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  • Climate change and coffee production


    Whereas climatic variability has always been the main factor responsible for the fluctuation of coffee yields in the world, climate change, as a result of global warming, is expected to result in actual shifts on where and how coffee may be produced in future. This will affect millions of producers as well as all other participants in the value chain, right up to the end-consumer and presents a major challenge to the coffee industry. How to mitigate the impact?

    The current change in global climate is largely due to the burning of fossil energy (coal, oil, natural gas) and to the mineralization of organic matter as a result of land use. These processes have been caused by mankind's exploitation of fossil resources, clearing of natural vegetation (forests for example) and use of these soils for agriculture. These activities have primarily led to a measurable increase in the carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere, an increase that results in global warming. This is so because CO2 hinders the reflection of sunlight back into space, thereby trapping more of it in the Earth's atmosphere. Other contributing GHG are Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Hydro Fluorocarbons (HFCs), Per Fluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6).

    It is important to note that different forms of agriculture, including coffee production, also contribute to GHG emissions, and hence to climate change. But so do all other links in the chain: processing, trading, transport, roasting, packaging, retailing, brewing, serving etc.. Thus there is a need for all participants to collaborate on limiting coffee's contribution to the GHG problem. However, coffee growers are by far the most numerous group that is directly affected and the most vulnerable to the impact of global warming.

    The first formal global reaction to the need to isolate GHG from the atmosphere and to limit their emission was materialized in a document called The Kyoto Protocol. For more on this visit http://unfccc.int/2860.php.

    New terminology

    The debate over climate change has generated a host of new terminology that is not always clear to the average reader.
    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCC has therefore published a detailed Glossary of climate change acronyms that can be accessed at http://unfccc.int/essential_background/glossary/items/3666.php.
    The United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization offers a similar but possibly somewhat more agriculture related glossary at http://www.fao.org/climatechange/en/