Add climate change to the factors that shape global trade.

Along with exchange rates, costs of production, availability of raw materials and market demand, a change in climate can redirect trade flows, raise the price of trade goods and create openings for new products.

Our infographic shows 6 cases of climate change impacts on trade now. Working from the Union of Concerned Scientists Climate Hot Map, we looked at our trade data on the products of ecosystems that are being altered by rising temperatures. Among the shifts in import-export values and volumes resulting from climate change we found:

  • With rising sea levels, the Gulf Coast wetlands are slipping away – and with them the habitats that support shellfish and other seafood. The US has been turning to imports to meet growing consumer demand for shrimp. (One commentator suggests that the availability of imports has inured people in the US “to the fact that the principal rearing ground of Gulf shrimp, the Mississippi River Delta, is slipping into the sea at a rate of a football field an hour.”)
  • As the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, their waters are becoming more acid .. and lethal for oysters. Rising US imports of oysters are one result.
  • Rising temperatures are upsetting the delicately balanced climate of the global coffee belt. Coffee plants thrive near the equator in the coolness of mountain altitudes. Warming temperatures are bad for the beans – and good for plant-killing fungus and beetle infestations. The shape of things to come: a disappointing crop has depressed Costa Rican coffee exports – while the price of the coffee has risen.
  • There are plant species that grow in South Africa and no place else. One is rooibos (or red bush) tea. Drought has decimated the 2015 crop and South African export shipments. Expect rooibos tea to be hard-to-find and much more expensive this year.
  • A shift to a droughtier climate will also have a impact on the way your beer tastes: the European harvest of hops – including the hallertau hops of Germany – was disappointing last year, so brewers are paying more or (our trade data indicates) finding alternatives.
  • The warming temperatures are creating a more hospitable climate for vintners in the UK … and the US is importing more British wine. (Indeed, French champagne growers are considering buying British “terroir” as a hedge against climate change.)

There are more climate change impacts on trade ahead: Warmer winters are letting mountain pine beetles make a meal of British Columbias pine forests, source for Canadian timber exports. South Africas floral region, another source for unique and lucrative export products, is threatened by hotter temperatures.

Our infographic is only a taste of the ways climate change impacts trade.


Infographic data note: The trade statistics are sourced from Datamynes US, Costa Rican, EU, and South African trade data.

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