BY NERISSA BENTLEY
Climate change has been on the radar for decades, yet many Australians aren’t taking the threat seriously. Even our political leaders continue to argue over whether the threat is real, and if so, how realistic are the predictions being made by scientists.
As a result, we currently don’t have a credible climate policy in place to tackle our rising greenhouse gas pollution, and nor are we, as a nation, fully committed to making sustainable changes in order to limit the effects of global warming.
WHY DON’T WE CARE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?
Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who aren’t taking climate change seriously enough. Right around the world, people still continue to think of climate change as a distant threat, and continue to underestimate the enormity of its impact.
The reason for this is because humans are programmed to respond to immediate, personal threats. That is, we respond and take actions when we feel we are in immediate danger — whether it is physical or psychological. Climate change is none of these. It’s a slow-moving threat that doesn’t feel personal nor immediate. And in our busy day-to-day lives, we focus on other things that we consider to be more important, like paying the bills or caring for our families.
But what if climate change was threatening the things you take for granted. The things you say you can’t live without. How would you respond if we told you that climate change is threatening your morning cup of coffee, your cheeky afternoon chocolate, and your celebratory glass of bubbles?
WOULD YOU CARE A LITTLE MORE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE IF YOUR FAVOURITE THINGS WERE AFFECTED?
COFFEE, CHOCOLATE AND CHAMPAGNE…ALL UNDER THREAT
We’re not just saying this to get your attention, but now we have, stick with us! These three little luxuries — which let’s face it, have become regular luxuries for most of us — are being threatened by climate change.
HOW? GLAD YOU ASKED
Climate change is a long-term change in the Earth’s weather patterns or average climate.The temperature of our planet has gone up and down over time, but we are now currently in a warming phase. Only this time, our planet is heating up at a greater rate than any other time. This is because of the extra greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — due to the burning of fossil fuels and industry-related activities.
WHAT THIS MEANS IS OUR WEATHER PATTERNS OR CLIMATE IS CHANGING.
Effects of this type of climate change include higher-than usual temperatures, melting of ice-caps and, consequently, rising sea levels and floods. Rainfall patterns also change and can lead to drier or wetter conditions than usual. These all have an influence on wildlife, crops and ultimately the future of the foods we like to enjoy.
Image Credit: Brooke Lark
HOW DOES CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT COFFEE?
COFFEE… A THREATENED STORM IN A TAKEAWAY CUP?
Coffee is big business in Australia, and its growing popularity is forecast to continue, as new data shows that millennials spend more money on coffee than investing in their future. Say what?
Coffee houses, neighbourhood cafes, fast food restaurants and even your local petrol station all sell coffee. For now, it’s an affordable daily luxury — although some would call it a necessity. However, what we currently consider to be a daily basic is under threat.
Coffee plants are categorised as a highly sensitive plant species to climate change, as conditions must be just right for them to grow. Arabica beans grow in high altitudes in sub-tropical climates and equatorial regions, while Robusta coffee is grown at lower altitudes and is more tolerant to warmer conditions.
Most of the world’s coffee is grown in Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia — areas that are already being affected by climate change. For example, in Colombia, farmers report that droughts are lasting longer and mountainside erosion is more common, due to higher rainfall. They have also noticed changes in the flowering and fruiting cycles of the coffee plants, an increase in the crop disease and a greater number of pests affecting the plants.
The insects that pollinate coffee plants are also under threat as are growing conditions. In fact, one study showed that by 2050 about half the land around the world currently used to grow high-quality coffee could be unproductive. Wow!
As coffee becomes more difficult to grow, quality will diminish and supplies will decline, perhaps making this daily luxury a high-priced one reserved only for special occasions.
Researchers are now working on ways to develop disease- and drought-resistant crops, while more sustainable ways of farming are also being investigated.
Image Credit: Charisse Kenion
HOW DOES CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT CHOCOLATE?
CHOCOLATE — A LESS GUILTY PLEASURE
Australians love their chocolate, with consumption continuing to increase each year. However, our addiction to this sweet treat is under threat due to the affects climate change is having on the cocoa trees.
Cocoa beans come from the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), which grows in areas within 20 degrees latitude of the equator (i.e. Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico). These trees need specific conditions to grow, which include fairly uniform temperatures, high humidity, good soil drainage, nitrogen-rich soil, regular rainfall, and protection from the wind. They’re not fussy, are they?
However, as climate change impacts the planet, the areas where cacao trees currently grow will become hotter and drier. This means that the small amounts of land where these crops currently grow will become even smaller, leading to smaller yields and less supply.
And if a smaller supply of cocoa beans that can be turned into chocolatey goodness isn’t bad enough, a study showed that the quality of the beans is likely to be affected too.
While some reports have claimed that we’ll run out of chocolate within the next 30 years due to climate change killing the cacao trees, scientists say this is not the case. Phew!
However, the future of chocolate is still under serious threat. Researchers are diligently working to develop disease-resistant cacao trees that will better adapt to warmer weather. Let’s hope they succeed.
Image Credit: Nicole Honeywill
HOW DOES CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT CHAMPAGNE?
CLIMATE IS THREATENING YOUR BUBBLY
Sparkling wine is often referred to as ‘champagne’, however true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. Yes, Champagne is a place!
Unfortunately, this delicious drop is also under threat from global warming.
Champagne is known for its unique taste — high acidity and low alcohol content — which is a combination of the time consuming, highly regulated process that can only be achieved within this unique region.
However, rising temperatures is wreaking havoc with the grapes used to make the famous bottle of bubbles.
Warmer temperatures mean that buds appear earlier. This increases the risk of more destructive spring frosts. Warmer nights are also conducive to new pests and diseases. When grapes mature on hot days and nights, there is lower acidity in them, meaning less freshness in the wine.
Grapes are now being picked two weeks earlier than they were two decades ago. The grapes are also larger and have a higher sugar content, which turns into alcohol during the fermentation process. The result is a wine that is more alcoholic and less acidic than traditional Champagne.
Unfortunately, Champagne is not the only drop under threat from climate change. Wine growers all around the world are noticing changing patterns in weather, ripening, quality of grapes and acidity and sugar levels — all which affect the taste and the manufacturing process of their wines.
Already growers are looking at solutions which range from introducing shade over the vines, night time harvesting, right through to developing more sustainable practices or even relocating the vineyards to better environments.
As you can see, climate change is a complex problem, that has ramifications for all of us — whether we realise or not.
However, by all of us taking small, daily actions to reduce our carbon footprint, we can play a collective role in helping our fellow coffee, chocolate and wine growers — and help secure our little luxuries for the future.
AUTHOR: NERISSA BENTLEY
Nerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based health writer and blogger. As a mum of 2 (a teenager and a pre-teen), she understands the challenges involved in raising children, balancing work, and making time for yourself. Through her writing, she aims to inspire and empower families to live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives. Nerissa is also working on her first novel. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her reading, drinking coffee, lifting weights, or enjoying the odd sneaky red wine. #thehealthywriter