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The Endangered Margarita

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Growing agave isn’t exactly like growing corn. They are big plants, they take a long time to grow, and they grow only in certain conditions. The rapid expansion of mezcal as an internationally respected beverage is likely going to seriously stress what Oaxaca can provide. And that’s before climate change. Here’s a discussion of how climate change is impacting the agave and, focusing on tequila, how it could endanger one of our favorite drinks.

Agave-based liquor like tequila and mezcal was the fastest growing spirits category in 2022, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the US. Analysts even say it might soon surpass vodka as the best-selling liquor in the country.

But scientists from around the world have made it clear that climate change-fueled water shortages will continue to put enormous pressure on food production. Wine and spirits, unfortunately, are not spared from that forecast. A 2019 study found that the climate crisis, coupled with overgrazing from cattle ranching and other human activities, may disrupt the distribution and cultivation of agave, the main ingredient of tequila.

While agave is a drought-tolerant plant that can thrive in hot weather with little to no water, Omanjana Goswami, a food and environment scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the life cycle of agave is too fragile to endure the major weather whiplash the climate crisis is generating – from extreme drought to deadly storm deluges like the one California just experienced.

“Agave is a desert plant, so of course, anything that is moving towards that desert-like weather is going to help this crop thrive,” Goswami told CNN. “But unfortunately, climate effects are not linear. It doesn’t mean that as temperatures warm that will remain consistent.”

“With extreme weather in conjunction with unpredictability, it’s so hard to predict where this is going to go in the future,” she added.

Climate change will impact literally every species on the planet. Maybe we should do something about that.

Of course in the town of Tequila, no one really drinks margaritas, which generally are not that popular in Mexico period except in tourist locations. It’s all about the tequila and Squirt.

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