Chocolate is undoubtedly one of the most adored delicacies on planet earth. It comes in endless forms, from chips to shavings to bars to drizzle and more. There are a wide variety of flavors beyond just the standard white, milk, and dark such as lavender, lemongrass with peppercorn, or truly anything you can set your mind to. Perfect baked into a wide array of desserts, melted and covering your favorite savory snacks, or eaten plain after a stressful day, it is obvious that consuming chocolate equates to happiness. However, as much as it pains me to say it, chocolate doomsday is arriving, and it is much sooner than we think. Researchers have estimated that the earth's junk food may be extinct as early as the year 2040, meaning chocolate lovers only have forty more years before their favorite dessert is replaced with tears. 

Where does chocolate even come from? 

sweet, candy, chocolate, chips, chocolate chips, cocoa
Caroline Ingalls

Chocolate's main ingredient and best friend is the cacao seed. But the cacao seed goes on a long journey before it becomes a recognizable form of chocolate that we all know and love. First, cacao seeds are roasted and ground. At this point, they have an intensely bitter flavor and must be fermented in order for the sweetness to be developed. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, roasted, and shelled to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground up, at which point they become cocoa mass, which is essentially a rough form of chocolate. The cocoa mass is then liquified by being heated into chocolate liquor. Then, the final step occurs. The liquor is cooled and processed into two separate components, cocoa solids, and cocoa butter. These ingredients make up the foundation for different forms of chocolate such as baking chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate

So, what's the problem?

chocolate, sweet, coffee, cake, candy, cream
Kevin Kozlik

Unfortunately for chocolate lovers, cacao plants are tricky to grow and require specific conditions. They only survive well in tropical areas within 20 degrees of the equator. As a result, most of the world's chocolate comes from Africa, in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, where the plants live around 300 to 850 feet above sea level in incredibly humid weather conditions. 

What exactly is causing the extinction?

coffee, beans, chocolate, cereal, espresso
Christin Urso

Climate change is the main proponent of the chocolate supply issue. Global warming has resulted in stark increases in temperature and dryer weather conditions, two optimal components of the growth of cacao plants. As a result of this, researchers claim the cacao plant is in trouble because rising temperatures could push the optimal cultivation zone of cacaos up to as high as 1,500 feet. This height increase would result in the growth of cacao in an environment unsuitable for cultivation or already reserved for other wildlife preserves. In sum, cacao could become impossible to grow in the coming decades because of hot temperatures and less rain in regions where cacao plants are currently located. 

What can we do?

cocoa, cocoa powder, chocolate
Jocelyn Hsu

The pressing question that is undeniably on every single chocolate eater's mind: "what can we do?" To be quite honest, there isn't much that any given individual can do besides limiting their carbon footprint as much as they can. This can be done by using fuel-efficient cars, recycling, and buying reusable products.

On a population-wide scale, scientists at the University of California Berkeley are paving the way for a massive chocolate savior. Researchers, under a one billion dollar grant funded by Mars, the company best known for the creation of Snickers, are using a technology called CRISPR to modify the DNA of the cacao plants. Hopefully, the genetically modified plants will be able to survive rising temperatures and farms won’t have to be relocated to higher elevations. In fact, the National Administration of Oceanic Atmosphere feels quite hopeful about the potential of cacao plants on the basis that climate change will only affect future, not current, generations of cacao plants. This means that there is still time for the adaptation of the species.

For now, while the validity of CRISPR technology is somewhat uncertain, coupled with fact that the problem of climate change is only continuously growing, savor every last bite of chocolate. You never know when it's going to be your last.