More on Global Warming: A Warm-Weather Beetle is Eating the World's Coffee

Given the forecasts of how climate change will affect global agriculture—think wine grapes in England, not overheated France, and Canada, not the U.S., as the breadbasket of North America—it's surprising how little is written about the topic. But if you'd like to learn more, read Helene York's thoughts on global warming and this year's tomatoes (published today), Mark Hertsgaard's "Grapes of Wrath" (about the impact on the wine industry), or a piece I just discovered on Yale Environment 360 about the threat to yet another crop: coffee.

According to science writer Erica Westley, "A tiny insect known as the coffee berry borer beetle has been devastating coffee plants around the world, and new research suggests even slight temperature increases promote the spread of the pest":

Researchers estimate that the coffee berry borer causes more than $500 million in damages each year, making it the most costly pest affecting coffee today. Coffee growers have tried various tactics to stop the beetle, but to little avail. Pesticides don't help, and even if they did, they are an unfavorable option, given their negative effects on coffee quality.

Until recently, the coffee berry borer was confined to just a few regions in Central Africa. But since the 1980s, the beetle has gradually spread to every coffee-growing region except Hawaii, Nepal, and Papua New Guinea. Juliana Jaramillo, a biologist at Kenya's International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, suspects temperature increases are to blame. She and her collaborators recently identified the temperature range in which the beetle can survive. They found that the average minimum temperature the borer requires to reproduce is about 68 degrees F, and the mountainous regions of Ethiopia did not reach that temperature until 1984.

Read the full story at Yale Environment 360.

Presented by

Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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