The study's abstract notes that "beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world by volume". A small worldwide team of scientists considered what the effect of climate change would be for this crop in the next 80 years, and they are raising an alarm they hope will pierce the din of political posturing.They are predicting a beer shortage.In a report in Nature Plants, researchers in China, Britain and the United States say that by the end of the century, drought and heat could hurt barley crops enough to cause intense pain to beer drinkers. In 2014, the US barley-growing region - Montana, North Dakota, and Idaho - was hit by an extremely wet and warm winter that caused crops to sprout early, rendering much of it useless.
It revealed that in the United Kingdom, beer consumption could drop by between 0.37bn and 1.33bn litres, while the price could as much as double. To put that perspective, it's the equivalent of 29 billion litres, or the annual beer consumption in the U.S.
"Decreases in the global supply of barley lead to proportionally larger decreases in barley used to make beer", said lead author Dabo Guan, a professor of climate change economics and the University of East Anglia in Britain.
Overall, Sluyter said Guan and his team's research contributed to the larger picture where climate change proved to be a significant threat against the world's food supply. "If you want to have the choice for not only beer but chocolate, coffee, tea, cigars - all of those crops are very much vulnerable to climate change". "A sufficient beer supply may help with the stability of entertainment and communication in society", Guan said.
It is possible that more drought- or heat-tolerant barley cultivars may be developed in future, which would reduce the risk of climate change to supplies of beer.
In Ireland, a leading beer-consuming nation, prices could triple, the study says.
The study models extreme climate effects in the present day, and researchers acknowledge that new technology or new barley varieties may seek to mitigate the effect of climate change.
"That's comparable to all the beer consumption in the USA", he added, "Future climate and pricing conditions could put beer out of reach for hundreds of millions of people around the world". Ireland, for instance, is expected to see an average price hike of 193 percent in the worse case scenario.
The good news? Scientists believe that if the countries of the Earth take action within the next two decades, our beer is pretty safe.
Using simulated models of four different possible levels of carbon emissions, the researchers determined the likelihood of extreme weather in barley-producing regions ranges from 4% to 34% depending on greenhouse gas emissions.
The study was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the British Academy and Philip Leverhulme Prize.