Verify: Is chocolate going extinct?

Are we only going to have chocolate for another 40 years?

AUSTIN - It's a bit of a shocking headline. The Business Insider article leads off with the claim that "Chocolate is on track to go extinct in 40 years."

It was picked up by a variety of news outlets and, at it's core, cites scientific publications to point out environmental threats to Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, two of the worlds largest cacao producing countries. 

The Business Insider article further explains that the cacao tree can only grow in very specific environments.

"But those areas won't be suitable for chocolate in the next few decades," the article claimed. "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."

It cites an article by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that explains the ideal conditions for cacao trees. 

The relevant section reads:

"Cacao can only grow within about 20° north and south of the equator—south of the Mediterranean home of carob, in fact. Cacao trees only prosper under specific conditions, including fairly uniform temperatures, high humidity, abundant rain, nitrogen-rich soil, and protection from wind. In short, cacao trees thrive in rainforests.

Chocolate is now grown around the globe—typically within 10° north and south of the equator. The world's leading producers are Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia."

That NOAA article cites another publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That 1,150-page publication from 2014 goes more in-depth into the climate concerns for cacao and other plants as 2050 approaches. 

Table 9-5 on page 627 details how Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are expected to face rising temperatures and changes in the optimal altitude for Cacao growing. 

These numbers and predictions certainly aren't promising for the future of cacao trees, but nowhere in the IPCC publication or the NOAA article is it mentioned that cacao trees and chocolate are on a path to extinction.

Also, according to the Committee on Recently Extinct Organisms (CREO), a part of the American Museum of Natural History, species can only be considered extinct in recent times if they meet a set of standards. One of which is:

"No individuals have been observed reliably in at least the past 50 years."

While it's a technicality, that does mean that cacao trees would already have to be gone for 50 years to officially be extinct.

Even the Business Insider article later explained that there are efforts underway between companies and research groups to create more adaptable and hearty plants.

While the climate changes could impact Cacao tree growth in future years, the claim that they are on a path to extinction in 40 years is verified false.

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