THE CLIMATE CRISIS AND ISRAEL AS A GLOBAL WARMING HOTSPOT
The above 2015 warning by Pope Francis is now a reality. Climate change 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 and North African countries (the MENA region) represent a global warming hotspot, where temperatures are warming up nearly twice as fast as the rest of the world.
Our start-up nation features many companies tackling climate change, including renewable energy production and storage. Israel must become a solar superpower, offering cleaner, safer and more economical energy solutions. Benefits to Israel’s environment, public health, security and finances would dramatically surpass profits from our fossil fuel resources.
FIVE POINTS ABOUT THE CLIMATE CRISIS & ITS RELEVANCE TO ISRAEL
1. It's about greenhouse gases
Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrogen oxides (NOx), trap heat from the sun like the glass roof of a greenhouse (hence their name). Today’s climate emergency results from skyrocketing greenhouse gas levels driven by human activities, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture.
Before the industrial revolution (18th century), Earth’s atmosphere typically had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide (meaning the ratio of carbon dioxide to all other molecules). These are the conditions to which life on Earth is adapted. However, CO2 levels are currently well over 400 parts per million, and we’re adding roughly 2ppm per year. Scientists agree that CO2 levels exceeding 350 ppm will disrupt our global climate’s 1,000,000 years of relative stability.
2. We're trapping heat
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 spiral out of control, unleashing extreme climatic changes and massive destruction.
The daily emissions of greenhouse gases currently trap as much heat as would be released by roughly 600,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding daily.
Recent studies, including in the Journal Nature, show that the world will need to leave most of its oil and gas reserves in the ground (90 percent of the known coal reserves and 60 percent of the oil and gas) to keep within a 50% chance of a 1.5 Celsius increase.
3. We're running out of time
4. Gas is not green
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 shown that methane emissions are over 80 times more potent at trapping heat than CO2 during the first 20 years. Moreover, large amounts of methane leak during gas extraction, production and piping.
5. Israel is in the thick of it
Israel and other Middle Eastern and North African countries are particularly vulnerable to global warming, representing a climate change hotspot where temperatures are warming at twice the global average. Climate changes in the Middle East may trigger water and food shortages leading to widespread geopolitical instability, 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.
Select Middle East Climate Change Facts
- The World Bank estimates that by 2025 alone, 80 -100 million people in the region will experience water stress.
- Israel’s military recently recognized climate change as a strategic threat, noting that it will have to fortify the country’s borders.
- Unless global warming is controlled, certain Middles Eastern regions will experience over 200 days a year of up to 50-degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), rendering them uninhabitable.
- The Mediterranean Sea is heating 20% faster than the world’s oceans, drastically impacting biodiversity.
- Israeli farmers suffered millions in losses due to climate change in 2021 alone, leading to major shortages in certain summer crops. According to KANAT, an insurance fund run jointly by the government and Israel’s farmers’ association, these losses are part of a long-term trend marked by a 45% jump in weather-related agricultural damages compared with the previous five years alone.
Israel Lags Behind
Many countries have internalized the dire threats posed by climate change and are transitioning to renewables. This includes Norway, which 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 continues to invest heavily in gas, with plans for additional gas-fired facilities nationwide. The country has committed to meeting 27% percent of its energy needs through renewables by 2030. However, this is still only half the amount pledged by the United States and European Union.
Fossil Fuel Policies - Outdated and Unsustainable
Solar energy is now substantially cheaper than gas. It is also increasingly accompanied by new “big battery” storage technologies that solve the longstanding 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 startup nation features many companies tackling climate change, including renewable energy production and storage technologies. Israel must become a solar superpower, offering cleaner, safer, and more economical energy solutions.
Dr. Shira Efron, senior researcher at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS): “Climate changes in the Middle East will directly affect Israel’s national security.” See also Times of Israel article: Is Israel burying its head in sand as climate change makes Mideast a hot mess.
Please help transition Israel to life-saving clean energy
- World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency, Bioscience, September 2021
- Climate tipping points, too risky to bet against. Nature, November 2019
- Letter (in Hebrew) to Energy Ministry by over 100 scientists including Nobel and Israel Prize winners urging Israel’s rapid transition to renewables.
- English article detailing the key points of the above letter.
- The need for deeds: A call for proactivism in Israel’s climate policy (Adi Wolfson, Ofira Ayalon and Yoni Sappir) in Climate Change and Sustainable Development (Susanne Luther), 19.12.2021
- IHG report to Israel’s Electric Authority urging the transition to 80% renewables by 2030 instead of the only 30% proposed (In Hebrew).
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2018). Global Warming of 1.5C. Summary for Policymakers.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2021). The Physical Science Basis.
- Three decades of climate mitigation: Why haven’t we bent the global emissions? Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Volume 46, 2021
- Provisional statement on the status of the global climate in 2020. World Meteorological Organization (2021)