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Another Reason to Hate Global Warming: Lousy Coffee

A new study shows that climate change may wipe out most wild Arabica coffee by 2080
Workers look for bad coffee beans at the Coffee Plantation Development Enterprise CPDE/ECX in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Workers look for bad coffee beans at the Coffee Plantation Development Enterprise CPDE/ECX in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaPhotograph by Johan Bavman/Moment/Redux

Is the world’s coffee supply threatened by global warming? A recently published scientific study concludes that as much as 99.7 percent of wild Arabica coffee—the bean that accounts for 70 percent of the global market—may fall victim to rising temperatures by 2080. Farmers will still be able to cultivate Arabica coffee—at least for a while—but the bean’s genetic pool will be severely reduced.

The study, conducted by scientists at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Environment and Coffee Forum, focuses primarily on Ethiopia, considered to be the birthplace of coffee. Temperatures there have been going up by an average of almost 0.3 degrees per decade since 1960, according to Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at the Royal Botanic Gardens and one of the study’s authors. Soon, he says, ancient Arabica plants may not be able to survive. “It doesn’t take a scientist to realize: Hang on a minute, if coffee can only produce a good crop in a sort of 4 to 5 degree range, [steadily rising temperatures] could have a significant impact,” he says. The optimal temperature range for growing Arabica is 18C to 21C (64F to 70F).