We need to go on a carbon diet. If we keep pumping out emissions at current rates, we’re going to see some pretty wild changes over the next century, including a shortage of many of our favourite Ben & Jerry’s flavours. Here are five more food and beverage staples that we could lose to climate change, gone from the menu forever:
The oceans are one of the planet’s main carbon sinks, but their ability absorb all the excess carbon we’ve been putting into the air has led to higher and higher levels of acidification. Acidification is as bad as it sounds for marine life. As it increases, the amount of calcium carbonate— a key building block for shells and skeletons of many of the sea’s tastiest shellfish— declines. Not a great outlook for your next seafood gumbo.
And the troubles go beyond the shell. Warming oceans are also leading to worldwide fish migrations as cold water species head north, with tropical varieties replacing them. Studies show that fish are slow to adapt to climate change, a problem that’s exacerbated by a relatively quick warming rate that never allows a chance to adapt before the environment changes again. And it applies to fresh water fish, too, whose landlocked habitats make them even more vulnerable to warming waters. You might want to hurry up and order that baked salmon— who knows how long it’ll be on the menu?
Real maple syrup is a welcome addition to pancakes, yoghurt and, in Ben & Jerry’s home state of Vermont, even snow. But this commodity may go from a coveted item to a priceless luxury as climate change reduces the range of maple tree habitat in the next century. Maple syrup is already an effort-intensive and fickle process demanding temperatures that alternate between freezing at night, and above freezing during the day. And then you need an average of 40 gallons of it to make just one gallon of syrup. It’s simple math that a warming planet isn’t good news for maple sap, with studies predicting a total loss of maple syrup production south of Pennsylvania by 2100.
Honey has been a longtime favorite for snacking and adding a natural boost of sweetness. The honeybee is already facing real pressure from colony collapse, and climate change is adding a further squeeze. With the honey bee’s enterprise tied directly to the health of local plants, a big problem when drought conditions wipe out all the flowers, and drought is due to head upwards with climate change. Add in bees being confused by plants flowering much earlier than normal due to warmer weather, and it’s clear that climate change will really sting the world’s honey supply.
All across the world, beer is enjoying a revival as craft brewers launch flavorful offerings. But hotter summers are already putting a dent in the European hop harvests, with brewers in the United States likely to face similar pressures. Clean water and barley, two more key ingredients to any clean and crisp draft, are also under fire from climate change, making it seem like a visit to the pub could soon be a visit to the museum.
Just the right combination of sour and sweet, the cherry is delectable on its own, but is the keystone ingredient to Ben & Jerry’s own Cherry Garcia flavour. But stone fruits, especially cherries, require cooler temperatures at night to bear fruit. With climate change ushering in warmer weather on the west coast of the United States, where the majority of the country’s cherries are grown, the trees are expected to flower later, and produce less fruit. Weather that’s too cold is no good either, as Michigan experienced in 2012 when record high temperatures saw the trees develop a month ahead of schedule, only to have 90% of them fail after a frost killed off the vulnerable buds. With warmer and more inconsistent weather predicted, it may be a tart future for this fruit.
These are all delicious foods, and it would be a shame to see them leave us forever. Even worse, though, is that it’s clear that climate change is on the brink of impacting our daily lives — and will only do so more and more, unless we curb our emissions. Luckily for us, there’s still time to turn things around.