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Chipotle Identifies Climate Change As a Risk, Warns It May Stop Serving Guacamole

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday March 13th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Chipotle Chipotle’s recent SEC filing caused quite a stir. Specifically, one of the risks stated in that filing caused a stir.

The company cited “changes associated with global climate change” as having a potential “significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients.” Due to cost increases, Chipotle “may choose to temporarily suspend serving menu items, such as guacamole or one or more of our salsas.” However, Chipotle spokesperson, Chris Arnold downplays that specific example. “It’s routine financial disclosure,” Arnold told Think Progress. “Nothing more than that.”

Chipotle may or may not have to suspend serving such staples of its menu as guacamole and salsas. However, chances are great that climate change will have an effect on the fast food chain. The filing also mentioned that weather events “such as freezes or drought” could lead to temporary price increases on certain ingredients. The filing goes on to mention drought. “For instance, two years of drought conditions in parts of the U.S. have resulted in significant increases in beef prices during late 2013 and early 2014.”

California is in the midst of a three-year drought, and this drought is an historic one. Two scientists studied tree rings and found that the last time California had a drought this severe was 500 years ago. As a major agricultural state, California produces almost half of all fruit, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S. Due to the ongoing drought, California farmers were told not to expect any water deliveries which means that to irrigate their crops they will be tapping ground water. If drought conditions continue, groundwater levels in California are likely to reach historic lows.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report last year on the potential effects of climate change on agriculture. As the report makes it clear, climate change will affect agriculture. Temperature increases and more variable rainfall “will reduce productivity of crops.” Although effects will vary in various regions in the U.S., “all production systems will be affected to some degree by climate change.” The USDA is not the only federal agency to detail potential climate change effects on agriculture. The EPA cites both droughts and floods as posing challenges for farmers and ranchers. Both the USDA and EPA point out that farmers and ranchers need reliable sources of water, and drought puts stress on water supplies.

Chipotle is not the only company to recognize that climate change poses a risk to its operations. The CDP, formerly known as Carbon Disclosure Project, released  a report last September which looked at the risks of climate change to the supply chain. The report is based on the responses of 2,415 suppliers to a survey. In fact, 52 of the 54 CDP supply chain members responded to the survey, and they represent a combined spending power of almost $1 trillion. The majority (70 percent) of the respondents identified either a current or future risk related to climate change. Over half of the supply chain risks identified due to drought and rainfall extremes are already affecting the respondents’ operations or are expected to have an effect within the next five years.

Image credit: Flickr/foleymo


▼▼▼      7 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Tom G.

    The headline of this story makes no sense. Both guacamole and salsa are plant based materials meaning they absorb CO2 during the growing process and sequester carbon. Good grief, guacamole is made from avocados which grow on trees.

    If Chipotle is really concerned about the lack of water for the irrigation of avocado trees then maybe they should encourage the use of treated wastewater for irrigation.

    • jenboynton

      The link between climate change and drought and is pretty well established, and drought is not good for crops no matter how much C02 they have at their disposal. That’s the point of the article, perhaps you should try reading beyond the headline!

  • Tom G.

    Dear jenboynton:

    Thank you for posting. Gives me something to write about this morning.

    We could discuss Climate Change, Global Warming and CO2 until the cows come home and most likely never reach consensus. Even though there is now a consensus among a majority of scientists that Climate Change is “man-made” and that trying to blame CO2 as the ONLY contributing factor was really a flawed strategy and here is why.

    I am all for things like solar, wind, bio-fuels and other renewable sources and even to some extent the use of High Temperature Gas Cooled reactors to meet our energy needs. But until we stop using terms like Global Warming and Climate Change which are Problem Statements we aren’t going to make much progress.

    If you have ever watched the J. Leno show before he retired you will probably remember his man on the street skits. If it weren’t so sad, it might even be funny how ill informed the American people are. I will bet you that fully 80% of the people on the streets of America can’t tell you what “ppm” means. I will also bet that that same group of people can’t tell you what the significance of 400 ppm of CO2 concentrations on a mountaintop in Hawaii is? My goodness, most people can’t even identify the Vice President of the United States when shown his picture. And forget about our next generation of college students; they don’t even know what affects things like CFC’s and Methane are having on our environment. And don’t even try asking them to explain why most of our power plants in the world WASTE 60% of every BTU of heat energy they create. And how about asking them which types of power plants can produce electricity without burning something? Well that trick question might really be unfair, LOL. But you can ask them what the latest hip-hop song is or what the latest version of an iPhone looks like and they can tell you. In other words, most people don’t really give a hoot about CO2 levels.

    In my not so humble opinion the terms Global Warming and Climate Change are important but USELESS. These scientific terms will never get the job done if that means some desire reduction of CO2 in our atmosphere .

    If we want the American people to do the the right thing whatever you happen to believe “the right thing is”, then we need to provide some strategies they can UNDERSTAND and are willing to FOLLOW. For example, which of the following two statements do you believe the American people might understand and help implement?

    Statement 1. Global Warming and Climate Change studies have shown that CO2 is a problem and we need to reduce it in our atmosphere. Federal and State agencies are issuing additional regulations mandating how we must proceed which may cause utility rates to increase. .

    Statement 2. Studies by climate scientists have shown that we need to reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere. If every American began looking for ways to improve the “quality of the air we breath and the water we drink” we can achieve this goal. We could all start by looking for ways to reduce our water and electric bills by just 10% at home, at school and at work. [Or some words to this effect - these just popped up in my grey matter].

    Which statement do you prefer? Which statement do you believe has the best chance of being supported and implemented by the American people? The first statement is a PROBLEM statement. It might even be a required political action but it certainly does nothing to motivate the American people to act. To most Americans all they see is that their utility bills are going up, AGAIN.

    The second statement however at least attempts to empower the people to act by establishing GOALS and OBJECTIVES that might just help THEM save some money. Which statement you believe is more positive and rewarding?

    O.K. so in summary you and I could continue to talk about CO2 until both the cows AND chickens come home and never make any progress. Its almost like what we have accomplished in the last 10 years isn’t it. To a lot of Liberals in our society CO2 is almost like an evil gas we must control. To many Conservatives they believe that CO2 is just a byproduct of a growing and thriving economy and restricting it hurt the oil, gas and coal industries power society.

    So where is the common ground that almost EVERY American would support? Could a common ground be something as simple as “clean air to breath and water to drink”. Can you image the power of 200,000,000 Americans looking for ways to save energy and put MORE money in their pockets?

    What do you think?

    • http://www.triplepundit.com Nick Aster

      You’ve said a lot there Tom and I think you’ll find most people recognize how complicated this all is. But at the end of the day, yes, clean air and water AND doing things more efficiently so we’ve got more in our pockets are absolutely common ground.

      • Tom G.

        Hello Nick:

        “You said a lot…”. Yes I know I have a tendency to do that, LOL. And you are totally correct. At one point in time we seemed to have much more “common ground” than we do today and I long for the return of those days.

        Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Marc T

      Well said Tom. I feel the exact same way. BTW, do you have a newsletter I can subscribe to?

      • Tom G.

        Hi Mark T:

        Sorry no newsletter but thank you for thinking my posting might be worthy of such an honor. I am just your average blogger attempting to provide some potential solutions to a complex set of global problems. Take Care.