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    August 25, 2011 | 3:58 PM

    Caffeine or carbon, you decide

    © 2010 CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture/Flickr cc by sa 2.0

    Every morning, after trying to smash my snooze button through the floor of my apartment, I stumble out of bed and plug my coffee pot in. Only after I've had my first cup of coffee can I possibly begin to think about eating breakfast, or even just getting dressed.

    I'm sure this morning ritual sounds familiar to many of you. And many of you have also probably noticed the price of coffee steadily rising over the past few years. In fact, the price of coffee has more than doubled in the last two years. For example, Smuckers J.M. Co -- which owns Dunkin' Donuts, Folgers, Kava and Millstone coffee brands -- has increased its prices by 34% in the last year.

    There are many factors behind the price increase. Global demand for high-quality (and sustainably grown) coffee is increasing while extreme weather events are harming coffee crops on three continents. Coffee is one of the more climate-vulnerable crops because it requires a unique blend of rainfall, ideal temperatures and a hint of dryness to ripen properly. Enter climate change.

    The Global Coffee Quality Research Initiative estimates that 60% of the world's coffee growing region could be unusable by 2050. Above-average rainfall in many locations has damaged flowers and buds of coffee plants while warmer temperatures in Africa and South America are driving farmers to ever-higher elevations in search of the ideal growing climate. It gets worse: crop-damaging pests thrive in the warmer, wetter climates. All of this can lead to lower yields and reduced quality, which means higher prices for coffee buyers.

    Although a campaign by shareholders of Smuckers J.M. to ensure the company addresses the impact climate change on its coffee climate change recently fell short, many companies already embrace sustainable coffee farming and consider climate change in their strategic planning. This is a strong sign that climate change is finally getting a seat at the boardroom table. As Jonas Kron of Trillium Assets Management, one of the leaders behind the Smuckers effort, said, "climate change is going to be the biggest financial issue for the next generation."

    Thankfully for my patient girlfriend, co-workers and friends who get to see me (after a cup or two) every morning, coffee isn't going to disappear tomorrow. But that doesn't mean we can stand idly by while climate change flips even our morning routines upside down. Embracing the reality of the climate crisis and doing what we can to stop it will keep our pots perking happily every morning.

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