DISCUSSION: Chocolate is the go-to for many with a sweet tooth. Rich, smooth, and full of sugar, Americans consumed roughly 18% of the world’s chocolate in 2015. According to Euromonitor.com, that’s roughly $18.42 billion, more than all of Pacific Asia combined, which consumed roughly $14 billion.
While chocolate remains one of the country’s most popular treats, it’s possible that in coming years chocolate will become unaffordable and out of reach for the average American, and climate change may be a factor. The production of chocolate revolves around the cacao plant. Cacao is produced in the world’s tropical regions (i.e., within 20 degrees north or south of the equator). In a 2016 report, NOAA cited that the cacao plant needed “fairly uniform temperatures, high humidity, abundant precipitation, nitrogen-rich soil, and protection from wind” in order to survive. Rainforests provide the perfect growing climate for cacao with consistent temperatures, high humidity, plenty of rain, rich soil and minimal wind.
The world’s rainforests that are most suitable for the cultivation of cacao are located mostly within 10 degrees of the equator in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana account for over 50% of the world’s cacao production and are also extremely vulnerable to climate change, specifically a 3.8 increase in temperature by 2050 as projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014. The increase in temperature, however, is not what hurts cacao plants directly. It is the increase in evapotranspiration which will affect the cacao plant the most. The IPCC cites that there is unlikely to be an increase in precipitation to counteract this increase in evaporation. Therefore, rainforests will get drier, which is detrimental to chocolate lovers.
Chocolate likely wouldn’t become extinct because of climate change, but instead would become unaffordable- and it isn’t alone. Almonds are another snack that are highly susceptible to a change climate. 99% of almonds are grown in California according to the US Department of Agriculture. In 2014, the US Drought Monitor had California’s Central Valley experiencing “extreme to exceptional drought”. The Central Valley is the epicenter of almond growth, and with one almond requiring one gallon of water to ripen, farms in California were hard-pressed when trying to keep their almond crops from dying.
Almonds and chocolate are just two of the many crops that could become unaffordable due to climate change. From fruits to vegetables, some foods could become a luxury if projections come true. Steps can be taken, however, to make sure this doesn’t happen. Countries like Brazil have started using innovative techniques, such as Cabruca, to combat climate change’s effects on agriculture. Cabruca works by planting and growing trees that keep other trees and plants, such as Cacao trees, in the shade. The taller trees provide shade, leaving for rich soil and protection from wind. Other countries can learn from Brazil to stem the effects of climate change on the agriculture industry.
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© 2018 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger