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Could your morning cup of coffee be changing in the future?

Three people are holding coffee cups close together as though to cheers.
Nathan Dumlao
Three coffee cups are held up to cheers.

Every week Wave 3 meteorologist Tawana Andrew breaks down what we know and what we don't about the climate and weather here in Louisville.

Bill Burton: It's time for us to take a look at the Science Behind the Forecast as I am joined by WAVE 3 meteorologist Tawana Andrew. Good morning, Tawana.

Tawana Andrew: Good morning. And some people will say it's a better morning when they have their cup of coffee. And I think I would tend to agree.

BB: I think about 99.9% of everyone listening agrees with you at this point. And that's our topic today. We're talking coffee and where it grows and where things might be headed because of climate. What do we need to know?

TA: Yeah, we got to watch that changing climate as we move forward, because it could have an impact on our morning cups of coffee, or even those afternoon cups, too. I know plenty of people who need multiple cups a day. So there's a recent study that found that a warming climate would actually reduce the current areas suitable for coffee bean growth, while increasing the pests and diseases that really reduce the coffee yields and coffee quality overall. But the flip side of this is that these changes will actually open up the potential for coffee production in new areas, new countries, and in higher elevation. So there are two sides to this coin. Apparently, a lot of us are drinking coffee because more than 2.25 billion, yes with a B, cups of coffees are consumed worldwide each day.

BB: Just hearing that number made me kind of jittery.

TA: I know! That's a lot of coffee. And around 120 million people around the globe rely on coffee production directly or indirectly for their livelihood. In the United States, that's around 1.7 million people. That's a lot of people relying on coffee to live not just you know, for us to drink. So most of the world is really just focusing on that coffee and the world's coffee is mainly produced near the equator, with Brazil being the world's actual top coffee producer. So studies indicate that nearly half of the world's coffee producing land will no longer be suitable for growth by 2050. That's not too far away. So Arabica coffee, that's the most of what we see coffee production worldwide, that's 70%. So if you're going to Starbucks, Dunkin, that's what most likely they're using. And it's very sensitive when it comes to growth, it's optimal temperature ranges between 64 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So if the temperatures are too hot, yes, it can speed up the growth and the ripening of the coffee fruit. But too warm temperatures can actually have a downside when exposed to temperatures over 86 degrees Fahrenheit, coffee plants can be severely damage with stunted growth, yellow leaves, and even stem tumors. So it really starts to weather and kill the plant. And the warmer temperatures you also have pests becoming more prevalent, including the coffee berry borer, which scientists have found thriving in these warmer 80 plus degree temperatures. So we don't want it to warm while a good hot cup of coffee is great. For the planet itself, it is absolutely terrible.

BB: But now we have a much better understanding of how dependent coffee production is on the weather. And we know this now, thanks to the latest edition of Science Behind the Forecast with WAVE 3 meteorologist Tawana Andrew. Thanks for the knowledge. Tawana.

TA: Of course.

This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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