Is Vegan Ice Cream In Danger? How Climate Change Is Affecting Coconuts

October 14, 2019

coconuts vegan ice cream

Coconuts, grown predominantly in Southeast Asia, have been devastated by tropical storms throughout the years. The rise of global warming has increased the frequency of these storms. A shorter supply paired with rising demand of coconut-based products leave some of us wondering…

Is global coconut supply in danger?

Climate Change

Tropical storms are caused by warm ocean temperatures heating the air above the water. The warmed air rises, cools, and then gets pushed by rising warm air below. This air movement causes strong winds which pull moisture in from the oceans. The moisture-filled air warms (just like the air rising before it), evaporates, and continues the cycle. What’s created is one big, wet, windy storm. Rising ocean temperatures due to global warming are increasing the intensity of these tropical storms.

tropical storm taking out coconuts farms

When tropical storms hit land, they devastate people, animals, and city infrastructure. Those in the U.S. might be most familiar with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria. The impacted lands and their people are still recovering from the damage.

Tropical storms hit other locations around the earth’s equator.

tropical storm locations in prime coconuts farming areas

Fun fact: Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are actually the same thing, they are just named differently depending on where they form in the world. 

One of the locations impacted by tropical storms is Southeast Asia, where many coconuts are grown. Produced in countries such as Thailand or the Philippines, coconuts thrive growing in the warm, tropical climate.

However, when typhoons hit land, they destroy coconut palm trees, decreasing coconut supply and threatening farmers’ livelihoods.

Demand for Coconuts

The chart below demonstrates increases in sales growth between plant-based and conventional dairy products. Along with other products, the demand for vegan ice cream has never been higher.

plant based growth coconuts milk

As the number of veg-interested people rise, will demand outpace our supply?

The demand for coconuts is growing at a 10% rate across the world. In the Asia Pacific, production of coconuts is growing only at a 1.3% rate. Tropical storms are certainly not helping.

Because of shorter supply, companies like Coconut Bliss, a popular coconut-based ice cream brand, are investing resources into finding alternatives to coconut milk.

Farmers’ Livelihoods

While some of us might be looking into an empty shelf in the freezer aisle, there are people whose livelihoods are on the line.

Coconut farmers in these regions depend on their farms to support themselves and their families. But even with healthy trees, many farmers are unable to earn enough to keep themselves above the poverty line. Many of them living on less than $1 a day.

Hope is Not Lost

Coconut farmers are finding ways to adapt. Agroforestry is a farming strategy that involves planting shrubs and other crops (i.e. cassava and eggplant) in between trees to protect plants from harsh climates and diversify the products farmers are able to sell.

Increased development and access to technology may also provide farmers a chance to receive training, farming advisory support, and warnings of oncoming storms.

What Can We Do to Help?

  • Buy fair trade coconuts or products that use fair trade coconuts in their ingredients
  • Lessen our carbon footprint
    • i.e. eat vegan, reduce waste, use less polluting methods of transportation
  • Educate ourselves on how our food is sourced and how other countries are affected by climate change
    • The more we know, the more we can do something about it
  • Spread the word to other people
  • Any other ideas?

What coconut-based products do you use?

Also by Lindsay: I Quit Drinking Alcohol 4 Years Ago To Save My Skin Health. Here’s What It’s Like

What Happened When I Tried Alarm Clock Training To Jump Out Of Bed & Seize The Day



Photo: NASA;  The Globe and Mail; Bloomberg

Lindsay Brave
Lindsay is a writer, researcher, and self-proclaimed vegan introvert. Lindsay spends her free time reading, making up dance moves (when no one’s watching), and upping her self-care routine. Connect with Lindsay on Instagram @lindsbrave or via email at [email protected].


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