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Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heat


Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world by volume consumed, and yields of its main ingredient, barley, decline sharply in periods of extreme drought and heat. Although the frequency and severity of drought and heat extremes increase substantially in range of future climate scenarios by five Earth System Models, the vulnerability of beer supply to such extremes has never been assessed. We couple a process-based crop model (decision support system for agrotechnology transfer) and a global economic model (Global Trade Analysis Project model) to evaluate the effects of concurrent drought and heat extremes projected under a range of future climate scenarios. We find that these extreme events may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide. Average yield losses range from 3% to 17% depending on the severity of the conditions. Decreases in the global supply of barley lead to proportionally larger decreases in barley used to make beer and ultimately result in dramatic regional decreases in beer consumption (for example, −32% in Argentina) and increases in beer prices (for example, +193% in Ireland). Although not the most concerning impact of future climate change, climate-related weather extremes may threaten the availability and economic accessibility of beer.

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Fig. 1: Extreme events severity and frequency in barley-growing regions and during the barley-growing season under future climate change.
Fig. 2: Average barley yield shocks during extreme events years.
Fig. 3: Barley consumption by country and globally under future climate change.
Fig. 4: Changes in beer consumption and price under increasingly severe drought–heat events.
Fig. 5: Beer consumption and price in recent years.

Data availability

The historical weather data (1981–2010) that support the analysis with ESMs in this study are publicly available online at; the future climate scenario data (2010–2099) that support the analysis with ESMs in this study are publicly available online at and The spatial data of harvest area, yield, crop calendar, irrigation portion and chemical N input for barley that support the simulation with crop model (DSSAT) in this study are publicly available at (SPAM) and (SAGE); the soil data that support the simulation with crop model (DSSAT) in this study are publicly available from the WISE database ( and the Digital Soil Map of the World (DSMW) ( The data and parameters that support the economic model in this study are available from the GTAP 9 database (, which was used under license for the current study. Data are available with permission from the GTAP Center. The other data that support splitting barley and beer from the original database GTAP 9 are publicly available at FAOSTAT ( and from the UN Comtrade Database ( All other relevant data are available from the corresponding authors.


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There was equal financial support from Peking University and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CASS) to this study. W.Xie and D.G. thank the National Key R&D Program of China (grant no. 2016YFA0602604) for financial support; W.Xie thanks the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 71503243, 71333013 and 71873009) and Ministry of Science and Technology (grant no. 2012CB955700) for financial support; D.G. aknowledges support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 41629501, 71533005), Chinese Academy of Engineering (grant no. 2017-ZD-15-07), the UK Natural Environment Research Council (grant no. NE/N00714X/1 and NE/P019900/1), the Economic and Social Research Council (gant no. ES/L016028/1), a British Academy Grant (grant no. AF150310) and the Philip Leverhulme Prize. E.L., J.P. and W.Xiong thank the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 41675115, 41471074, 41171093), National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant nos. 2017YFD0300301 and 2017YFD0200106) and the Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Program of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences for financial support; S.J.D. acknowledges support of the U.S. National Science Foundation (INFEWS grant EAR 1639318). We also thank Y. He, K. Li, X. Han, Y. Li and others from the CAAS team for discussion on the method framework of this study, and Z. Zhang, Q. Deng and Y. Zhang for their assistance in producing the graphical representation of the results.

Author information




W.Xie coordinated the study. W.Xie, D.G. and E.L. conceived the study. J.P. and E.L. conducted the ESMs analysis. W.Xiong and E.L. conducted the crop model simulations. W.Xie, T.A. and Q.C. conducted the economic analysis. W.Xie, D.G., S.J.D. and N.D.M. interpreted the final results. W.Xie, S.J.D., W.Xiong, J.P. and D.G. wrote the paper. N.D.M., T.A., Q.C., J.M. and E.L. contributed to revising the paper.

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Correspondence to Wei Xie, Dabo Guan or Erda Lin.

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Supplementary Text and Data, Additional References, Supplementary Figures 1–40, Supplementary Tables 1 and 2, and Tables A1 and A2

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Xie, W., Xiong, W., Pan, J. et al. Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heat. Nature Plants 4, 964–973 (2018).

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