While scientific minds have expressed concerns over the possibility that global warming will destroy valuable plant life that could terminate the existence of popular products like chocolate and coffee, recent studies have concluded that these drastic climate changes will not have an impact on the black market cocaine trade. No sir, not even Mother Nature has what it takes to snuff out the coca plant, which researchers maintain has the capacity to adapt to bizarre changes in climate for the sake of perseverance.
South American nations are expected to experience hotter and drier conditions by 2100, according to the latest United Nations report on climate change, with temperatures predicted to increase around 4 degrees Celsius. However, while this sweltering phenomenon could threaten the survival of other viable cash crops, scientists claim the coca bush will remain.
“Coca is kind of unique, because it’s got a very heavy wax cuticle, a layer on the leaves,” Charles Helling, a retired soil chemist for the US government whose position was rooted in drug war tactics, told The Daily Climate. “So that tends to protect it from water loss. It’s a pretty hardy shrub. It’s actually a lot hardier than a typical crop plant.”
It was not until recently that scientists understood the thick skin nature of the coca plant. This is because the majority of the research conducted over the past several decades has been to study methods to destroy, not sustain it. Preeta Bannerjee, a spokesperson for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime claims that while her department uses satellite imaging to study coca fields, “We don’t measure the impact on the environment.”
Researchers with the University of Texas say that after studying the Peruvian climate for nearly two decades, they have watched the coca plant adapt to thriving in around 20 inches of rainfall a year — three to four times less than other key coca areas. Even if the plant does succumb to harsh climate changes, coca farmers will simply cultivate a stronger variation of the plant and proceed with business as usual, said Helling.
Ultimately, by the time global warming puts an end to cocaine production in countries like Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, Helling says the world will have already suffered the loss of many legal crops that will put a bind on the population.