direct trainings, and a producer exchange connected coffee farmers from Colombia with producers from Honduras who taught them intensive organic techniques that build healthy soil and coffee trees. Providing tools to farmers that foster healthy, living soils contributes to climate resiliency by providing nutrient storage and root-ready availability; flood and drought resiliency; and carbon sequestration.
Peace Coffee produced the climate-themed brew, Wake Up Call,” for Climate Generation’s 10-Year Celebration, to serve at the event as well as distribute to guests. This coffee was intended to serve as an energizing call to action for all who partake, and Climate Generation is thrilled to serve this special blend on December 1. The coffee’s back label includes an educational message about the impacts of climate change on coffee production and how consumers can be part of the solution. With this coffee, Peace Coffee is supporting coffee drinkers to be a part of the solution.
Just as Peace Coffee is working within their sphere of influence to address climate change, coffee consumers can also do their part – learn about the challenges facing coffee producers and communities; choose coffee brands that are fair trade and working to be part of the solution; and finally, demand climate action from coffee companies as well as government.