Coffee and Climate Change

Coffee yields are down, and prices are shooting up due to the consequences of climate change

The Coffee Cooperative of Dota (Coopedota) just announced that they will be exporting the world's first batch of carbon-neutral coffee.

Other coffee producers have claimed to be carbon-neutral in the past, but Coopedota is differentiating their brand through the use of a credible third party certification.

The Costa Rican cooperative of over 800 growers was certified by the British Standards Institution’s PAS 2060 specification for demonstrating carbon neutrality. PAS 2060 is recognized as a well known, transparent device used to measure carbon neutrality.

While many carbon neutrality certifications focus on point source emissions, these standards take into account the entire life cycle of a product.

Coffee plantations have the potential to cause serious damage to the environment. Some of the least environmentally friendly coffee plantations clear forest in the tropics to make way for "sun plantations" that are known for water contamination, erosion, and loss of habitat.

In many cases, after coffee beans are picked, the best beans are shipped to Europe or the United States and then the are roasted. Following the roasting process, they are shipped to consumers.

This entire process can be quite carbon intensive, and any company claiming to be "carbon-neutral" should take into account the entire chain of events necessary to bring their product to market.

Growers who achieve carbon neutrality are not only appealing to environmentally concerned consumers, but are looking out for their self-interest. Shifting temperatures and rainfall, caused by global climate change, are forcing the coffee growing business to make serious adjustments.

Bean yields are down, and the price of coffee has shot up significantly in the past few months.

Coffee, as a tropical crop, demands temperatures that are neither too high nor too low, and also requires wet and dry seasons. Costa Rican and Colombian growers, in particular, are taking notice.

While some growers have been able to outwit the changes, oftentimes by planting at ever higher elevations, many have simply watched their trees wither away.

The changing climate has led to a series of environmental disasters, many of which negatively affect the coffee crop.

Recent floods in Colombia sent the price of Colombian beans skyrocketing, and several Starbucks stores raised the prices of their coffee to account for this change. Starbucks executive Jim Hanna told an EPA panel that climate change is "a direct business threat to our company."

While farmers work diligently to develop hardier varieties of beans, and alter known tactics such as using shade tree and planting in terraced rows, the challenge will only get more difficult each year.

Unfortunately, coffee is only one of many crops that has seen the havoc the climate has wreaked on the land.

As food and commodity prices continue to rise, and farmers have more trouble each year with their land, the explanations from scientists and pleas from the environmental community are falling on deaf ears.

In the United States, every Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee refused to admit that climate change is real.

As it is becoming increasingly apparent that a political solution led by the US is very unlikely, other actors, including business, must step up to the plate.