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Hundreds of millions of beer lovers could lose affordable access to their favourite alcohol within a few decades, as the crops used to brew it may not survive human-driven climate change.

In more optimistic scenarios, where emissions are brought under control and warming is kept at a manageable level (what climate scientists refer to as RCP2.6), droughts and heatwaves might occur together in about 4% of the years.

Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the world by volume consumed, said researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK. Wallace says that climate change is on the minds of all craft brewers as they plan for how to avoid future shortages of both barley and hops. He also suggested that beer price hikes and shortages could affect social stability, comparing the situation to the Prohibition era in the United States, which saw the rise of organized crime based on the supply of illicit liquor.

Extreme heat and drought could ravage harvests of barley, a key ingredient in beer.

Global barley yields could drop up to 17 percent as a result of extreme weather, said the study released by journal Nature Plants. But researchers behind the report said it will affect the quality of life for many people. To put that perspective, it's the equivalent of 29 billion litres, or the annual beer consumption in the U.S. Using five economic models, the study shows that the aforementioned extreme events "may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide", with average yield losses ranging between 3 and 17 percent, depending upon how severe the conditions get.

"The public may care more about the changing climate after realizing how it will affect their weekend parties, socialization and even their watching of the World Cup", the researcher said.

A global decrease in production might hit beer disproportionately as most barley is fed to livestock, which would be prioritised should there be a squeeze on supply.

Still, there will be differences among nations, with the United States and Australia probably producing more barley while China, Brazil and Japan produce less.

Guan says small countries, like Ireland, Estonia and the Czech Republic, stand to suffer the most in terms of price spikes. That means an $11 six-pack of beer might end up costing $15.

They then looked at the effects of the resulting barley supply shock on the supply and price of beer in each region, remodelling for a range of future climate scenarios.

The Brewers Association, the US trade group, responded to the study by calling it "largely an academic exercise and not one that brewers or beer lovers should lose any sleep over". This research, he said, was "born of love and fear".


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