Global warming could even threaten Americans’ morning cup of coffee, the Obama administration warned Wednesday as it urged the U.S. to take even greater action in the international fight against climate change.
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy said climate change, if unconfronted, will bring about droughts, food shortages, economic disruption and other consequences. She also warned that the changing climate could make the morning caffeine rush a thing of the past.
“Climate change puts the world’s coffee-growing regions at risk,” Ms. McCarthy said, adding that governments must consider climate change when making virtually every policy position, even those that on the surface seem to have nothing to do with the environment.
“Growth depends on a safe environment and a stable climate. We can no longer accept the false premise that pollution is somehow part of the growing pains of growth,” she said. “If that’s your premise, then the foundation of that growth was not built to last. It was wrongly designed … Climate change isn’t just a moral responsibility we must accept. It’s an economic opportunity we can seize.”
Leading Republicans on Capitol Hill dismissed the statement as yet another “scare tactic” designed to sell the American people on the administration’s controversial climate change agenda, which centers on new limits on carbon emissions from power plants.
But organizations representing the coffee sector, an $80 billion industry employing about 26 million people in more than 50 countries, say climate change is a very real concern. While it’s not entirely clear how climate change could impact the so-called “bean belt” — an area of the planet most conducive to growing coffee beans that stretches from Central and South America through Africa and parts of Asia — major coffee chains such as Starbucks have made addressing the issue a central piece of their long-term business plans.
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“In addition to increased erosion and infestation by pests, coffee farmers are reporting shifts in rainfall and harvest patterns that are hurting their communities and shrinking the available usable land in coffee regions around the world,” the company says on its website, highlighting its efforts to reduce emissions at its facilities and other initiatives. “Addressing climate change is a priority for Starbucks. We believe now is the time to increase our investments in solutions and strategies that address this crisis.”
The International Coffee Organization points to climate data suggesting the area suitable for coffee production would “decrease considerably” with only small increases in global temperatures. The group also points to research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showing there will be less land capable of supporting coffee beans in nearly every country in the world by 2050.
“The predictions of the IPCC require decisive action to secure our supplies of coffee and protect the livelihoods of millions of farming families around the world. It is time for the public and private sectors to invest in robust scientific research and extension services to help farmers adapt to the effects of climate change on their crops,” said Roberio Oliveira Silva, the organization’s executive director.
But IPCC data also say certain corners of the world, such as high-altitude areas in Guatemala, actually could become more hospitable to coffee production as a result of slight temperature increases.
Aside from those specifics, Republicans point out that Ms. McCarthy and her EPA have been unable to quantify what effect, if any, the administration’s climate change plan will have on global temperatures. GOP leaders say the administration has resorted to a fear campaign as tries to sell an environmental agenda that will cost jobs and drive up electricity rates.
“Once again, the Obama administration is using scare tactics instead of science to make their case for inflicting great economic harm to the United States with costly climate regulations,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “What science tells us is that EPA’s regulations will not even make a measurable impact on climate change.”
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