The History Of Chocolate

Is chocolate really going extinct because of climate change?

Reports of climate change killing off chocolate in 32 years circulated online this week with headlines like “How climate change could rob the world of chocolate.” But is it really true?

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According to fact-checking site Snopes.com, the viral claim is overblown.

The original story, shared by Business Insider, warned about chocolate’s extinction in 40 years and said in its summary (above the story body) that cacao plants are “slated to disappear by as early as 2050 thanks to warmer temperatures and dryer weather conditions.”

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The statements are based on joint research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Mars candy company.

Scientists at the university’s Innovative Genomics Institute, along with the candy company, are experimenting with CRISPR gene editing to try and tweak the cacao plant used to make chocolate. The goal is to create a genetically modified form of cacao resistant to the potential effects of climate change and habitat loss.

But the article’s summarized claim that cacao plants are slated to disappear by 2050 due to climate change overlooks the specifics of the Berkeley research it later describes in full.

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From the story:

“Over half of the world’s chocolate now comes from just two countries in West Africa — Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. But those areas won’t be suitable for chocolate in the next few decades,” Business Insider reported. “By 2050, rising temperatures will push today’s chocolate-growing regions more than 1,000 feet uphill into mountainous terrain — much of which is currently preserved for wildlife, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”

That data comes from the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Impacts Adaptation and Vulnerability report, which found that if carbon emissions were to continue as they are, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana would experience a 2.1ºC increase in temperature and ultimate result in a “considerable reduction in [suitable growing] area” for cocoa production in Ghana and an “almost total elimination [of suitable growing area] in Ivory Coast,” Snopes debunked.

A “considerable reduction” doesn’t imply biological extinction.

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And for the cacao plants to become extinct, there would have to have be a complete absence of sightings for the plant for at least 50 years.

Cacao plants are also grown in Australia and is not native to Africa.

Shortly after the initial article was published, Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute issued a press release.

"Scientists predict that climate change will significantly reduce the amount of land suitable for cultivating cacao in the coming decades, though probably not to the point of extinction,” researchers wrote. “The vast majority of cacao is produced in West Africa, and reducing the amount of cacao-producing land to an even narrower region could speed up the spread of disease."

Read more from Snopes.com.

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