“Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word, I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.”
This 2015 warning by Pope Francis is now widely recognized as reality. Climate change is here and represents an existential threat to our planet. Heat waves, droughts, floods, superstorms and apocalyptic wildfires are occurring at an ever-growing pace, piling up astronomic losses and dire predictions for ecosystems, health and food and water supplies.
Israel and other Middle Eastern countries represent a global warming hotspot, where climate changes are occurring even faster than global patterns. Key points about the climate emergency and its local impact include:
- The climate emergency is the result of skyrocketing greenhouse gas levels, largely driven by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
- Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxides (NOx) trap heat from the sun, like the glass roof of a greenhouse (hence their name).
- Earth’s average temperature has risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius over the last 120 years. Scientists warn that unless the rise in global temperatures is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial revolution levels, Earth’s climate will reach a point of no return, unleashing spiraling climatic changes and massive destruction.
- We have less than a decade to act. A recent landmark UN report warns that many of the climate changes observed, such as continued sea level rise, are already irreversible. However, immediate “strong and sustained reductions” in greenhouse emissions could improve air quality and limit other changes, including rising temperatures.
- Gas was initially perceived as a “bridge fuel” between coal and a zero-carbon future since its primary component, methane, emits less than half the CO2 of coal when burned. However, research has now shown that large amounts methane are leaked during gas extraction, production and piping. Moreover, methane emissions are over 80 times more powerful at warming the earth than CO2 during the first 20 years.
- Unless global warming is controlled, certain Middle Eastern regions will experience over 200 days a year of above 50-degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).
- Indeed, Israel and other Middle Eastern and North African countries (collectively referred to as the MENA region) are particularly vulnerable to global warming, representing a climate change hotspot in which heat waves, droughts, dry spells and more are increasing even faster than global patterns. (For instance, the Mediterranean Sea is heating up 20% faster than the world’s oceans.)
- Collectively, climate changes in the Middle East may trigger water and food shortages leading to widespread geopolitical instability, including conflicts over resources, massive migration and border tensions. (Unlike Israel, many Middle Eastern countries lack water desalination facilities, and some are already facing urgent shortages.)
Israel lags behind
Many countries have internalized the dire threats posed by climate change and are transitioning to renewables to cut emissions. This includes Norway, that in 2019 decided to walk away from billions of gallons of oil and natural gas. Biden’s 2021 blitz of environmental orders added great cause for hope and academic institutions and private investors worldwide are also opting out of fossil fuel investments.
Unfortunately, Israel is continuing to invest heavily in gas, with current plans for nearly 200 gas-fired facilities. The government has also approved continued offshore oil and gas exploration despite the urgent call by climate experts to severely curb fossil-fuel emissions. While the country has committed to meeting 30 percent of its energy needs through renewables by 2030, this is far too little, too late
Gas strategy is outdated and unsustainable
Solar energy is now substantially cheaper to produce than gas and is increasingly accompanied by new “big battery” storage technologies that solve the key challenge for green energy – the intermittency of wind and sunlight. Battery storage technologies are now working successfully in power plants, as recently demonstrated by the increased capacity to store electricity, from 100 to 150 megawatts at Australia’s Tesla Big Battery.
Our start-up nation has dozens of companies tackling climate change, including renewable energy production, storage and efficiency technologies. Israel can become a solar superpower, offering cleaner, safer and more economical energy solutions.
Leaning on gas blinds the eyes of Israel’s decision makers, preventing critical investments in technologies targeting greenhouse reductions. This is particularly misguided since technological breakthroughs would place Israeli companies at the forefront of the international struggle to stabilize Earth’s climate. Benefits – including environmental, health, security and financial, would dramatically surpass the profits from Israel’s fossil fuel resources.
Please support our efforts to transition Israel to Earth-and life-saving energies!
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