Quantcast

A Shortage of Beer and Fries? Climate Change Hits Europe Where It Hurts

Food
JurgaR / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Olivia Desmit

Climate change has fueled raging wildfires around the world, bleached coral reefs and intensified hurricanes—and now it's coming for Europe's fries.


A hot and dry summer has caused low potato yields in Belgium and across Europe, resulting in sad, stubby fries or "frites"—up to an entire inch shorter than the 3-inch norm. The news gets worse: If Europeans were planning to wash down those salty frites with a cold Belgian beer, then they need to think again. There might also be a shortage of the brew due to an expected decrease in barley yields.

The culprit behind these inconveniences: climate change. Europe has seen record high temperatures and droughts this summer because of climate change. Potato crop yields are down 25 percent from previous years, and barley (a primary ingredient in beer) yields are expected to fall up to 40 percent.

"The fact that climate change threatens the small things that make our daily life a happy one reminds us that we have a responsibility to tackle climate change and its impacts in the world," said Herbert Lust, vice president of Conservation International Europe.

This problem is bigger than a hefty bar tab: Climate change is already reducing yields of wheat, rice, coffee and cocoa. Agriculture is dependent on weather patterns, and climate change is directly influencing them, resulting in droughts in already dry regions of the world and floods in regions that already receive enough rain.

Deforestation is one of the greatest contributors to climate change, and 80 percent of deforestation is due to agricultural expansion. In other words, the way food is produced and consumed contributes to a negative cycle that harms the environment and results in less food. Soy, palm oil, beef, coffee and cocoa products that are imported by major economies account for a large portion of this problem. Global demand for these products is booming, and this high demand threatens the very ecosystems that we need to protect to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Conservation International is tackling these challenges by designing landscapes that are sustainable, which means they prevent deforestation and ecosystem degradation while also improving the livelihoods of local communities. Another important part of our work involves training farmers in more sustainable agricultural practices to improve productivity without further degrading the environment.

"Farming communities will be hit hardest by climate change, particularly in the poorest countries," said Fanny Gauttier, manager of European Union Policy and Sustainable Production for Conservation International. "It is urgent that we recognize the significant impact our use of land has on the environment if we have any hope of adapting to and mitigating climate change."

"The situation with frites and beer is just a taste of what's to come."

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Trump speaks to contractors at the Shell Chemicals Petrochemical Complex on Aug. 13 in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Thousands of union members at a multibillion dollar petrochemical plant outside of Pittsburgh were given a choice last week: Stand and wait for a speech by Donald Trump or take the day off without pay.

Read More Show Less
Regis Lagrange / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Ariane Lang, BSc, MBA

Lemon (Citrus limon) is a common citrus fruit, alongside grapefruits, limes, and oranges (1).

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A zero-emission electric car in Vail, Colorado on July 31. Sharon Hahn Darlin / CC BY 2.0

By Simon Mui

States across the country are stepping up to make clean cars cheaper and easier to find. Colorado's Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted Friday to adopt a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program that will increase the availability of electric vehicles in the state, improve air quality and increase transportation affordability.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
An internally displaced woman flees from drought in Dollow, Somalia. Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

By Annemieke Tsike-Sossah

World Humanitarian Day offers an opportunity to take stock of where the world stands on addressing humanitarian issues and highlight lessons for how to improve in the future. Here are five ways we all can commit to driving positive change for the world.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A view from the top of Ok volcano in Iceland, where the Okjokull glacier used to be located. Drepicter / Getty Images Plus

Officials, activists and scientists gathered in Iceland Sunday for the funeral of the nation's first glacier to fall victim to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
picture-alliance / Xinhua / Then Chih Wey

Some 183 nations are set to discuss possibly loosening elephant and ivory exports at the World Wildlife Conference on trade in endangered species, known as CITES, which is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

Read More Show Less
This picture taken on May 23 shows Marium swimming in the waters in southern Thailand. SIRACHAI ARUNRUGSTICHAI / AFP / Getty Images

Marium, an 8-month-old dugong who became an internet sensation in Thailand this spring, died after ingesting plastic, officials announced Saturday.

Read More Show Less