Sunday, April 22, 2012

Coffee Climate

The default map for NPR's recent article about contributors to climate change highlights countries that are major sources. This is actually a misuse of the choropleth map type (see other examples on this blog), so I was glad to see something a bit more geographically correct -- and informative. It is a map of per capita carbon emissions, which instantly reveals that the fretting about China is not related so much to its energy habits as to its size. The prospect of that many people moving even slightly in the direction of U.S. levels of avarice is of course frightening, but that is more a commentary on the untenable nature of our own consumption than an indictment of Chinese habits or intentions.

View article and enlarge map on NPR

I could not help notice -- and perhaps the hues chosen for this map had something to do with it -- that this map is almost an inverse of the maps of coffee production. In other words, the areas that produce coffee -- and many of the other colonial "breakfast crops" -- are not large sources of climate-changing carbon dioxide. As I have mentioned in several previous posts, however, these are precisely the areas that are bearing many of the most important consequences of climate change.

What to do with this bit of information? I am not certain, but it does suggest that -- in addition to curbing our own carbon appetites, those of us who do drink coffee should choose shade-grown coffees that support forest conservation and restoration.

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