Climate change and beer study sends wrong message

Reports on a study that says climate change could cause beer prices to double have been all over the news, science programs and late night comedy shows.

Few things related to food grab people’s attention more than beer, except maybe bacon.

With all the craft brewers around these days it’s easy for reporters to find a local business to talk about how they could be affected if climate change wreaks havoc on the world’s barley crops and causes the price of a prime ingredient in beer to rise.

With this story, which has the air of legitimacy because it was published in Nature Plants, a scientific journal, a global issue whose implications for the everyday person are hard to comprehend is brought into focus.

As late night comedian Steven Colbert quipped about the beer story: for collage frat boys, “climate change just got real.”

It must be frustrating for scientists who look at the overwhelming weight of research that clearly indicates that human activity, largely through the creation of greenhouse gases, is creating climate change that will cause serious problems for all of us and our environment and yet governments and individuals are slow to react.

So researchers are trying to determine the effects of climate change on specific places, industries and resources, hoping to show the negative effects on everyday people and forcing them to demand action.

But I fear that when delving into specifics the researchers can go beyond their ability to make accurate predictions.

This beer study is a bridge too far. I read the paper and admit I did not understand all of it. There appeared to be a lot of reliance on predictive models.

But a key point was that under the likely scenarios of a more changeable and sometimes hostile climate, global average barley yields could fall by three to 17 percent.

The paper correctly notes that malting barley production is highly dependant on weather, which not only determines yield but also how much of the crop has the attributes to make malt.

But as any malting barley producer knows, the value of the minuscule amount of barley in a bottle of beer is worth only a few pennies.

One bushel of malting barley can make hundreds of cans of beer. Craft brewers using only malt produce about 300 cans while the big companies add other ingredients to stretch it out to 450 or more.

Malting barley prices are currently around $5 a bushel, so there is around 1.8 cents of malting barley in a craft brew and about 1.1 cents worth in the mass produced stuff. The rest of the cost is in other raw ingredients, such as labour, energy, packaging, transportation and other ancillary costs and profits.

Here in Saskatchewan I see a private retailer selling 24-can packs of mass produced beer for $37, or $1.54 per can.

But we all know that governments love to tax beer and alcohol. Beer Canada, a group representing many of Canada’s breweries, recently commissioned a study (found at comparing Canadian and American taxes and other levies on beer.

It says federal and provincial taxes on beer, as well as the markup charged by provincial liquor commissions, amount to almost half the price of a case of 24. And that is before the goods and services tax is applied.

The actual amount of tax and markup varies by province, but you get the idea.

So that $1.54 can of beer, before taxes and markup, is roughly worth 77 cents. Remember, mass produced beer has about one penny of malting barley at a price of $5 a bushel.

To double the price of the can before tax, the value of the barley in the can would have to rise to 77 cents, meaning on a per bushel basis the price would have to be around $385.

That is just crazy.

Bad weather in several places in 2010-11 caused the global barley crop to fall by 18.7 percent and the following two years production remained curtailed and global stocks fell.

The price of barley rose, but only by several dollars a bushel, not by hundreds of dollars. The value of the barley in a single can of beer was still less than a dime.

I expect that even with more severe climate change, the situation won’t be anything like what the report’s authors suggest.

I am frustrated by these sort of academic exercises that seek to sensationalize climate change’s dangers. The body of evidence backing climate change was built up, brick by brick, over the decades by a multitude of scientists of many nationalities and fields of study. But one goofy report gives ammunition to those to argue the whole structure is rotten.

We do need to try to reduce our contribution to greenhouse gases and to prepare for a more volatile climate.

Climate disasters and their impact on crops are regional and they move around year to year.

The global prices of malting barley, or wheat or oilseeds, likely change little, but the incomes of the farmers in the devastated areas are slashed. That is who we should be worried about, not the beer drinker.

About the author


  • Monkeeworks

    I don’t suffer from ‘Climate Change Anxiety Disorder’ which does not change the fact it is a well written article.

  • rbbrooks8

    ‘one goofy report gives ammunition to those to argue the whole structure is rotten’
    Just one? There are reports weekly blaming ‘climate change’ for everything under the sun. In 2017 and 2018 the prairies generally experienced 2 warm summers with weather more reminiscent of a hot dry summer from the nineteen sixties and of course all caused by climate change. This fall when the prairie climate gave us 5 weeks of winter in the middle of harvest, according to the Weather Network that too was caused by climate change. Do you see why people tend to be skeptical of the climate change story?

    • Clare Ormerod

      I agree. But people need to wake up they are climate engineering and causing major weather event all around the world now with no exceptions. I imagine by the way you wrote your response that you know about geoengineering and the toxic metals are spraying in the skies to save us from global warming or at least that’s what they say out of Harvard. People need to watch the documentary called Frankenskies where at one point they show our British Columbia Premier in 2013 trying to get answers from Ottawa of why Canadian citizens are being basically tested on and experimented on with these chemicals they are spraying. These heavy metals that they spray to cover up our sun as well as make it extremely windy here on the Prairies all the time, are wreaking havoc on the total biosphere. People should visit the website as well as visit the Canadian government website and search weather modification treaties. The initial global warming scare came as a result of government documents exposed from the United States stating that they needed to come up with a worldwide concern that people would then pay carbon tax dollars worldwide for and our carbon tax dollars go to fund military defense contractors as well as other nefarious purposes. Anyone Reading This research HAARP used in conjunction with chemtrails to manipulate and control the weather as per Lyndon Johnson’s quote, he who controls the weather will control the world. And that is exactly what they’re doing because they are causing droughts and Iran Iraq and other countries who’s whole livelihood is based on farming. They have also been causing many years of drought in California on purpose because California supplies 95% of the food. This is all part of the depopulation agenda as set forth in United Nations Agenda 21 and updated further in agenda 2030 but don’t be fooled and how they word things and try to make it look like it would be a good thing for us to be all in megacities. There is a government document explaining and showing where they will allow people to live in super cities and no one will be allowed to live outside of these areas. Please wake up to why everybody is dying around you or sick, especially the children

      • Denise

        You see them spraying that crap in the sky every day. Most people haven’t a clue that they are doing this, intentionally.
        I agree, it is time for people to wake up and look up.

  • Clare Ormerod

    The climate change global warming industry has now become a multibillion-dollar profitable business. It originally came about as a government document out of the United States and how they can get the world to pay money if they were in fear about something referring to carbon tax dollars. I think what people don’t realize is are carbon tax dollars are mainly going towards military defense contractors for getting very wealthy and they are the ones who are creating the sprays they are spraying on his daily for geoengineering purposes which they say they have to do to save us from global warming. Meanwhile these heavy metal sprays are killing our trees, bee, insects, animals and humans. Aluminum is one of their main ingredients in the there toxic sprays which go hand-in-hand and causing Alzheimer’s. Research United Nations Agenda 21 depopulation. The climate engineering that they are doing is causing climate change. How ironic!

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