The sound of despondent Handpicked bloggers rang through the air at CABI this morning. The corridors were reverberating in despair at the New Zealand Herald‘s frightening headline ‘Climate change could see pubs run dry‘. Streuth!

Pedants among you who have checked the link will have noted that the story appeared in last week’s Herald, but what with the time difference with the UK and a weekend spent in the pub, it was a little late in catching our attention. But this makes it all the more worrying. We are one week nearer to running dry!

Harbinger of doom Dr. Jim Salinger, of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, made the link between climate change and a beer famine, not just to frighten us into taking action, but also to alert us all to the need to pay more attention to barley.

Barley is a crop most famous for the tipples it can provide than its use in food these days, but this wasn’t always the case. It’s a popular crop in northerly climates, whose cool damp conditions suit it perfectly. It’s not for nothing that Scotland is more famous for its whisky than for its rum. Climate change might attack this next.

Speaking at a meeting of brewers and distillers in Aukland, Salinger said that the reason climate change could cause such devastation to the famed antipodean amber nectar will be due to the water shortages expected in Australia and parts of New Zealand, but competition for land from other crops more suited to biofuel production, the diversion of the world’s sugar resources towards bioethanol and the attention that barley will undoubtedly receive as a food source when wheat prices rocket out of reach of all but the most exclusive food manufacturers. Either that or they will just pass on the cost to impoverished drinkers.

The brewers and distillers, not people to take defeat lying down, are at least fighting back and the race is on to improve barley, a crop that has long been neglected. It is, after all, pretty near perfect for beer and whisky as we know it, in today’s climate.

Now, I’m not the world’s most conspicuous eco-warrior, but I do know where to find more information on climate change and whatever other disastrous effects it might have on life as we know it today. CABI’s team of enthusiastic climate watchers are bringing you an new Environmental Impact product this spring. It will bring together information from all sorts of different disciplines, focusing on the impact of people and our habits on the planet.

I realise the situation is more complex and unpredictable than running out of beer, but adaptable species that we are; there may be many solutions in the pipeline. Many of these may already be found in CAB Abstracts and Global Health both in the Nutrition and Food Sciences subset and soon also in the new Environmental Impact one, depending on your particular field of interest. Ultimately, we will be able to make good use of all this valuable information and adapt to our changing world as we humans always have done.

So for those of us who were secretly looking forward to climate change bringing more of those balmy summer evenings lounging outside a pub enjoying good company and a nice refreshing pint, the search for alternatives starts here.

Many thanks to Handpicked co-blogger Phil, for alerting us all to this terrible consequence of a withering climate.

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