One of us is a U.S. senator. One of us is the CEO of Cargill, the nation’s largest privately held corporation. But we’re both citizens who share a deep concern about the impact climate change is beginning to have on our way of life, and a deep commitment to doing our part to address this challenge before it’s too late.
The challenge is complex but very real. Two months ago, we experienced the warmest October ever recorded, and 2015 will go down as easily the hottest year on record. Climate change is already shrinking glaciers, acidifying oceans and altering weather patterns.
But there’s another element of the danger posed by climate change: the damage it could do to our food supply. As a senator representing a farm state and as the CEO of a company focused on agriculture, we are particularly concerned about changes in weather patterns, temperature and rainfall, trends that will make farming — and thus food security — even more challenging around the world.
Our global population is expected to grow from 7 billion today to 9.5 billion by midcentury. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that — as populations continue to grow and developing nations continue to industrialize — global food demand could increase by up to 70 percent by the year 2050.
Our food system is resilient, and our farmers have a long history of innovating and adapting in the face of change. But the impact of climate change on agriculture could prove significant, and we all have a role to play in tackling this global challenge.
That’s why Cargill has joined other major American companies, including great Minnesota businesses like Target, Best Buy and General Mills, in signing the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge.
As part of the pledge, Cargill made specific commitments to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy. It also reaffirmed the work it is doing across its global supply chains to protect forests and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. These new benchmarks will continue the work Cargill has done previously to lower its carbon footprint and make its agricultural supply chains more sustainable.
But there’s another major element of the pledge: Cargill and its fellow signatories are offering their support for a strong outcome at the global climate negotiations in Paris this month, where some 150 heads of state are convening — making it one of the largest international gatherings on any issue.
After all, America cannot solve climate change alone. But American leadership can help bring about a global consensus. And just as the pledge represents a collaboration between government and industry, the Paris talks represent an important inflection point in the effort to build collaboration across nations — and establish an international commitment to taking serious action now.
That commitment has been elusive in the past, but there is real reason to believe that this time could be different. In advance of the Paris conference, more than 180 countries have taken the significant step of announcing their own individual commitments to addressing climate change. Successful negotiations in Paris, followed by real action on the part of the governments meeting there, could finally yield the kind of major international effort it would take to turn the tide on climate change.
Rarely have we had so much momentum toward a truly global strategy for addressing this threat. And if we blow this chance, we may not have another one like it. As the Earth is warming, the clock is ticking.
As a member of the Senate Energy Committee, Al has fought to reduce carbon emissions and invest in clean energy and energy efficiency research, development, and deployment. And with so much at stake — both in our own country’s efforts to combat climate change and in the Paris talks — he is grateful to have a business like Cargill as a partner committed to improving energy efficiency, increasing renewable energy use and deploying clean energy solutions, such as combined heat and power.
In the past, it may have seemed odd for a progressive Democrat and a global CEO to join together to promote climate action, but the truth is that everyone who breathes air, drinks water and eats food has a stake in efforts to address climate change. And the challenge today is clearer than it’s ever been — and with the global consensus building, solutions can’t be far behind.
Al Franken represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. Dave MacLennan is chairman and CEO of Cargill.