The new year is kicking off with some scary news for chocolate lovers: By 2050, climate change could severely hamper the growth of the cacao plant or even cause its extinction, according to an article in Business Insider. The seed of the cacao plant is the main ingredient in chocolate. But before you start stockpiling decades worth of chocolate bars, you should know that scientists are already at work trying to save the plant.
The root of the problem is the fact that chocolate grows in a narrow strip of rainforest about 20 degrees north and south of the equator, Business Insider explains. As temperatures rise, cacao growers will have to move their crops — which is difficult, because much of the higher terrain is protected for wildlife. The other option is to start growing plants that thrive in the changing environment.
And that's where the scientists come in. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley are working to develop a cacao plant that's able to withstand warmer and dryer weather. And they have financial support from a company that has a serious business interest in chocolate's survival: Mars, the maker of Snickers, M&M's, Dove and other chocolate products.
This isn't the first time chocolate has been in the news with relation to climate change. Late last year, a number of outlets reported that global warming might make chocolate taste better. That supposed silver lining was stripped away by NPR's The Salt, where Simran Sethi underscored the fact that climate change will almost certainly affect cacao yields but is quite unlikely to make for better tasting chocolate — unless you really like bitter and astringent flavors.