October 31st, 2011 by

Credit: John Loo

Trick or treat? Well today, it’s a little of both. Since it’s Halloween, I thought we could talk about something really scary. In fact, this may be one of the more frightening things I have read in a very long time: chocolate could become a thing of the past.

A recent study by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) predicts that as soon as 2030, we could start to see a decline in cocoa crops because many of the areas that now grow them will be too warm to continue doing so. View the full study from CIAT here. (And yes, 2030 may not seem like “soon,” but I don’t want to think that I’ll be without chocolate in 18 years – do you?)

Right now, Ghana and the Ivory Coast produce about half of the world’s cocoa supply. Their climates and landscapes are ideal for the crop, which has become a common livelihood for farmers in the region. But if temperatures increase, as they are predicted to do in West Africa, the heat-sensitive plants will fail to produce.

By 2050, a change of 2.3 degrees Celsius could completely cripple the productivity of most of West Africa’s cocoa crops. With half the supply line out of play, cocoa will become rarer and more expensive, and prices of its products will spike. We’ll have to bid goodbye to the days of the $1 chocolate bar and get used to a new reality where chocolate is a luxury item and, like truffles or caviar, no longer affordable for the average Joe.

Is there a way to keep the cocoa-producing regions cool enough to keep churning out their chocolatey goodness? Experts advocate increasing the shade trees that protect the crops, developing new types of irrigation systems and even creating new, more heat-tolerant variations of cocoa plants. Others are less optimistic and suggest that farmers in the region start looking for alternative cash crops now, so that they will be able to maintain their livelihood when the heat really sets in.

So enjoy your candy bars and chocolate-peanut butter cups while you can because in the next couple decades, they may get a lot harder to find.

Not spooky enough for you?

Climate change may take away another precious item: coffee. Already, the effects of climate change have caused some coffee prices to increase by 25 percent over just the last year, giving even coffee giants like Starbucks something to worry about (see their warnings on climate change). If you’re like me, the idea of facing a workday (especially Mondays) without at least one morning cup of coffee is truly terrifying.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Have a safe & fun time celebrating this evening.