Is the world’s coffee supply threatened by climate change? Starbucks is worried

Forget about super-sizing into the trenta a few years from now: Starbucks is  warning of a threat to world coffee supply because of climate change.

In a telephone interview with the Guardian, Jim Hanna, the company’s  sustainability director, said its farmers were already seeing the effects of a  changing climate, with severe hurricanes and more resistant bugs reducing crop  yields.

The company is now preparing for the possibility of a serious threat to  global supplies. “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30  years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially  significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean,” Hanna  said.

It was the second warning in less than a month of a threat to a food item  many people can’t live without.

New research from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture warned it  would be too hot to grow chocolate in much of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s main  producers, by 2050.

Hanna is to travel to Washington on Friday to brief members of Congress on  climate change and coffee at an event sponsored by the Union of Concerned  Scientists.

The coffee giant is part of a business coalition that has been trying to push  Congress and the Obama administration to act on climate change – without  success, as Hanna acknowledged.

The coalition, including companies like Gap, are next month launching a new  campaign – showcasing their own action against climate change – ahead of the  release of a landmark science report from the UN’s IPCC.

Hanna told the Guardian the company’s suppliers, who are mainly in Central  America, were already experiencing changing rainfall patterns and more severe  pest infestations.

Even well-established farms were seeing a drop in crop yield, and that could  well discourage growers from cultivating coffee in the future, further  constricting supply, he said. “Even in very well established coffee plantations  and farms, we are hearing more and more stories of impacts.”

These include: more severe hurricanes, mudslides and erosion, variation in  dry and rainy seasons.

Hanna said the company was working with local producers to try to cushion  them from future changes.

“If we sit by and wait until the impacts of climate change are so severe that  is impacting our supply chain then that puts us at a greater risk,” he said. “From a business perspective we really need to address this now, and to look  five, 10, and 20 years down the road.”

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