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We the People: Climate Change, Your Beer, & Politics

Have you ever thought about how weather & climate impact your beer?

It's football season, whether you're tailgating or you're watching the games from home, if you're kicking back enjoying a beer, have you ever thought about how weather and climate impact the taste, or even the cost of that bottle?

"We love making beer in this community" says David Soper, Lead Brewer at Mother's Brewing Co.

Mothers Brewing Company has served Springfield since 2011.

It imports key raw ingredients, barley, hops, and yeast, from as far as the Pacific Northwest. It looks to local farmers in Missouri and Oklahoma for seasonal fruits like peaches and cucumbers.

Year-to-year variation in the growing region for those crops can have a dramatic impact on the yields and the quality of the product that we get" says David Soper, Lead Brewer at Mother's Brewing Co.

He  says communication with local farmers is key to how they handle seasonal variation, but most of the time... Mother Nature decides  for them.

"We actually  had a really late frost and it killed a lot of fruit on the tree" David Soper, Mother's Brewing Co.

But fruit is not the most important ingredient.

"Beer is 99 percent water, we're basically just a big water treatment plant" David Soper, Mother's Brewing Co.

Warming temperatures in McDaniel Lake have caused an algae bloom, not a harmful one but one that affects the flavor of the water, altering the taste of your beer.  

The list and frequency of weather-related impacts like these are only growing with climate change. 

Here in Missouri not only do we become more susceptible to warming temperatures, but  also more frequent heavy downpours and elongated growing seasons, some challenges already met by Mother's Brewery.

Dr. David Perkins from Missouri State has surveyed how people perceive and understand climate change.

He compares it to a baseball player on steroids....

"Did the baseball player hit the home run because he was taking steroids? Maybe, maybe not. But did that baseball player have an increased capacity to hit a home run, is the likelihood of hitting a home run because you're on steroids higher? The answer is probably yes. And as it relates to the climate, our superstorms, our hurricanes and droughts, are they directly attributable to climate change? It's the same thing as the baseball anaolgy." Dr. David Perkins, MSU Professor.

With warming temperatures, the atmosphere has the capacity to drop heavier downpours. Those temps also bring warming oceans and the ability to get more of that water to evaporate into the atmosphere.

Dr. Art DeGaetano is a climatologist and professor at Cornell University.

If we think of the atmosphere as being a bucket, the bucket gets bigger... eventually the weather systems and  things like that cause the bucket to empty..." Dr. Art DeGaetano, Cornell University Professor.

Getting a lot of rain at once doesn't necessarily add to our yearly total. 30 inches over 100 days is manageable.  Over 10 days equals flash flooding, and its that extreme rain that can hurt agriculture and in turn affect your beer.

This series is about political polarization. If we're seeing all of these line graphs head up... carbon dioxide, temperatures, frequency of heavy downpours, even frequency of storms... then why is climate change often a target of political discourse?

Often times we associate democrats with being more supportive of climate change policies and republicans being more dismissive or doubtful. 

"Fewer than 1 in 10 people are actually are dismissive of climate change. As it turns out, a lot more are concerned or interested. The problem that we have is that our loudest voices are on either ends" Dr. David Perkins, MSU Professor.

..."We need to disentangle the blame, the politics, who's going to get the finger pointed at them."

Currently, the United States is the only country not participating in the Paris Climate Accord, an international pledge for nations to step up and decrease carbon emissions.

Is this something where government needs to step in and offer more regulation? 

Should we let individuals make decisions on their own carbon footprint? What do we do with all the millions of cars on the roads using fossil fuels? Are we ready to rebuild coastal homes so they are less vulnerable to sea level rise?  


 "So it's a tradeoff in what people's values are. Do they value the environment? Do they value taking some cut backs now or some changes now that's really going to protect the whole system"  Dr. Art DeGaetano, Cornell University Professor.


Remember David at Mother's Brewery? He's had to make decisions on how to adapt already.

 "We need people to understand that climate change is actually happening and it's affecting what we're trying to do, what anybody that deals with raw commodities is dealing with it on a day to day basis and we're seeing it." David Soper, Mother's Brewing Co.

And "seeing" is believing.    


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