charles river toxic beer boston orig _00002025.jpg
CNN
charles river toxic beer boston orig _00002025.jpg
Now playing
01:46
Making beer from river water
Brooke Baldwin last show goodbye CNN newsroom vpx_00000217.png
CNN
Brooke Baldwin last show goodbye CNN newsroom vpx_00000217.png
Now playing
03:56
'Get a little uncomfortable': See Brooke Baldwin's last words on air
CNN
Now playing
02:56
Watch Anderson Cooper belly laugh with Cheri Oteri
Now playing
01:24
How Kyra Sedgwick got the cops called on Tom Cruise
Now playing
05:18
Anderson Cooper explains how he overcomes being shy
US Navy
Now playing
01:28
Pentagon confirms UFO video is real, taken by Navy pilot
Now playing
02:35
WWII veteran: End of the war was 'the biggest thrill of my life'
Fancy Feast/Purina
Now playing
01:06
Cat food company makes a cookbook ... for humans
Google Earth's new timelapse feature
Google
Google Earth's new timelapse feature
Now playing
01:09
Google Earth's new Timelapse feature shows 40 years of climate change in just seconds
Twitter | @brady9dream
Now playing
02:10
Pet owners pitch their pups to be dog brew's 'Chief Tasting Officer'
FOX/"The Masked Singer"
Now playing
01:23
'The Masked Singer' reveals identity of The Orca
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  A visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin on December 07, 2017 in London, England. Cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Lightcoin have seen unprecedented growth in 2017, despite remaining extremely volatile. While digital currencies across the board have divided opinion between financial institutions, and now have a market cap of around 175 Billion USD, the crypto sector coninues to grow, as it continues to see wider mainstreem adoption. The price of one Bitcoin passed 15,000 USD across many exchanges today taking it higher than previous all time highs.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: A visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin on December 07, 2017 in London, England. Cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Lightcoin have seen unprecedented growth in 2017, despite remaining extremely volatile. While digital currencies across the board have divided opinion between financial institutions, and now have a market cap of around 175 Billion USD, the crypto sector coninues to grow, as it continues to see wider mainstreem adoption. The price of one Bitcoin passed 15,000 USD across many exchanges today taking it higher than previous all time highs. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:07
Bitcoin has an energy problem
The new all-electric Mercedes-EQS
Mercedes-Benz AG
The new all-electric Mercedes-EQS
Now playing
01:05
See the new all-electric EQS luxury sedan from Mercedes
Now playing
01:32
Scientists turned spiderwebs into music and it sounds like a nightmare
Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
Now playing
01:02
Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers question stumps 'Jeopardy!' contestants
Now playing
05:18
Coinbase CFO: We're an on-ramp to the crypto economy

Story highlights

17% of the global barley crop production goes into making beer

Under climate change, global barley yields will decline between 3% and 17%

(CNN) —  

Beer is the prom king of alcoholic beverages, winning the popularity contest in terms of total volumes drunk. And because its main ingredient, barley, is sensitive to extreme drought and heat, climate change will cause undue pain for all who love their lager, new research suggests.

Global warming will lead to substantial decreases in barley crop yields, causing beer shortages and a sharp rise in the price of a pint, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Plants.

“The aim of the study is not to encourage people to drink more today,” said Dabo Guan, a co-author of the study and a professor of climate change economics at University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom. Instead, the study is trying to say that climate change will impact your quality of life.

“if you don’t want that to happen – if you still want a few pints of beer – then the only way to do it is to mitigate climate change,” Guan said. “We have to all work together to mitigate climate change.”

’Luxury essentials’

Gathered in a bar after a series of lectures in China, Guan and a group of climate change scientists wanted to find a new way to collaborate.

“We were drinking beer,” he said, and they thought, “Maybe we can do something on beer, because nobody has done that.” The key question was obvious and direct: How much more will we pay for a pint of beer? What will be the climate change impact on luxury essentials?

“We came up with the term ‘luxury essentials,’ ” Guan said. It refers to any item that’s not a necessity (and not for everyone), “but for beer lovers, it is essential.”

Hoisting their mugs, the team set a plan in motion. They examined scenarios resulting from climate change and then figured out the impact on global barley yields and beer prices. To accomplish this, they integrated three strategic models: one for climate, one for crops and one for economics.

Beginning with a model developed by climate scientists, they forecast temperature, rainfall, precipitation, soil moisture and other variables in both worst-case and less-severe scenarios. Next, they used these inputs for a crop yield model, which allowed them to simulate the growth of barley crops worldwide.

Under climate change, “the majority of countries will have a decline in barley,” Guan said.

Still, there will be differences among nations, with the United States and Australia probably producing more barley while China, Brazil and Japan produce less.

“Globally, only a small fraction of barley goes into making beer. Only 17% of the barley [goes into] making beer. The rest of the 83% is actually going to feed pigs and other animals, basically,” Guan said, explaining that only good-quality barley is reserved for beer-making.

Because quality barley crops are even more sensitive to climate conditions than those of poor quality, the increase seen in some countries, such as the US, will not necessarily benefit the beer industry, Guan said. Additionally, US producers will probably trade the barley “to make money rather than making beer for themselves.”

On average, then, global barley yields will decline between 3% and 17%, depending on the severity of the weather, the study showed. The team put this output into a social economic model that included beer production estimates and international trading forecasts.

During the most severe climate events, global beer consumption would decline on average by 16%, Guan said, while beer prices around the world would, on average, double. In less severe circumstances, global beer consumption would drop by just 4% on average while prices leap by 15%, the study showed.

The United States in particular will see a 20% overall reduction in beer consumption under the worst-case climate change scenario, while the per bottle price spikes by 50%, Guan said.

Questions raised

Caroline Sluyter, program director of the nonprofit advocacy group Oldways Whole Grains Council, said the results of the new study “are in line with other papers.”

“There’s a pretty well-understood connection between rising temperatures, reduced water supplies and the impact on crop yields,” said Sluyter, who was not involved in the research.

She said the study’s focus on barley, if not unique, is rare because most research focuses on more common crops. “So for instance, I’ve seen numbers like a 7% reduction in corn, 6% reduction in wheat,” she said.

The three big cereal crops for human consumption are corn, wheat and rice, she said: “Those three make up about 50% of the world’s calories, so they’re huge in people’s diets.”

By comparison, barley is less important. “It grows as far north as areas of the Arctic circle; it grows in tropical Ethiopia; it grows at high altitudes in the Andes,” she said. “So you do see it being a small part of diets around the world.

“It has more fiber than any other whole grain,” she added. “Barley is also very high in antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.” Studies show that barley reduces cholesterol, helps control blood sugar and improves immune system function overall.

Whole grains in general are a “sustainable food choice,” Sluyter said. “They require less water than almost any other category of crop.”

The new study, then, “raises a lot of important question about how our food supply is going to adapt to a changing climate,” she said. About 75% of the world’s agricultural land is used for animal production – yet meat supplies only 17% of our calories, she said.

“Taking time as a global culture to really think about where we need to be putting those [agricultural] resources to maximize the quality of our food supply is a question that is becoming an increasingly important,” Sluyter said.

Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter

Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

Meanwhile, Guan is concerned with the price of beer. In some small countries, such as Ireland, Estonia and the Czech Republic, the price will really spike under climate change, with a predicted drop in per capita consumption of 75% in Ireland alone, he said.

“Really, the countries who love beer will suffer a lot,” he said. Though he and his highly educated friends are fans of the brew, he believes beer is als