Now climate change is coming for our maple syrup

Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Another day, another report of a beloved food item we will be losing to the continued dissolution of the planet. Just last week, we found out about a drought that’s affecting chickpea (and therefore hummus) output and a cyclone that nailed a vanilla crop in Madagascar. And this disturbing theory about the end of chocolate keeps circulating.


Today, NPR announces that due to the failing of sugar maple trees, there may eventually be no more maple syrup for our pancakes. According to a recent study in the journal Ecology, “Climate change has led to warmer, drier growing seasons, stunting the growth of sugar maples.” The study examined “how environmental conditions impacted the growth of more than 1,000 sugar maple trees at four forest sites in Michigan between 1994 and 2013.” NPR calls the findings “sobering.”

The problem is that new sugar maple saplings aren’t really taking off, and the older ones are going to dry up eventually. According to lead researcher Inés Ibáñez, “The biggest trees will still be there, but won’t be growing as much and the little saplings won’t survive, [so] once the older trees start dying, there will be no new trees to replace them.” NPR points to a bright spot: the tenacity of sugar producers, who are experimenting with different materials like improved vacuum tubing that may help extract more sap from the trees.

While we probably have a few decades before the sugar maples extinguish completely, maybe it’s time to consider some other pancake topping options. But it’s difficult to picture powdered sugar at the IHOP counter, or convince yourself that peanut butter smeared on your breakfast is as delicious as pure maple syrup might have been.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.



Do we do the whole “Unpopular Opinion: [Insert Opinion That Isn’t Unpopular In the Slightest, Just Not Necessarily Universally Held Because What You’re Really Trying To Do Is Cut Some Fools With That Edge]” thing here?

Because if so I’ve got a take about Maple Syrup that I feel like this post really tees up.

I mean, I say that, but it’s not that I hate maple syrup, it’s just that it’s just sort of “meh” for me.

My Michigander parents don’t really get it though.