Enjoy your morning coffee while you can. As a new report by Lina Zeldovich of Quartz notes, your caffeine supply faces “an existential threat” from fungi, beetles and climate change.
It’s a rather eye-opening examination of the problems faced by the coffee industry, where half the land needed for production could disappear by 2050. But the biggest problem might be diversity (or lack thereof) in the beans themselves.
Most of the beans we like are produced by just one plant species, known as Coffee arabica. First discovered in Ethopia, C. arabica can be grown pretty much anywhere, but its uniformity means it may have lost important disease-resistant traits. So scientists are actually hunting down wild coffee species (there are up to 125 non-domesticated species) and sequencing the DNA of coffee beans from gene banks.
Robusta may at least partially displace Arabica, the latter of which is susceptible to high temperatures. But Robusta, which is more vulnerable to fluctuating temperatures, could suffer somewhat greater global losses overall. If the economics are favorable enough, some coffee production could potentially shift to higher altitudes or latitudes, the researchers suggest.
Still, up to 70% of those wild varieties could become extinct soon thanks to climate change and deforestation.