Beer will become scarcer and more expensive as severe droughts and heat extremes become more frequent due to climate change, the authors of a new report say.

Barley yields are expected to decrease substantially according to a study published online this week in Nature Plants.

The authors said beer was the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world by volume consumed, and its main ingredient, barley, was particularly sensitive to extreme weather events.

Although the frequency and severity of drought and heat extremes increased substantially in a range of future climate scenarios by five Earth system models, the vulnerability of beer supply to such extremes has never been assessed.


Wei Xie and colleagues modeled the vulnerability to future weather extremes of both barley production and the subsequent beer supply.

The authors found that the average loss of barley yields would range from 3 per cent to 17 per cent, depending on the predicted severity of the weather. Declining barley yields would result in proportionally larger decreases in the barley made available for beer production as more essential commodities, such as animal feed, were prioritised.

This would result in corresponding decreases in beer consumption and increases in beer prices, the authors suggested, depending on national economic status and culture. One of the most affected countries, for example, was Ireland — where beer prices could increase by between 43 per cent and 338 per cent by 2099 under the most severe climate scenario.

The authors of the study said the effect by country on how much people drank and the price would probably be determined by how much its people liked beer.