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Coffee Market Braces for Global Warming's Effects

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Even Starbucks isn't immune to rising temps

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Gird your beans — according to MIT's Technology Review, coffee is under threat. That's largely due to warming temperatures which, if they continue at their current rate, could lead to 80 percent of Arabica-growing land in Brazil and Central America becoming "unsuitable to the crop by 2050, according to research by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture." According to the research, a 50 percent decline is predicted over the same period, which will likely lead to a drop in quantity and a rise in bean prices.

As the MIT report suggests, one of the companies most concerned about climate change is Starbucks, which has heavily invested in studying beans that can thrive in hotter climates. If temperatures continue to warm at their current pace, new supply routes and new bean suppliers for a number of companies would need to be established.

The market has been bracing for a global coffee shortage for some time now, with some studies finding that coffee production may eventually need to move to parts of Asia and eastern Africa. Rising temps in many coffee-producing countries have already begun to affect production. In Chiapas, Mexico, coffee farmers lost 60 percent of their production to leaf rust brought on by increasing temperature and rain. Starbucks Mexico has since distributed rust-resistant coffee plants in the area.

Starbucks has been actively working to decrease its carbon footprint at its many stores, but adding hot food to the menu (like breakfast sandwiches) seems to have impeded that. According to MIT, emissions have increased in recent years, "rising from just over one million metric tons in 2012 to 1,258,092 metric tons in 2014, mainly from energy used in its stores, offices, and roasting plants."