According to a recent study, chocolate could be a thing of the past in just thirty years due to rising global temperatures. Led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the report explains that cacao trees are only able to grow in very specific areas (i.e. 10 degrees on either side of the Equator).
Found in lowland tropical forests – offering nitrogen-rich soil, stable temperatures, a high level of humidity and a lot of rainfall – the trees also require particular climatic conditions which, thanks to global warming, cannot be guaranteed for much longer.
Currently, three biggest producers of chocolate are Indonesia, Ivory Coast and Ghana. According to a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body that studies climate evolution, if temperatures keep increasing at the rate they are now, we can expect an overall rise of 35.78 °F (2.1 °C ) by the year 2050 in the countries that produce cacao.
This rise will lead to increased water evaporation levels which will not be counteracted by an increase in rainfall. As the heat reduces the water content in the soil, the plants will not be able to develop enough to produce beans, while drought conditions may be enough to kill off the trees entirely.
Facing a significant reduction in areas suitable for cultivating cacao, farmers will therefore be forced to move their crops to higher lands.
In Ghana, for example, it would be possible to continue producing cacao by replanting trees on hillier terrain less affected by climate change. However, these zones are usually protected meaning the country would have to choose between preserving its natural habitat or producing chocolate.
While disrupting these protected spaces would dramatic consequences to local flora and fauna, chocolate production is vital to the country's economy.
Nonetheless, the original report does not actually mention the word extinction and is generally quite optimistic in tone. It even states that the next few decades should provide enough time to adapt to the new climatic challenges.
It is, however, worth remembering that climate change will pose a real threat to many crops in the coming years and we should never be complacent about doing our bit to reduce our own carbon footprint.