From News Release, December 7 2015: Washington Adventist University (WAU) Adjunct Professor Colin Wellenkamp is leading a delegation of Mississippi River mayors who are attending the United Nation’s climate change conference this week in Paris. They are part of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), and will be involved in talks with officials from other major food-exporting river basins around the world in an effort to secure food and water security in the face of climate change.

The delegation will be addressing ways to sustain the world’s food-producing rivers as a side-bar to the conference, which is the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This year, COP21 seeks to achieve a binding and universal agreement on climate by nations around the world.

Wellenkamp is executive director of the MRCTI, and the delegation to Paris includes the following mayors: Chris Coleman of St. Paul, Minnesota; Dave Kleis of St. Cloud, Minnesota; Roy Buol of Dubuque, Iowa; and Larry Brown of Natchez, Mississippi. The group is working with the U.S. State Department, the United Nations Environment Program, the International Network of Basin Organizations, ecoAmerica and the International Society of River Science to facilitate an international conversation about sustaining the world’s food-producing rivers.

“We know that climate disruption is having an impact on the Mississippi,” said Coleman. “Over the last several years, the Mississippi River Valley has sustained successive 100-, 200-, and 500-year flood events, a 50-year drought, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac.”

With a projected global population of 9.6 billion by 2050, the need to produce more food and ensure access to freshwater is escalating. Since much of the food production is generated by the major river basins in the world, the need for basins to become more resilient to the impacts of climate disruption is growing.

Sixty-five percent of the drinking water in the U.S. comes from rivers and streams. Washington, DC, sources its water from the Potomac River; 50 U.S. cities use the Mississippi River alone as a drinking water source, providing for more than 20 million people.

The MRCTI delegation will host talks over two sessions. The first session will identify the challenges of implementing integrated water management and sustainable agricultural practices. The second session will identify ways to enhance food and drinking water security on an international level. The results of the talks will be presented on December 8 in the United States Center in Paris, and can be viewed live at 11:45 a.m. (EST) at www.state.gov/uscenter.