On-going climate change is likely to result in a global beer shortage, according to an extensive international research project.

This is anticipated to happen due to widespread and severe droughts, which are set to occur as the climate changes. These would be likely to have a negative impact on the yield of barley crops, a key ingredient in beer.

The result would be a significant reduction in the amount of beer available to be consumed, while prices would rise. During severe climate events, availability could drop by 16% worldwide, equivalent to 29 billion litres.

It is thought that in the UK alone, the same events could see beer consumption drop by between 0.37 and 1.33 billion litres. At the same time, prices could double.

“Although some attention has been paid to the potential impacts of climate change on luxury crops such as wine and coffee, the impacts on beer have not been carefully evaluated,” said research co-ordinator and lead UK author Dabo Guan, professor of climate change economics at University of East Anglia’s School of International Development.

“A sufficient beer supply may help with the stability of entertainment and communication in society.”

Global beer shortage predicted

By volume consumed, beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the world, so it is no surprise that a global beer shortage would have wide-reaching impacts.

In China, which is currently the world’s biggest consumer of beer, the fall could be as much as 4.34 billion litres.

In the US it could be between 1.08 billion litres and 3.48 billion litres.

“While the effects on beer may seem modest in comparison to many of the other – some life-threatening – impacts of climate change, there is nonetheless something fundamental in the cross-cultural appreciation of beer,” said Guan.

“It may be argued that consuming less beer isn’t itself disastrous, and may even have health benefits. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that for millions of people around the world, the climate impacts on beer availability and price will add insult to injury.”

The research, which is published today in the journal Nature Plants, involved researchers form the UK, China, Mexico and the US.